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Gender Microaggressions


by these actions, as they appear demeaning. Yet, the man who tried to help Kathleen probably acted with the best of intentions.

Third, calling female employees by their first names and even calling Kathleen “Kathy” would not seem “disrespectful” if the interviewer did likewise with male employees. Yet, he consistently referred to men more formally by adding “Mr.” to their last names. And by implying that she did not need a job but rather a “good man” to take care of her (even jokingly), the vice president sends a microaggressive message that women should be married, their place is in the home, they should be taken care of by a man, and that Kathleen was potentially taking a job away from a man who has a family to support. This sequence of spontaneous and quick exchanges between the vice president and Kathleen trivializes her desire to find a job, treats her as a child, and does not take her seriously as a candidate.

Fourth, when the vice president is asked how candidates will be evaluated for the position, he responds by saying that the “most qualified person would be offered the job,” that everyone is treated the same, that he did not see gender differences, that all have an equal chance to be hired, and that “people are people.” Interestingly enough, from that interaction alone, Kathleen con- cluded she would not be offered the job. While it is entirely possible that it was an erroneous conclusion, we should inquire as to how Kathleen arrived at such a firm belief. As we discuss in Chapter 2, the response of the vice pres- ident reflects a worldview regarding the place of women in our society. Many women who hear the phrase “I believe the most qualified person should get the job” in the context of a job interview recognize this as a gender microag- gression that communicates “women are not as qualified as men, so when a male candidate is selected, it has nothing to do with bias but concerns his qualifications.” Implicit in the interviewer’s statements is that he is incapable of gender prejudice, because he is gender-blind. The same phenomenon is reported by people of color regarding the myth of color-blindness. The vice president is unaware that denial of gender differences is a microaggression that denies the experiential reality of women, and allows men to deny their own privileged positions.


Earlier it was stated that microaggressions can be directed at any marginal- ized group. Groups that are marginalized by our society exist on the margins

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