"Microaggression" is one of those words that sounds really dumb and has been overused and abused by the Anti-Free Speech Police to the point where it's difficult to take seriously but nonetheless represents a legitimate concept. In particular, bits of prejudice small and large, benign and malicious, run rampant against women in American society. I probably contribute to that without realizing, but I almost certainly do a much larger part in tipping the balance the other way. I don't hate men per se, and I like my guy friends just fine and don't wish to offend any of them, but I'm just being honest when I say that I have some misandry to work through. Given the choice, I would pretty much just associate with women and ignore men. This didn't go unnoticed by one friend a few years ago who remarked, "I know you're not comfortable hanging out with guys because you don't want people to think you're gay, but really, hanging out with girls all the time is what will make people think that."
Being friends with women at work has been really great. Most of them are married. I thought friendships with married women were lame because every time a previously single female friend has gotten married, she may as well have died for all I'll ever see or hear from her again. But this has been different, and it's been a lot of fun and not very awkward at all, because they're not worried and I'm not worried and we can all just be friendly and not hold back out of worry about other things. I did get a little too careless about the stuff I was saying to one of them, though. I had no idea anything was wrong until one day out of the blue she got a funny look on her face and asked, "Do you... actually hate me?" And I was astonished and I explained that I was only teasing her because she started teasing me first, and she said "I'm pretty sure it was the other way around", but I'm pretty sure it wasn't because I wouldn't have just started teasing her unless I thought she would be okay with it. Which she is, now that we've established that I don't actually hate her. If I actually hated her I would just not talk to her.
One of my favorite coworkers though, "Sally", isn't married. She's in an open relationship. That's kind of why we met. My mp3 player was busted so instead I was listening to her loudly telling people about her open relationship and I just laughed so much because open relationships are funny. They're like, I don't know, paying hundreds of dollars a month to live in a place that you'll never get to own. How silly would that be? So afterward I caught her and thanked her for the entertainment, and the next day I asked her to entertain me again, and she obliged, so that was cool. She's always smiling and acting happy and it really lifts the mood of the whole place and it didn't take me long to look up to her as a role model of that trait, happiness, that I want to emulate. I want to be that kind of person who radiates happiness and lifts the moods of places. But then it turned out she's kind of faking it because she's not particularly happy most of the time, so that's sad. One time she was gone for a few days and her friend didn't know why and I started to think maybe she had been in a fatal accident, so when she returned and said she'd been very sick I said "Oh, good."
We recently all got emails about a new/newly enforced language policy that forbids:
- Any type of slur including all racial, ethnic, religious, and gender-based insults
Unfortunately this means that the black employees will have to stop making racist jokes about themselves. And now I'm slightly paranoid that in my naivete and blindness to my own cultural upbringing I'll say something that will be construed as sexist. Probably against men, though.
- Slang including words describing sexual acts or relating to sex
I was confused by this one. I think they only meant to forbid sexual slang, but the way it's worded seems like it forbids all slang. I would be all for that if I regularly heard words like "bae" and "YOLO" at work, but since I don't it would seem a bit drastic. This one makes me a little paranoid too. Everything is sexual if people choose to take it that way. The phrase "That's what she said" still pops unbidden into my head sometimes thanks to the guys in high school for whom it made up half of their vocabularies.
- Language used to intimidate, bully, or berate an employee
Again, here's why it's important to make sure someone is okay with you teasing them before you tease them. Sometimes context is everything. Of course, I'm never as mean to anyone in Utah as my friends and I were to each other in New York. An important cultural difference there.
- Use of the "F" word
I have never ever ever used the "F" word at work, but if I had, hypothetically, it would have been under my breath in response to the computer having issues, and no one would have heard it, particularly since my normal voice is already so quiet that no one hears me half the time when I'm actually addressing them.
- String of profanities
I have never ever ever uttered a string of profanities at work, but if I had, hypothetically, it would have been under my breath in response to the computer having issues, and no one would have heard it, particularly since my normal voice is already so quiet that no one hears me half the time when I'm actually addressing them. And does this mean that one or two profanities are okay? If they're not the "F" word? I'm still slightly confused.
Anyway, this isn't going to affect me much but some people are going to really struggle with it. I feel for them.