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September 08, 2015

Academics Begin Studying Microaggression Complaint Culture Itself

Not what you might think -- this is pretty harsh stuff.

Jonathan Haidt, who is, as I understand it, a sort of dissident liberal in the cognitive sciences/psychology area of the academy, found and posted this piece.

First, some of his digest of the article:

I just read the most extraordinary paper by two sociologists -- Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning -- explaining why concerns about microaggressions have erupted on many American college campuses in just the past few years.

In brief: We're beginning a second transition of moral cultures. The first major transition happened in the 18th and 19th centuries when most Western societies moved away from cultures of honor (where people must earn honor and must therefore avenge insults on their own) to cultures of dignity in which people are assumed to have dignity and don't need to earn it. They foreswear violence, turn to courts or administrative bodies to respond to major transgressions, and for minor transgressions they either ignore them or attempt to resolve them by social means. There's no more dueling.

Campbell and Manning describe how this culture of dignity is now giving way to a new culture of victimhood in which people are encouraged to respond to even the slightest unintentional offense, as in an honor culture. But they must not obtain redress on their own; they must appeal for help to powerful others or administrative bodies, to whom they must make the case that they have been victimized....

Now here are some excerpts from the beginning of Campbell and Manning's paper (available at the link above). Emphases added.

As we dissect this phenomenon, then, we first address how it fits into a larger class of conflict tactics in which the aggrieved seek to attract and mobilize the support of third parties. We note that these tactics sometimes involve building a case for action by documenting, exaggerating, or even falsifying offenses.

We address the social logic by which such tactics operate and the social conditions likely to produce them --those that encourage aggrieved individuals to rely on third parties to manage their conflicts, but make obtaining third party support problematic.

We then turn to the content of the grievances expressed in microaggression complaints and related forms of social control, which focus on inequality and emphasize the dominance of offenders and the oppression of the aggrieved.

We argue that the social conditions that promote complaints of oppression and victimization overlap with those that promote case-building attempts to attract third parties. When such social conditions are all present in high degrees, the result is a culture of victimhood in which individuals and groups display high sensitivity to slight, have a tendency to handle conflicts through complaints to third parties, and seek to cultivate an image of being victims who deserve assistance....


2) DEPENDENCE ON THIRD PARTIES

A) Gossip, Protest, and Complaint

Of the many ways people bring their grievances to the attention of third parties, perhaps the most common is to complain privately to family, friends, co-workers, and acquaintances. This is called gossip -- "evaluative talk about a person who is not present." ...

Both individualized and collective conflicts might be brought to the attention of authority figures asked to punish the offender or otherwise handle the case. Small children often bring their complaints to adults, for example, while adults might bring their complaints to the legal system (e.g., Baumgartner 1992). Explaining the rise of microaggression complaints, then, requires that we explain the conditions that lead individuals to bring their problems before third parties. We suggest that the same factors that increase reliance on third parties in general encourage the public documenting of grievances in particular.

By the way, if you want a particularly choice example of a morally immature grievance-collector trumping up her daily sufferings in order to enlist the support of third parties for her terrible plight, read this future Human Resources problem-in-waiting whining about her life as a fairly attractive, privileged college-age female "who identifies as female."

I identify as female. I am apparently a conventionally attractive student-athlete at UNC-Chapel Hill. I grew into my ears a few years back. I have lighter eyes and darker skin, and with the exception of a bit of an eyebrow discrepancy, my face is generally symmetrical.

Writing this now, I feel my stomach drop. In a culture that regularly exploits sexuality, it's ironically unacceptable when women openly acknowledge it themselves. But hear me. The following is a string of subtle and routine occurrences that make me feel less human and should take their rightful place among the larger narrative of sexism in contemporary America.

Ironically unacceptable?

Too bad she doesn't identify as fluent with the English language.

When I wake up at 6 in the morning for practice, I put on spandex that will ride up and allow my legs to chafe. I know this is because I donít have a thigh gap like most of the distance runners on my cross-country team. I eat an easily-digestible carb and make a note of the calorie count.

After "a good early-morning chafe," as I call it, I change into dry workout clothes, this time being careful not to wear too much "Carolina gear." I do this so as not to give my professors and peers another reason to discount me.

Is this a joke? Are you yanking my chain with this crap?

The stupid nonsense you're belching out of your dolt-hole is ironically unacceptable in America 2015.


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posted by Ace at 07:35 PM

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