Let’s Talk About Micro-Aggressions

June 27, 2014

Lately i’ve been trying to write a blog about introductions and all the feelings they evoke in me, but then this popped up and I feel like it might get to the root of the topic much better.

As i’ve talked about on here i’ve recently joined a competitive short form improv team. I did this brand of improv in high school and now i’m the sponsor for my school’s troupe and I finally made myself try out for the pros and I made it! So far i’m having a great time and I’m so glad I pushed myself to do this again. However it’s yet another opportunity that brings up something that I think about a lot, that thing being introducing myself to people.

When i’m allowed to ‘present’ myself in certain lights I do so much better, such as when i’m meeting new students or coworkers. Professional settings have always actually helped me with my anxiety because they don’t necessitate that I be 100% myself, I am allowed to only be the pieces of me that are necessary to be good at what I do. I don’t feel the need to make sure everyone knows who I really am, i’m fine with them not knowing. But then we get into that intersection of the personal and professional that I find myself in now and all kinds of worries pop up. This may seem unfounded but I think things happen frequently enough to reaffirm that i’m not just being crazy.

I’ve also been thinking about micro aggressions lately. There are so many ads coming out (see the new Verizon and Always ads that both made me cry) that focus on these particular issues. I think that’s a huge part of why I feel so nervous introducing myself to others. I feel this HUGE push to let them know exactly who I am up front so as not to be underestimated later. I find this to be hard to do in practice though because the frustration of even feeling I have to do that is enough to drive me nuts, and it’s hard to come off not seeming like i’m “not like the other girls” which I try to avoid at all costs.

Enter the events of yesterday. It was the second day of practice and we all got there early in order to socialize before the work began. I’m really enjoying my teammates so i’m glad of the opportunity. However I got there too early, like an hour early. The space is in a busy and popular shopping center in Houston and parking had already spilled over into our lot filling it up. We were told if this happens to park in the back and so I did. I then realized this meant walking behind an unlit shopping center so I then moved to park directly underneath a light pole in the hotel parking lot right behind the shopping center the venue is in. I would still have to walk back I realized but at least it was well lit. As I walked I realized there was a space open in the front of the shopping center by a bar! So I moved again (time three for those counting), this time behind a dumpster next to the bar, still unlit so it was closer but not necessarily safer. I figured if all else failed i’d have someone walk me if I felt bad about the situation. But THEN as i’m coming up on the venue I see that there are now spots open right in front. Without hesitating I go back to my car and move it to the space directly in front of the venue. By this point 2 teammates had arrived so I joined them out front of the building. Once the others got there I realized it was just 6 of us tonight, 2 people would not be there, those other 2 people were the only other girls on the team.

I tell you all this because I feel like I really need to set this scene that is my night. At this point I talk to my teammates (all young males) about my parking troubles, they all noted they had no problem parking but some did have a bit of a walk. So right off the bat those concerns weren’t met with any recognition which I kind of needed in order to come down from that anxiety. Instead it was only allowed to build due to the next conversation I had.

This is where we come back to the introductions: I’m tattooed, I grew up listening to hard core, I live with a guy who cares about black metal more than most things. But so far all they knew about me is i’m a kind of geeky 24 year old school teacher who has always dressed conservatively around them. A teammate mentioned he was going to a show after practice and when I asked him who he would be seeing he avoided answering 3 times. I asked him 3 times which bands were playing, and 3 times he avoided telling me exactly who he was seeing, instead telling me they were metal, and his friend was coming, and then saying they weren’t very big. Three times I had someone refuse to tell me which metal bands they were seeing because they didn’t think I would know who they were talking about. Even when he told me and I made it abundantly clear that I was very familiar who he was going to see that night he still kept trying to tell me who they were and what genres they fit into.

So at this point i’m just straight up frustrated. I had nothing to bring me down from my parking anxiety, no understanding or anything, then I was underestimated about music. I hate that. I hate that so much. Being a female in extreme music scenes shouldn’t be a fight anymore. People shouldn’t have to know I have massive tattoos in order to tell me who they’re seeing at a metal show. That’s really something that just bugs me. It makes me think immediately that I wish I could just let people know who I am immediately but then when I realize why I feel the need to do that, because i’m a lady! So those things aren’t expected of me! And that’s bullshit.

Practice went great despite the fact that my anxiety was high and I was feeling super ‘othered’. I feel like I killed at the gimmick games and was getting better at scene stuff. I definitely tried not to let the anxiety effect me. But by the time I got home that night I was still so so so frustrated and none of it was outwardly aggressive and I have to keep trying to tell myself my frustration is valid because I wouldn’t experience this if I wasn’t female. I wouldn’t have gotten asked twice at the comic shop if I was sure the comic I was looking for wasn’t a ‘Kids comic’ if I wasn’t female. I wouldn’t experience my male coworkers who are frailer than I am offering to replace the 5 gallon water jug for me if I wasn’t female.

Most importantly I wouldn’t constantly feel like I couldn’t possibly be all the things I am if I wasn’t female. There’s so much i’m constantly taking in and accepting as normal and you just get to this point where you can’t justify it any more. You get to the point where you’re just a walking ball of frustration living in a world that sees them as such small slights. It’s like having your toes stepped on constantly and then feeling guilty for being so upset, it’s such a small transgression? Why be so mad?

Once I got home I was able to vent to Mando and text Cecilia and then I felt validated and I felt a bit better but i’m still carrying this around with me like I do every day. I think it’s important to recognize these things. I think it’s important to call them out and I think it’s important for us to validate each others experiences. I’m glad I have friends and a partner who will do that for me. I just wish it wasn’t necessary.

Thanks for letting me vent.
Until next time,
Meagan

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