*In a weird coincidence, I was writing about how we were devolving to Victorian maidens as they never existed, when Bill sent me this. It’s not the post I will write — tomorrow — but it’s a good beginning. And now I go paint walls. – SAH*
Help, help. I’m being microaggressed- Bill Reader
Since Hillary Clinton announced, the feminists of the United States have undoubtedly been getting set to be outraged at things. We’ll see dozens of new wars on women, but we’ll have to check the news routinely to find out what they are because women are so oppressed in the United States that it takes whole academic departments and quite a lot of grant money to find examples of it. I figure this may be a good time, then, to talk about one of my personal pet-peeve memes, the microaggression.
It may surprise many people who use the term “microaggression” to know that the literal meaning of the word is, “one one-millionth of an aggressive action”. Or, then again, considering the things they complain about, perhaps it would not. From that perspective, you’d have to consider the word a masterpiece of liberal newspeak. It’s a word that, by right of its pithiness and the prominence of the root word “aggression”, sounds very threatening. But I’m going to guess that people would be taking the whole issue a lot less seriously if you went through every women’s studies paper written with the word and actually replaced it with the— I hasten to remind you— absolutely equivalent expression. Put another way, it’s a word that only makes sense if you don’t actually think about the definition. Ignorance, after all, is strength.
Now, some will quibble with me. One of my bedrock and most infamous stances is that words are best used as they are commonly understood, because definitions proceed from usage and, much as it may pain those of us who are semantically precise by nature, not the other way around. This is a fair point. So allow me to provide you, in its entirety, my article on what would happen if we replaced “microaggression” with its definition according to its popular usage, that is, “any action at all that annoys oversensitive fainting violets unprepared to deal with the real world,”:
I mean, I could write you several pages of my laughing maniacally, but I think you can see my general thesis, here. Besides, that would be unfair. Many branches of academia are entirely built on people not dealing honestly with the subjects they discuss, and women’s studies is probably the most vulnerable on that front. No, I’d prefer to dismantle this meme from within. The problems with the concepts of modern feminism are so blindingly obvious from outside the fervor of the movement that the people inside by definition cannot be connected to the real world.
Now, I find the literal definition interesting for a couple of reasons. First, I could extrapolate from it and infer that feminists get very upset and turn the campus upside-down if, in the midst of 999,999 actions, you do any one thing they consider to constitute “aggression”. Now, I’ve had some training in science, and happen to be familiar with the standard thresholds for significance, as I’m sure many of the followers on this blog are also. The most standard test of significance is the 0.95 significance. Mathematically rephrased, that means that there is only a 1 in 20 chance of the finding being a mistake.
You’d be surprised by how thin a margin a lot of modern scientific papers pass this threshold. This can be because of limitations in the instruments or experimental setup or so on. Also, frankly, grants are usually written with an eye towards demonstrating effects efficiently. Beating that threshold by a really solid margin takes careful planning, rigorous control, and often larger sample sizes. The subtler the effect, the more important these things become. And it’s hard to get funding for that, unless, for some reason, the subtle effect is very important (there are examples of such important but subtle problems in, for example, relativistic effects on GPS tracking systems). So let us suppose that we turned a scientific eye towards human behavior and delineated non-aggressions as a positive result and aggressions as a negative one. You test, and find that there is only a 1 in 1 million chance of finding an aggression if you run the test a million times. Non-aggression is found at a significance of p < 0.000001.
I’d throw a party, personally. I can’t think of the last time I saw an effect this strong demonstrated in a paper. If I’ve seen it at all I would guess that it was in a physics paper discussing a fundamental law of nature. As for all the standard thresholds for p, we’ve pretty effectively blown the “extra-rigorous” test of p<0.01 right out of the water.
I’m saying all this for a reason. Scientifically, I could also restate the meaning of “microaggression” as “aggressive actions that occur so rarely as to be not just insignificant, but laughably insignificant.” Try that one in your papers, feminists. Let me know how that goes for you.
The saddest thing in all of this, though, is that it’s absolutely true. And I want you to think about something. We are allied with a lot of countries in the world that, especially with the way Obama is behaving towards them lately, might most accurately be described as “frienemies”. There are long-standing ones like Saudi Arabia. There are countries we’ve recently taken to getting on the nerves of, like Britain. There are countries we’ve gotten suddenly and alarmingly hostile to, like Israel (because, as surely as fire will burn, American liberalism follows the path that every totalitarian movement with the option to has, and goes after Jews). Let me ask you frankly: out of a million diplomatic exchanges with any given one of those countries, how many of them would you say are admonishing or critical? While I don’t pretend to know the full extent of ambivalent-to-positive diplomatic correspondence between nations, I can say that it would have to constitute many hundreds of millions of papers for the few negative memos and speeches that end up in the news to be only a millionth of it. And these, mind you, are our allies. They are, in many cases, people we are theoretically prepared to go to war to defend, to lay down the lives of our own citizens to protect.
And while you’re thinking about that, think about this, too. Right now we’re making overtures towards peace with Iran. Iran declared war on us several decades ago. In all that span, I doubt that that 1 in a million of the things they’ve said about us has been positive. No, in fact, I’ll do you one better. I doubt that 1 in a million of the things they’ve said about us has not actually included the phrase “death to America”. And this is a country that forces women to dress in hijab and have clitoridectomies. But that country, most American feminists, being liberal, fully support doing anything to make peace with. As for, say, Britain and Israel, where women do not face that kind of brutal, medieval persecution, and are free to hold any position and pursue any career and hold any religion and marry, or not marry, any person they wish, what do feminists say about those countries?
They say “Help, help. I’m being microaggressed,”.