Little(?) Micro Aggressions

If I hear one more white man ask where his safe space is, I just might lose it!

As a white man, albeit a gay one, which may take me down the ladder a rung or two, I’m smart enough to know my safe space, as the white male, is pretty much everywhere. Whether at work, at play, at leisure, at you name it, I can consider myself as safe as one can be in terms of privilege.

So a recent comment during a recent conversation with some people, a mixed crowd of males and females, smacked me a good one upside the head. One of the white males in the group made a comment that, for most people, would be considered misogynistic. He was painting all women with the same brush, and not in a good light.

It caught me such that I actually asked if he didn’t see their were women in the group. He didn’t quite understand, so I repeated my statement about their being women in the group and he was putting them down with that statement. He asked about the women’s ages and made a statement about his age, and how this is how the world is. My reply was there should be at least certain safe spaces where a women shouldn’t have to hear these kinds of things.

That is when he said something about where was his safe space. I kept calm, but it definitely wasn’t how I was feeling inside. This lead to a larger conversation about women, particularly in leadership, how there are good women leaders and bad women leaders, just as there are good men leaders and bad men leaders. I’m not sure though that there was any comprehension, or awareness, of how his comments affected the people around him, or how he appears to place all women in the same category, which often is as being less than.

As I reflected on his recent comments, and of those in the past, I started thinking about people of color, which then lead me to thinking about micro aggressions. I’ve had recent conversations with friends who are of color about micro aggressions, along with my continued reflection on some recent readings about how many instances of micro aggressions they are subjected to on a daily basis.

I was only thinking of the micro aggressions through the lens of people of color. Women of all colors endure these on a daily basis, and it makes me sad how if you are a woman of color, how heavy the burden and the feelings they must endure on a daily basis, even more so, in my opinion, than a man of color.

Throughout my life, and even more so as I slowly become older and wiser, I’ve worked to include and respect anyone in my sphere of influence. To help them feel included and heard. I will be the first to admit I sometimes failed miserably, but I also had some great successes.

What I’m feeling today though is much different. It is an awareness of how unintentionally little I’ve done to protect (which may not be the best word), or create a safe space for my daughter in a world that in general, considers her less than (not to mention my sisters, my mom, and the many other women and girls in my family and those whom I call friend), even when I thought I was.

What I’m wondering now too is, how does one balance the right of free speech with the right to be safe? Is misogynistic speech free speech? Is it okay to silence one to protect another? Where is the line and when is it crossed? How do I talk and teach my sons about being “woke” on micro aggression so they can be reflectful? How do I lift my daughter up in the face of what she will encounter once she steps out our door on her own? How does one continue a relationship with a loved one if they step over the line and refuse to acknowledge the line?

What are your thoughts? I would really love to hear other perspectives, especially from the point of view of women. Please share your thoughts as I continue my reflecting journey.

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