Two professors ‘discover’ five ‘invisibility microaggressions’ that women of color face

Two professors ‘discover’ five ‘invisibility microaggressions’ that  women of color face
Jasmine Mena (left) and Annemarie Vaccaro (Images: Left -- Bucknell University, right -- University of Rhode Island)

You gotta love this. Not only did Jasmine Mena, who teaches psychology at Bucknell University, and Annemarie Vaccaro, who teaches Higher Education at the University of Rhode Island, make this ground-breaking “discovery.” The two actually conducted a “study,” the results of which they published in an academic journal, the NASPA Journal About Women in Higher Education. (“NASPA” stands for “National Association of Student Personnel Administrators.”)

The article is titled “’I’ve Struggled, I’ve Battled’: Invisibility Microaggressions Experienced by Women of Color at a Predominantly White Institution.” From the abstract:

This study used critical ethnography to document microaggressions experienced by women Staff and Faculty of Color at a predominantly White institution of higher education. This article focuses on invisibility, a specific type of microaggression, which emerged as a prominent finding. Participant narratives explicated three manifestations of environmental microaggressions (campus, disciplinary/professional, and community invisibility) and two forms of interpersonal microaggressions (professional and leadership invisibility). Recommendations for higher education professionals are provided.

Campus Reform quotes the pair as saying:

“There is a growing body of literature that suggests invisibility is a common form of exclusion — or microaggression,” Mena and Vaccaro suggest. “However, no studies have focused deeply on the ways women faculty and staff experience invisibility microaggressions on college campuses”

To prove their thesis, Vaccaro and Mena interviewed thirteen women of color working at “predominantly white institutions.” The majority of them were heterosexual and middle-aged, though it’s not immediately clear what those traits have to do with the hypothesis, which focuses exclusively on women of color.

“I feel invisible … not always … but as sort of a day-to-day thing,” said Xiomara, one the 18 participants in the study, adding, “I just feel like I can go days without seeing another person of color.”

Linda, another woman of color, told researchers that “any meeting I walk into that usually I’m the only person of color,” noting that that she feels like “people don’t even know we exist most of the time.”

Unless I’m missing something, what these two geniuses have discovered is that women of color feel underrepresented in the field of academia. Put somewhat differently, colleges are racist and sexist. Put still differently, the thirteen women they interviewed are — like the authors themselves — have an unhealthy fixation on race and sex.

Their solution to the problem they imagine to exist is to honor women of color with high-profile awards and require “multicultural competency” training for university staff. How can it miss?

Ben Bowles

Ben Bowles

Ben Bowles is a freelance writer.


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