So as painful as it is to do so, let’s just go ahead and complete what’s turned out to be the Fragile Millennial Snowflake trilogy.
It began on Monday, with an extended piece we published on so-called “safe spaces” that were beginning to pop up here and there on college campuses, all part of the need of some self-infantalizing students to be protected from ideas and language they feel are threatening to their emotional well-being. As reported in the New York Times, a recent safe space at Brown University was “equipped with cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets and a video of frolicking puppies, as well as students and staff members trained to deal with trauma.” It was created by a member of the university’s Sexual Assault Task Force as a response to a public discussion about rape culture being held on campus.
Yeah, the mere knowledge that this speaking engagement existed required the establishment of a preschool playroom for 19-year-olds.
Then on Wednesday, we told you about the National Union of Students Women’s Conference in the UK, which warned attendees via Twitter to refrain from applause during any part of the event. “Some delegates are requesting that we move to jazz hands rather than clapping, as it’s triggering anxiety. Please be mindful!” the tweet read. Applause: triggering and causing anxiety. 500 people suddenly pretending they’re Bob Fosse: not at all terrifying. The conference also released a kind of manifesto that called for the abolishment of Britain’s prison system, a “universal basic income” paid to everyone — even those who choose not to work — because each person has value, and an immediate end to the appropriation of black female culture by all gay white men.
Clearly, a big success.
But all of that may have been a warm-up for when this insipid Y.A. series unleashes its full-on dystopic vision. An item out of Ithaca College in upstate New York reveals that on March 16th, that school’s student government association passed a bill to put into place “an online system to report microaggressions, which sponsors of the bill said will create a more conducive environment for victims to speak about microaggressions.” Now if you’re above the age of maybe 21 and don’t threaten to turn into a quivering puddle of gelatinous goo at the slightest gust of cold wind, maybe you have no idea that a microaggression is. Well, there’s bad news and good news on that. The bad news is you have legitimate things to worry about and don’t have the luxury of obsessing over every little goddamn annoyance. The good news is you have legitimate things to worry about and don’t look like an idiot for obsessing over every little goddamn annoyance.
Microaggressions are bits of everyday discriminatory language, often unintended, but expressing institutional privilege, racism, sexism, that sort of thing. Taking examples directly from a website that catalogs people’s stories of them for posterity, they can include a grandmother asking her granddaughter who’s home from college, “Meet any nice boys?” (which is wrong because it automatically assumes she’s straight); or telling someone who may or may not be black, “I like your hair”; or, as Buzzfeed chronicled, referring to a person who self-identifies as a specific gender by the wrong pronoun. As described, they’re minor irritations, often with nothing even approaching aggression of any kind behind them (at worst, they’re expressions of genuine ignorance). But intent of course never matters in these things. Microaggressions are the embodiment of problematic issues, insofar as “problems” are what real people have and “problematic” issues are what sanctimonious children have.
The microagression reporting system at Ithaca, if enacted, will not only be able to distinguish between faculty members, campus staff and American and international students, it will also be able to geo-tag where the offense took place. The person behind the original bill, a Class of 2018 student named Angela Pradhan, says the demographic information will be used to track and catalog microaggressions. The system will allow those reporting these microaggressions to remain anonymous, although if they choose “to pursue legal action,” they would likely have to step forward publicly. (You have to assume that this is if doing so wouldn’t be too triggering.) Regardless, anyone accused of committing a microaggression will have his or her name put into an database, probably without that person ever knowing he or she has done something wrong.
Ithaca kids, get ready for your college experience, which was supposed to be about higher learning and challenging your intellect and preconceptions while preparing you for the larger world, to be transformed into one big Orwellian panopticon where anyone can anonymously rat you out for offending them — even if you had no idea that’s what you were doing. What could possibly go wrong with this plan? And how the hell did we end up this way: demanding that college students watch their tongues and keep their “dangerous” ideas to themselves at the one point in their lives they’ve traditionally been encouraged to do exactly the opposite. I’ve said this before a few times this week, but I can’t stress it enough: The real world is going to eat these kids alive. It’s going to gnaw the meat off their feelings, sensitivities, grievances and need for safety and comfort and gleefully spit it onto the ground.
The day that young Angela Pradhan — a Television & Radio and International Politics major who says she’s “committed to crushing patriarchal systems” — arrives at her brand new big-time media job in New York City and immediately says she wants to set up a program for talking out microaggressions around the office, they’re going to throw her out a high-floor window.
There used to be a time when feminism was tough and when people fighting for the cause of inclusion and justice for all could go toe-to-toe with the most powerful of opponents. Now? These kids need a wubby and a good cry anytime their feelings are hurt or somebody says a word they don’t think is nice. They’re so astonishingly privileged — yes, privileged — and they can’t even see it. They’re privileged to be living in a society where their biggest concern is a thoughtless, accidental or ill-informed comment. They’re privileged to have been coddled and catered to their entire lives. They’re privileged that they have the luxury of fretting over microaggressions.
The saddest thing, though, is that they really don’t have that luxury. They’ve simply been allowed to choose what to be offended by and outraged over — and they’ve chosen wrong. They’ve chosen the selfish issue, the one that offends and impacts them and them alone, as identity niches and even as individuals.
On Thursday, Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed into law a heinous piece of legislation called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. It allows for discrimination against gays, lesbians, transgenders and those who in any way identify as queer. Hell, it might even allow for discrimination against black or brown people and everything in between. All of it is okay as long as you can claim that the reason for your discrimination comes from a personal belief in a 2,000-year-old book of fairy tales. In the year 2015, superstition has once again been allowed to trample the civil and human rights of people to simply be who they are.
You want something to be angry over? There it is. There’s your fight. There’s your enemy. Not the dumb doof who made an unenlightened comment in the student union — the nationwide political party working to subjugate entire classes of Americans in Jesus’s name.
Screw microaggressions — that’s a macroagression.
Chez Pazienza was the beating heart of The Daily Banter, sadly passing away on February 25, 2017. His voice remains ever present at the Banter, and his influence as powerful as ever.