Editing Tips #4: Microagressions

For my fourth editing tips article, I’d like to talk about microaggressive language. Microaggressions are terms people use that convey hostility or disdain for marginalized groups. They can be intentional or unintentional. I covered gender in a previous post, so I won’t discuss it more here.

  1. Ableist language. When people use ableist language, they are generally using a word related to a disability to imply that something is undesirable. This language implies that people with disabilities need to be fixed or cured.
    A) Lame/retarded = bad or mediocre
    B) Crazy/insane = outlandish
    C) Maniac/Psycho/Schizo = a person who is behaving in an erratic or inconsistent way
    D) Crippled/handicapped = experiencing a massive disadvantage
  1. Homophobic/transphobic language. When people use homophobic or transphobic language (also biphobic, etc.) they are employing words and phrases that cast aspersions on members of the queer community. They may also be willfully disregarding the identity of a queer person by incorrectly naming them.
    A) That’s so gay = that’s terrible
    B) Deadnaming = referring to a trans person by their birth or former name instead of the name they currently go by. This strips the person of their voice and identity.
    C) Heteronormative projection = assuming another person is straight and speaking to them as if that’s the default.
  1. Racist language. Language that cast aspersions on a race or associates all members of that race with a particular characteristic.
    A) My black roommate is so loud. Your roommate may be loud, but it’s not because they’re black. That’s just the way they sound. But by inserting their race into the sentence when it’s completely irrelevant, you are creating a connection where none exists.
    B) Your English is so good for a Latin guy. People might mean well when they give this sort of compliment, but all they are doing is implying that most members of that race do not exhibit the positive quality they are referring to.
  1. Anti-religious/ethnic language. Language that cast aspersions on a religion or ethnicity or associates all of its members with a particular quality.
    A) You’re Jewish? You must be rich. There is no correlation.
    B) You’re a gypsy (Roma)? Hands off my stuff. Being Roma does not make someone a thief.
    C) You shouldn’t let him on the plane (referring to a Arab man). He’s probably a terrorist. Being a Muslim or an Arab does not make a person any more likely to engage in terrorism. Most terrorists in this country are white Christian men.

About Eytan Bernstein

40. Bay Area-based writer/editor/RPG designer.
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