Does implicit bias between men and women working together in Christian higher education result in microaggressions?
Vanguard University is an Assemblies of God University, which has credentialed women since its start and holds an egalitarian stance on issues around male and female roles. As 2020 begins, we celebrate our 100th birthday at the same time that women celebrate the ratification of the 14th Amendment giving women the right to vote. #MeToo and the smaller Christian movement, #SilenceisNotSpiritual, recognize many of the glaring issues women have endured to pursue a career.
Yet there is also a persistent stream of microaggression that wears women down. A simple place to begin to correct that is to start by recognizing our own implicit bias, not just men, but also women.
What does a microaggression look like?
Microaggression: Subtle ways in which body and verbal language convey oppressive ideology about power or privilege against marginalized identities. (Stenhouse 2019) Dr. Derald Wing Sue describes microaggressions as microassaults, microinsults, and microinvalidations. (2017) Sue explains that microassaults are obvious and include discrimination and is often deliberate, while microinsults are more subtle and may appear as insensitivity, rudeness and stereotyping. Sue identifies microinvalidations as possibly the most damaging because it is dismissive of the thoughts, feelings, and experiences of the other. Intervention models include Personal, Organizational, and Societal. (Stenhouse, 2019) For the purposes of this guide, we will address the personal component.
Organizations are mandated to implement policies, and society is making some progress, even when it feels like one step forward and two steps back. But today, right now, one person can own their own biases and take steps for growth and personal awareness. When one is learning a new language, the brain monitors the tense, grammar, and pronunciation until it becomes automatic. Personal change involves the same vigilance, but first, we need to answer a few questions.
Do I ever do that? This is the question we each need to ask ourselves. However, the problem is that we often don’t even recognize our behavior as minimizing from our vantage place of privilege. If we are brave, we can ask those around us. We can also find tools to assess what we cannot see for ourselves.
How can we improve our ability to identify our own bias? Stop here and take the Gender/Career Harvard Implicit Bias quiz. The website explains: “The Implicit Association Test (IAT) measures attitudes and beliefs that people may be unwilling or unable to report. The IAT may be especially interesting if it shows that you have an implicit attitude that you did not know about. For example, you may believe that women and men should be equally associated with science, but your automatic associations could show that you (like many others) associate men with science more than you associate women with science.”
It’s free and no personal data is collected. Just do one.
Dr. Sue offers five steps in brief video: constant vigilance, experiential reality, don’t be defensive, be open to discussion, and be an ally. Take four minutes and then do the reflection with these steps in mind.
Reflection: Micah 6:8 is often cited to call for justice, but there are two more components in Micah’s mandate. Love mercy and walk humbly.
#MeToo is a call for justice for women across all walks of life. But it goes deeper and requires some soul searching. Implicit bias is not an excuse, it is an opportunity to examine our actions and those of others with mercy and humility.
– Dr. Sandra Morgan