Sweating the Small Stuff: Micro-Inequities and Micro-Affirmations

In my writing about singles, I’ve often pointed to the big ways that singles are targets of discrimination. Singles are discriminated against in the housing market, in ways that are blatant and yet not recognized as wrong. They pay more than their share in taxes. Single men are paid less than comparably-accomplished married men, and both single men and single women have less access to benefits such as health insurance. That’s unequal compensation for the same work. There are more than 1,000 federal laws that benefit married people. And that’s just the beginning. (Other examples are in Chapter 12 of Singled Out.)

I also talk about the small stuff, the little everyday ways that singles are treated as lesser than coupled people, or even rendered completely invisible. Here are some posts where I described why I do that and why I think the small stuff matters: Singlism: Should we just shrug it off? and A lifetime of singlism: getting crushed by a ton of feathers.

Posts about the small stuff, though, always elicit spitballs of ridicule, as happened, most recently, with this post. (Take a look at this follow-up, too, if you are interested.) I’m always interested in other people’s experiences with the small stuff in other domains of discrimination, so I was happy to find this post on the Huffington Post books section on how female writers are often overlooked in ‘best-of’ lists of authors and books.

The author of the post, Randy Susan Meyers, introduces readers to Mary Rowe’s concepts of “micro-inequities” and “micro-affirmation.”  Micro-inequities, says Rowe, are instances of subtle discrimination. They include:

“covert, ephemeral, or apparently trivial events that are frequently unrecognized by the perpetrator and often not evident to the person injured by them. By definition they are not legally actionable [but they] interfere with equal opportunity…”

“It is hard to prepare for – or deal with – micro-inequalities since individual instances are not easily predictable and are, by definition, irrational. They are hard to detect in part because they are infinitely various and often not intentional. They often seem petty, so the target often does not know how to deal with them without seeming shrewish.”

Micro-affirmations are the flip side of the micro-inequities. In small and subtle ways, people’s value and worth and accomplishments are affirmed. As Meyers says about the cumulative effect of the micro-affirmations (mostly for men) and micro-inequities (mostly for women) in the book world:

“If women’s books aren’t reviewed, when women’s books are declared ‘less literary,’ and when women’s books on family are declared women’s fiction, while men’s domestic books are declared brave and eye-opening, it adds many pounds to the micro-inequity pile.”

Meyers’ post is also relevant for her description of the trepidation that she and other female writers feel about pointing out the micro-inequities. I think that all of us working toward justice have a lot to learn from one another.

    6 thoughts on “Sweating the Small Stuff: Micro-Inequities and Micro-Affirmations

    1. Wonderful blog! I definitely love how it’s easy on my eyes and also the data are well written. I am wondering how I might be notified whenever a new post has been made. I have subscribed to your rss feed which need to do the trick! Have a nice day!

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