Abstract: A New Taxonomy for Gender Microaggressions on College Campuses (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

A New Taxonomy for Gender Microaggressions on College Campuses

Sunday, January 20, 2019: 12:30 PM
Union Square 25 Tower 3, 4th Floor (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Rachel Gartner, MSW, Doctoral Candidate, University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, CA
Background and Purpose: Gender microaggressions are associated with increased mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, trauma, and lowered self-esteem. The extant literature relies heavily on a taxonomy of gender microaggressions developed by Capodilupo and colleagues (2010) with a small (N=12), sample of adult women. This taxonomy includes: sexual objectification, second-class citizenship, assumption of inferiority, assumption of traditional gender roles, use of sexist language, and environmental invalidations. Understanding the unique taxonomy of gender microaggressions on college campuses, as everyday forms of gender-based aggressions, has substantial implications for improved campus climate and the primary prevention of campus sexual violence. The majority of gender microaggressions research, however, builds on a taxonomy that is not specific to college campuses, utilizes a small sample, and lacks diversity in sexual orientation and race. To address these gaps, the current study conducted campus-based focus groups to qualitatively (1) identify a taxonomy of gender microaggressions for college campuses and (2) compare themes from the current study to Capodilupo and colleagues (2010) original taxonomy.

Methods: Five qualitative semi-structured focus groups (N=23) were conducted with undergraduate women from a large research university in California. The inclusion criteria included 18-25 years old, self-identification as a woman, and current undergraduate enrollment at [university blinded]. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 24 (M=19.7, SD=1.7) and identified as White (n=11), Asian/Asian American (n=5), Latina (n=3), Black (n=2), and multiracial (n=2). The majority of participants identified as heterosexual (n=15), followed by bisexual (n=5), pansexual (n=1), queer (n=1), and demi-heterosexual (n=1). The discussions were audio-recorded and transcribed. Themes were coded and analyzed using Dedoose. Directed content analysis was performed. A priori codes based on existing microaggressions taxonomies were used and emergent themes were identified.

Results: Five gender microaggressions themes emerged as the most relevant to a college campus environment. Three of these themes were consistent with Capodilupo and colleagues (2010) gender microaggression taxonomy: (1) assumption of traditional gender roles, (2) environmental invalidations, and (3) sexual objectification. Two themes were novel and had not been discussed previously in the literature: (1) infrastructure failure and (2) male dominance. As assumption of traditional gender roles was such a dominant theme, four sub-themes were identified to further delineate this theme: (1) caretaker/nurturer, (2) women dominated occupations, (3) weak/“damsel in distress”, and (4) presumed incompetence.

Conclusions and Implications: Identifying new themes and refining the existing gender microaggressions taxonomy with population specific (e.g., undergraduate women) qualitative data is critical to the comprehensive conceptualization necessary for rigorous empirical study and measurement design. With this increased rigor, practitioners and researchers can approach prevention, intervention, and scholarship with more tools to enact lasting change. Disrupting gender microaggressive climates holds the possibility of improving undergraduate women’s sense of belonging on campus, increasing the accessibility of majors and career paths traditionally dominated by men, and improving their academic performance. A refined taxonomy for gender microaggressions on campus establishes a framework for measure development and testing, increasing that capacity of social work researchers to assess and address campus climate.