Oh No! Video Meetings Could ‘Reinforce Normative Social Identities’


Do you have wedding pictures in the virtual background for your video meeting?  You could be reinforcing “normative social identities with respect to gender, race, sexual preference and socioeconomic status” according to a Michigan State University release. 

In case you weren’t aware, microaggressions are apparently just all over the place in these virtual meetings. Thank goodness we some university representatives to alert us and give us tips on how to put an end to them.

From MSU Today: 

Amy Bonomi, a social science researcher from Michigan State University, and Nelia Viveiros from University of Colorado, said that these platforms are a ripe setting for unconscious bias — or, when people act based on prejudice and stereotypes without intending to do so.

'Unconscious bias includes using language, symbolism and nonverbal cues that reinforce normative social identities with respect to gender, race, sexual preference and socioeconomic status,' Bonomi said. 'For example, when the virtual background of a Zoom meeting attendee has pictures of his or her wedding, it unintentionally reinforces the idea that marriage is most fitting between opposite sexes.'

In fact, even a simple icebreaker — common for videoconferencing settings —can be a pathway for reinforcing dominant social norms and identities.

'In a recent videoconference, we were asked the ‘most fun thing you’ve done with your family during quarantine.’ Participant answers ranged from ‘gardening with my husband’ to ‘dance parties with my family,' Viveiros said.

The horror. To best fight unholy video conferencing atrocities like these, some advice is offered.

While virtual backgrounds may be a way for participants to express themselves, it is important to understand who is being excluded and included with these types of actions.

'To mitigate the potential of exclusion, some organizations are guiding participants to consider background choices to reflect the organization’s values, as opposed to personal choice,' Bonomi said.

Challenge microaggressions. Be a strategic ally in calling out microaggressions when they occur. This can be done by naming microaggressions on the spot or addressing them privately. 

With so many microaggressions mucking about during these video conferences you may need to take a break from your “naming” vigilance, as it can be stressful.

That’s why it’s recommended that you “Respect people’s space in long videoconference settings by building in frequent breaks.”

Let’s face it, being “a strategic ally in calling out microaggressions” can be quite draining, you’ll need your rest.


h/t The College Fix

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