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Annals of feminist science: Microaggressions give women higher blood pressure and make them get fat

October 19, 2018

Photo: The Atlantic/Getty Images

The Atlantic discovers a microaggression health horror show:: “Everyday Discrimination Literally Raises Women’s Blood Pressure.”

Oh, and microaggressions also make you fat.

It goes like this. On her walk to work, a driver wolf-whistles at her. She sits in a meeting and gets interrupted when she speaks. She is also told, with a hint of surprise, that she’s pretty articulate. She vents on social media and is told by strangers to go back to the kitchen. She frowns at this—and is told to smile more.

Does this all really happen on the same day–to the same woman? Wolf-whistles and “make me a sammich.” Usually, it’s one or the other.

But whatever.

These little hits of everyday discrimination are the daily realities for many women and people of color, says Danielle Beatty Moody, a psychology professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. They are indignities so ostensibly subtle that people who don’t experience them firsthand often think nothing of them. But these slivers of “disdain, distance, and disrespect” add up, over days and years: “It’s like a thousand tiny cuts,” Beatty Moody says.

So Beatty Moody, being a scientist and all, does a scientific study–or actually does some data-mining in someone else’s scientific study–and comes up with this:

By analyzing these data from the SWAN study, Beatty Moody and her team found that women who said they had experienced these slights “sometimes” or “often” had higher blood pressure than those who said they had experienced them more rarely.

Higher blood pressure? Let’s see…

Specifically, after 10 years, the women’s systolic blood pressure was two units higher on average, and their diastolic blood pressure was one unit higher.

Two units? One unit? That doesn’t sound like much. But…

That may seem small, but it makes a difference. One study that analyzed data from a million people concluded that if all middle-aged people reduced their systolic blood pressure by two units, deaths from heart disease and stroke would fall by 7 and 10 percent, respectively.

Seven percent? Ten percent? I guess that’s something. But uh-oh!

The only other prospective study that has considered discrimination and blood pressure found no link between the two….

Drat! Fortunately for Beatty Moody, however, that other study:

…used only a small subset of [the first study’s] questions, and it tracked its volunteers only for four years. It may take longer for the consequences of discrimination to manifest, like a snowball gaining momentum as it rolls downhill.

Whew!

Beatty Moody’s team also found that women who experience more discrimination are more likely to put on weight, which in turn is linked to higher blood pressure. That makes sense, because routine discrimination is a chronic source of stress. “We often look for ways to manage stress, through self-soothing actions like eating food,” says Beatty Moody, “and our bodies are also doing it physiologically. Under stressful circumstances, we’re more likely to hold on to fat.”

Yes, nothing like another dougnut or two when you’re feeling microaggressed. Hell, go for the whole box!

Nonetheless, there’s a silver lining to this cloud: Fat ladies almost never experience wolf-whistles.

Update: Thanks for the link, Instapundit!

Posted by Charlotte Allen

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4 Comments
  1. grayswindir permalink

    Microaggression: (n) taking offense where it is neither intended nor an appropriate reaction.

    Yeah, I believe folks with the kind of personality looking for excuses to be angry and upset would be more stressed, and prone to over-eating and not exercising.

    Correlation, not causation.

  2. Ben permalink

    Do they really experience more discrimination? Or is their blood pressure high because they are just anxious people who see offense in everything?

  3. David-2 permalink

    There’s a serious question here about causation vs correlation. That is, if there’s anything at all serious to be said about this ridiculousness.

    (By the way, I’m telling my doctor next week that I feel microaggressed by all the fu@*!@&^ing slow drivers on I-5 through Seattle and that’s why my blood pressure is up and I’m eating more doughnuts.)

  4. JorgXMcKie permalink

    Uh, I think they’re talking about women who “perceive” they’re the object of micro-aggressions. They’re possibly wrong, and therefore the problem is internalized anger. It’s self-inflicted.

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