Survey asks black women about microaggression stress

A survey created by a professor asks black women how stressed they feel when someone comments on their butt, hips, or thighs, perceives them as strong or angry, or imitates a black female dialect.

The survey is being conducted by Dr. Jioni Lewis, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

“Based on my experiences as a Black woman,” begins the questionnaire, in the first section of the survey. “Someone accused me of being angry when I was speaking in a calm manner,” reads the first statement.

“I have been told that I am too independent,” says another entry. “Someone has made me feel unattractive because I am a Black woman,” reads a third.

For each statement, participants select from six frequency options ranging from “Never” to “Once a week or more” and then are asked to indicate the stress that each event triggered via a “Stress Appraisal.” The “Stress Appraisal” also has six choices, ranging from “This has never happened to me” to “Extremely stressful.”

“In talking with others, someone has told me to calm down,” “Someone has made a sexually inappropriate comment about my butt, hips, or thighs,” and “I have been perceived to be an ‘angry black woman’ ” are all statements on the first page of the survey.

The second page asks participants whether someone has ever made them feel exotic as a black woman, if someone has imitated a perceived black woman dialect, citing the example “g-i-r-l-f-r-i-e-n-d,” or whether they have “been assumed to be a strong Black woman” or have a specific body type.

“I have received negative comments about my hair when I wear it in a natural hairstyle,” reads statement #19. “I have felt excluded from networking opportunities by White co-workers,” reads another. “Someone perceived me to be sexually promiscuous (sexually loose),” states the final entry in the section.

The second segment of the survey consists of health questions for black women, including whether or not they felt they were “using a lot of nervous energy” or were “worried about situations in which [they] might panic and make a fool of myself.”

The next portion asks participants to rate coping mechanisms that they use for handling racism or sexism. Coping devices range from using drugs or alcohol to making jokes.

Survey partakers are next asked a series of questions relating exclusively to being a Black woman and must indicate their responses with a seven-choice agreement-disagreement scale.

“My destiny is tied to the destiny of other Black women,” reads one statement. “I have a strong sense of belonging to Black women,” says another.

Two additional questions ask participants whether people consider black women “more ineffective” than other races or genders and whether or not black women are “respected by the broader society.”

After a body image section and more health questions, participants are asked to identify their race, ethnicity, gender, age, marital status, and sexual orientation.

While “man” is listed as a gender, “gay” is not offered as a sexual orientation, with the only choices being “heterosexual,” “lesbian,” “bisexual,” “queer,” “questioning,” “agender,” and a fill-in-the-blank for participants whose sexual orientation was not previously listed.

“If you were to purchase foundation (make-up) for your face, which one of the following colors would most closely match your skin complexion?” asks one set of questions, above fourteen skin tones. “Please pick the letter that corresponds to the color that best matches the foundation color of your choice.”

While the introduction to the survey specified it was for black women and certain questions specifically mention black women, one later segment asks participants for their ethnicity.

The survey is 139 questions in length and participants who complete it will be entered to win one out of three $100 gift cards.

Dr. Lewis, the creator of the survey and psychology professor at UT Knoxville’s psychology department, boasts a dissertation entitled Construction and Initial Validation of the Gendered Racial Microaggressions Scale: An Exploration Among Black Women, as well as publications including “Examining the influence of campus diversity experiences and color-blind racial ideology on students’ social justice attitudes” and “The expanded psychosocial model of racism: A new model for understanding and disrupting racism and white privilege.”

Campus Reform reached out to Dr. Louis for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.

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