Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Death By A Thousand Cuts: Gender Microaggressions and Gendered Violence in Aotearoa New Zealand

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posted on 2024-02-08, 02:31 authored by Sophie Beaumont

Gendered violence is a prevalent social issue in New Zealand. Feminist scholars have long argued that patriarchy, a socially constructed hierarchal system of oppression that positions men above women (in its most basic form), is the root cause of gendered violence (Brownmiller, 1975; Gavey, 2019a; Hunnicutt, 2009; Jordan, 2004, 2022a; Kelly, 1988; Vera-Gray, 2016). Patriarchy has been subject to challenge and resistance but this system, and the violence inherent within it, persists. My research centres women’s experiences of gender microaggressions: subtle verbal, behavioural, or environmental actions that reinforce sexism (Capodilupo et al., 2010; Sue, 2010a; Sue & Spanierman, 2020). I argue that this subtle form of gendered harm needs to be understood within a broader framework of violence and patriarchy. Guided by the ideas of critical criminology and feminist scholarship, I use a mixed methodological approach to examine women’s experiences of gender microaggressions. For the first stage of the project, I conducted an online survey that 790 women completed – I redesigned a pre-existing quantitative measure of gender microaggressions, adding qualitative reflection sections to uphold the principles of feminist consciousness-raising. For the second stage, I conducted 26 one-on-one semi-structured interviews with women to talk more in-depth about their experiences of gender microaggressions and their impact, both personally and on New Zealand society more broadly. Findings suggest that gender microaggressions are a common experience for women across New Zealand. Microaggressions typically manifest in ways that make women feel objectified, underestimated, belittled, and silenced. In alignment with current literature, data suggests that microaggressive harm is cumulative. Women discussed feeling pressured and restricted by binary gender expectations describing gender microaggressions as a tool used to “put [women] in their place”. In addition, gender microaggressions were understood by women as existing within a broader spectrum or structure of violence. Microaggressions were perceived as threats to safety and are implicated in the gendered nature of risk and responsibility in society. The social acceptability of subtle gendered violence such as gender microaggressions has far reaching implications for our understanding of and resistance to patriarchal dominance.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Victoria University of Wellington Unit

Institute of Criminology

ANZSRC Socio-Economic Outcome code

280123 Expanding knowledge in human society; 230112 Social class and inequalities; 230108 Gender and sexualities

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

2 Strategic basic research

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Social and Cultural Studies


Monod de Froideville, Sarah; Jordan, Jan