“You don’t look like you should be an engineer,” he says.

The man in the library looks at me condescendingly after his remark and I was irked. Mad. Annoyed.  Really? Are we still on that?

Earlier, I finished performing with my dance group, Hypnotiq, and was wearing all of our gear. The man originally came up to me, because he had heard about our group. He started asking about my other involvement on campus, and I told him that I work at the MSC and that I am also President of FASO, the Filipino American Student Organization.

He replied, “Wow, that’s impressive. What are you working on by the way? What’s your major?” He glanced at my book and calculator.  “Mechanics of Materials,” I answer. He stares at me and responds, “You don’t look like you should be an engineer.”

Automatically, I go into my usual… ‘Yes, I am majoring in engineering, this is why, it’s very challenging but I do it.’ Blah blah blah. At this moment, I was already: 1) fed up by the ignorance on campus about making T-shirts of a cultural celebration 2) overwhelmed by my involvement on campus because I am more than my major… but to even add to that, 3) annoyed by being constantly reminded that people are still under this preconception that an engineer looks a certain way.

A screen shot of a google image search of “engineers,” predominantly shows white men in the field of engineering (even the clip art and cartoons!).

There’s a reason why I keep persisting with a hard major. I continue to major in engineering because I want to break stereotypes; I want to be a model for women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), and even more so a woman of color in STEM, but it’s also more than that.

Just because I am majoring in engineering doesn’t mean I have to stop everything else I’m doing. I’m on this campus for a reason, and I wanted to make a difference on campus. My involvement continued through dance because it is something I’ve grown up to do as an art. I am part of FASO because I want to help build a space where people feel comfortable. I want to build a community where people feel safe and welcomed at this huge campus.

There can be lot of unrecognized privilege amongst this campus and it comes in many forms. It’s the color of our skin, because yes, it’s prevalent and we see it, but it’s also how we identify ourselves. It could be by your major, your sexuality, your beliefs, etc. People don’t recognize these little statements go back a long a way…and they hurt, and I think it’s because there is a shield of privilege blocking the way. When we say things, we sometimes know that it’s hurtful but continue to do so because we aren’t serious in our statements or actions.  But, to someone else receiving them, it could definitely hit a sore spot. It reiterates the struggle to break the barriers in the eyes of our society, the strength we need to overcome that, and the motivation that we need to keep within ourselves to keep going. I wrote this, because I stand for a voice and the physical representation that, WE ARE HERE. (and we are doing big things 😉


This moment shared is an example of an everyday “microaggression.” The term “microaggressions” was originally coined to speak particularly to racialized experiences. We invite you to share your experiences on campus and in the community with Threads as a way to start dialogue and conversation. 

“Racial microaggressions are brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color.” –Racial Microaggressions in Everyday Life

Each event, observation and experience posted is not necessarily particularly striking in and of themselves. Often, they are never meant to hurt – acts done with little conscious awareness of their meanings and effects. Instead, their slow accumulation during a childhood and over a lifetime is in part what defines a marginalized experience, making explanation and communication with someone who does not share this identity particularly difficult. Social others are microaggressed hourly, daily, weekly, monthly.

Read more about it on Microaggressions.com or follow @Microaggressive on Twitter. The Microaggressions blog project is a space to extend the “microaggression” concept to different socially constructed identities that embody privilege in different ways – sexuality, class, religion, education level, to name a few – in hopes of making visible the ways in which social difference is produced and policed in everyday lives through comments of people around you.

3 thoughts on ““You don’t look like you should be an engineer,” he says.

  1. Pingback: APIA Heritage Month: Reflecting on Racism, Media, and Sexuality | Threads

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s