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Why We Still Need “Safe Space”

September 15, 2009

prideflag

This happened to one of my students in the spring semester.

Female Visitor to the College Campus: Do you know so-and-so?

Male Student: Yeah, he’s my boyfriend.

Female Visitor: That’s disgusting.

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. September 15, 2009 10:03 pm

    Oh come now. She was just expressing her Deeply Held Religious Beliefs. How can you fault her for that? [/sarcasm]

  2. September 16, 2009 4:50 am

    I wanted to say something along the lines of “gee what a little wuss, people with views that go directly against what you do and no qualms about expressing them are a normal part of life, better get used to it”
    But I always get all teary eyed when people are “being mean”. So that’s kind of hypocritcal.

    People should be nice not mean.
    I am just frightened by the concept of a world where everyone has to censor themselves, is not allowed to step outside a narrow bounds of thought, is not allowed to be… yeah a jerk. Plenty of people are jerks, and they won’t stop being jerks just because they have to keep it to themselves… they’ll find some other way to express it.

    But even if you could prevent people being jerks through some kind of scary behaviorist thought control… that’s scary, people should stop being jerks because they want to, because they believe it is right, not because if they say jerky things at school that cross particular political lines they might get in trouble.

    Also I don’t like the idea of everyone being all uber self consious wondering if they are crossing the line, having to make a huge effort not to be themselves in public. I’d rather what people are like was obvious. That they behave unselfconsiously and that their true selves are relatively transparent.

    I mean, people should be polite, but not in an “oh gosh what is the right way to act and the right thing to say in this situation” but more as a natural outflowing of their concern for others and others needs. Otherwise its fake.

    I’d rather live in a real horrible world than a fake nice one…

  3. missivesfrommarx permalink*
    September 16, 2009 7:31 am

    Sophia, what I object to in your comment is that it’s about people being nice or mean, or people being self-conscious or not, rather than about the CONTENT of what was said.

    If a racist is nice and forward and upfront about his racist views, IT IS STILL NOT OKAY, because they are RACIST VIEWS. Directing attention away from the content of his views and toward the way he carries himself and his demeanor is the wrong approach.

    “Politeness” doesn’t reflect a concern for others if one is politely subjugating others.

  4. September 16, 2009 8:25 am

    But superficial politeness is partly the logic of the “safe space”; it’s human rights activism distilled down to a rainbow flag sticka on the window of a travel agent. The implication is clear in the very set-up of the piece: a visitor to a supposedly polite, liberal middle class cultural space like a university misbehaves. It’s really not that far removed from our lil Nighthawks discussion.

  5. missivesfrommarx permalink*
    September 16, 2009 5:52 pm

    Superficial politeness CAN BE partly the logic of safe space, but it needn’t be. For me, the sticker on my door is an identity marker that says “I’m on your side.” Having that sticker up has let some students know that they can trust me not to criticize them, discriminate against them, insult them, and so on—which are possibilities they could really face from others at the college. Some students reached out to me to be an ally for them, and they did so only because they saw the sticker. If I hadn’t had the sticker they wouldn’t have known I would be willing to serve as an ally.

  6. October 7, 2009 1:15 am

    Good job with the safe space sticker.

    What that visitor said was verbal violence, hitting (and likely hurting) that student at the core of their person.

    Just as much as I want potentially violent people to keep their hands to themselves, I want bigots to keep their words to themselves. Shut the hell up.

  7. missivesfrommarx permalink*
    October 7, 2009 1:35 pm

    Right on.

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