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Safe space is a term for an area or forum where either a marginalised group are not supposed to face standard mainstream stereotypes and marginalisation, or in which a shared political or social viewpoint is required to participate in the space. For example, a feminist safe space would not allow free expression of anti-feminist viewpoints, and would typically also prevent 'concern trolling' and continual Feminism 101 discussions in favour of feminist discussion among feminists. Safe spaces may require trigger warnings and restrict content that might hurt people who have strong reactions to depictions of abuse or harm or mental illness triggers.
Safe spaces are places or communities – either online or off – where bigotry and oppressive views are not tolerated. They are controlled environments (insofar as they can be) in which people can discuss certain issues and support one another. Usually safe spaces will focus on specific issues, like sexism, racism, or transantagonism. They commonly have rules to ensure that the participants know what is acceptable and what is unacceptable. If the participants violate these rules, they are usually warned, removed, or blocked. Essentially, safe spaces provide a network of support and understanding. They are an oasis for some groups who are otherwise denied safety and respect by the world.
According to Kenney, the term “safe space” first gets used consistently in the 60s and 70s women’s movement, where safety began to mean distance from men and patriarchal thought and was used to describe “consciousness raising” groups. “Safe space,” she writes, “in the women’s movement, was a means rather than an end and not only a physical space but a space created by the coming together of women searching for community.”
Kenney quotes Kathy Sarachild, a founder of the early-70s organization New York Radical Women, on those consciousness-raising groups: “The idea was not to change women, not to make ‘internal’ changes except in the sense of knowing more. It was and is the conditions women face, it’s male supremacy, we want to change.” A safe space was not free of internal disagreement, but it did mean a devotion to a common political project. Those who attempted to undermine the movement—consciously or unconsciously—would be kept outside.
Safe spaces mirror the sexism women fought against in the past. Universities and students’ unions now deem women too vulnerable, too weak and too scared to manage university life without bureaucratic structures to protect them from other students. Living on many UK campuses today is like living in a Jane Austen novel, except it’s not a patriarchal society confining women to the safety of the drawing room; it’s their own peers.
I came to see women as physically fragile, delicate, butterfly-like creatures struggling in the cruel net of patriarchy. I began to see male entitlement everywhere.
Victim feminism taught me to see my body as inviolable – any action visited upon it was violence. Eventually, I stopped going out. It wasn’t worth the risk.
The answer to the problems we face as women is not to submit to the embrace of victim feminism, but to stand up for ourselves. We must throw off the soft, damp blanket of Safe Space culture and face the world bravely. If we do not do so now, we will consign any prospect of real equality to the ash heap of history.
Safe spaces often have intersectionality problems, for example trans women often report that they find considerable transphobia in spaces which are supposedly safe for women and feminists.*
Maintaining a safe space through education and moderation can make the space very challenging and confronting for the owners of the space. Women in particular often find that this work is expected of them and that no effort will be made to make the space safe for them while they maintain it as safe for others.
Safe space sometimes excludes people with dependents or carers, for example a strict women-only space might exclude carers for boys and men who can't leave them, or a woman with a full-time carer who isn't a woman.
In every single feminist safe space I’ve been, someone – usually someone who is more privileged than most people in the group – will call the space an “echo chamber” or, to use a more vulgar term, a “circlejerk.” An echo chamber is a space where people repeat and agree with certain ideas, patting one another on the back instead of contributing new thoughts. An echo chamber is thought to be useless because nobody is learning anything new or expanding their perspectives.
You have the entire Internet to use your freedom of expression. If you feel like you’re unsafe on the rest of the Internet, make your own safe spaces with your own rules, or lack thereof. Respecting one space – a space you’re not forced to enter – isn’t going to result in loss of your freedom of expression.
For the privileged members of the group, it’s a fun intellectual exercise. When the oppressed people speak out against being treated as debate topics, the privileged accuse them of stifling debate. The moderators of the group have to come up with a set of rules. If the healing of the oppressed isn’t prioritized over debate, the space becomes unsafe and is dominated by privileged people. For this reason, it’s important that safe spaces prioritize healing over debate. Discussion can be awesome, but what is the value of discussion if you’re dehumanizing oppressed people in the process?
This was problematic on two counts. Firstly, it triggered the rape survivors and victims in the group. Secondly, the commenter assumed that we were closed-minded because we didn’t want to hear his argument – as if we had never been exposed to this debate before. As a rape victim, I am constantly exposed to the notion that I deserve to be blamed for my trauma. I know those debates better than anyone else. I’ve been forced to have those debates a thousand times over, and I’m too tired to have it again — especially in my safe space. The assumption my safe space makes – that I should not be blamed for my rape – is already challenged constantly by most of society. A safe space is an opportunity to connect with other people who recognize that society’s mainstream, oppressive messages are bull#.
Some spaces are for women only. Some spaces are exclusively for queer people. Some are for people of color. Most of the time, these spaces are for people within oppressed groups to connect and share their experiences and perspectives. They are for healing, networking, and developing a community. These spaces are extremely important because the world caters to privileged people at the expense of the oppressed. It is therefore revolutionary to have a space that focuses entirely on an oppressed group.
I argue that the opposite is true. Making a space safe for oppressed groups of people means that they’re more likely to feel comfortable enough to contribute to the discussion. Think about it: If a space isn’t safe from transantagonism, it’s unlikely that trans* people will share their perspective. If a space isn’t safe from racism, it is unlikely that anyone who isn’t white will contribute to the discussion. In unsafe spaces, privileged voices are more likely to dominate the discussion. Safe spaces mean that certain voices – marginalized, often under-represented voices – get a chance to speak without fear of hostility.
Just because people agree on basic issues doesn’t mean that they’ll agree on everything else. Agreeing on those basic issues means that we can have advanced discussions without getting caught up in debates we are tired of having. Additionally, these spaces can be very educational. Saying that advanced feminist spaces aren’t educational because they don’t do basic debates or 101 education is like saying that a third-year college course isn’t educational because they don’t give lessons for first-year students. Agreeing on a few basic tenets does not make a space an echo chamber.
The biggest echo chambers I’ve ever been in were outside of safe spaces. We all live in an echo chamber: It’s called the Kyriarchy. The media, the educational system, religious institutions, the judicial system, and other institutions all form part of one huge echo chamber that maintains the oppressive status quo. What is an echo chamber if not an interdependent network of entities that repeat and perpetuate one another’s ideas? To the oppressed, the echoes keep on repeating that we are not human. With this in mind, ask yourself: What’s wrong with being in an echo chamber if all that is being echoed is the idea that you are human and worthy of respect? In a world that tries to deny the oppressed their humanity, there is nothing dogmatic about a safe space. On the contrary, safe spaces are #ing revolutionary.
Existence of safe spaces for one group does not preclude existence of safe spaces for other groups. Just as well as other genders, men can be victims of abuse, silencing, and suffocating expectations (masculine toxicity)
While this argument is occasionally seen used by one genuinely well-meaning, it is also a favourite of 'concern trolls', due to the somewhat more complicated concept (i.e. more credible to claim lack of understanding, more extorted education to wring out) and readily available comparison to American history of racism and the knee-jerk reactions that accompany it.
This argument is very basically the same as saying that the male privilege of being present/participating anywhere is more important than the right of multiple women to choose their company as they like. Comparing private choice to a culture-wide system--and especially the choice of the oppressed against the oppressor--is an intellectually and ethically dry well.
But I'm not a bad guy! "By virtue of not, at least intentionally, participating in oppressive and/or hurtful and/or harassing behaviour, I demand the privilege of being more important than the other persons. The fact that I belong to the privileged group that systematically oppresses and outright harms those persons should be irrelevant to my whim.".
A common argument against safe spaces is that students can't learn if their beliefs aren't challenged. This reflects confusion between the concept of psychological safety and an imaginary environment in which no one discusses ideas. A teacher who can't teach without compromising students' psychological safety is as bad as a teacher who can't teach without compromising students' physical safety (e.g. a lab instructor who doesn't make sure students are wearing safety glasses).
The purpose and measure of kyriarchy – and feminism in general – is not to increase our time at the microphone so we can more accurately assign BLAME. The purpose and measure of kyriarchy is to further understand the power and crippling tendencies of the human race to push, torture, and minimize others. It is in our nature to try and become “lord” or “master” in our communities, to exert a “power-over” someone else. Kyriarchy does not exist to give us tools to further imprison ourselves by blaming our environment, upbringing, or social caste. It is the opposite. Kyriarchy exists to give us tools to liberate ourselves by understanding the shifting powers of oppression.
It is not about passing the megaphone to men so they can be included in the oppression olympics. Simply check-marking our gender, sex, race, ability, class, citizenship, skin color and other pieces of identity will not free us from the social ills of our stratified society. Kyriarchy is not the newly minted alarm clock to wake us up to what’s wrong. It exists to radically implement our finest strategies to deconstruct our personal and political powers for the liberation of self and community. For self AND community.
Which is why I so vehemently disagree with Hodgson who believes that the most helpful piece of kyriarchy is “its emphasis on individual liberation…” Please indulge my own theory-making right now: There’s no such thing as liberation if the word ‘individual’ precedes
originally posted by: Morrad
Ferguson believes that safe spaces actually promote diversity of perspectives rather than discourage it. She addresses the argument that by only allowing certain speech results in only one viewpoint.
"I argue that the opposite is true. Making a space safe for oppressed groups of people means that they’re more likely to feel comfortable enough to contribute to the discussion. Think about it: If a space isn’t safe from transantagonism, it’s unlikely that trans* people will share their perspective. If a space isn’t safe from racism, it is unlikely that anyone who isn’t white will contribute to the discussion. In unsafe spaces, privileged voices are more likely to dominate the discussion. Safe spaces mean that certain voices – marginalized, often under-represented voices – get a chance to speak without fear of hostility."
originally posted by: Morrad
"The purpose and measure of kyriarchy – and feminism in general – is not to increase our time at the microphone so we can more accurately assign BLAME. The purpose and measure of kyriarchy is to further understand the power and crippling tendencies of the human race to push, torture, and minimize others.
It exists to radically implement our finest strategies to deconstruct our personal and political powers for the liberation of self and community. For self AND community."
originally posted by: onequestion
a reply to: Klassified
LOl, is that a real thing?
originally posted by: CranialSponge
a reply to: onequestion
LOl, is that a real thing?
Yes it is.
They even have their very own website safe space where they can chat all day sharing their confirmation bias about how icky girls are.
And gawd have mercy on any kootie-ridden girl that tries to post in one of their safe space forums...
originally posted by: onequestion
One where we can talk honestly and make fun of each other...
One where we call each other racial slurs and make fun of our insecurities so we can laugh at other...
Hey Cranial, remember the He-man woman haters club? It was one of the first 3 stooges episodes. I guess mgtow even pre-dates feminism. lol.