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Safe Spaces for Women : Origins, Arguments and Counter-Arguments

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posted on Jun, 15 2016 @ 04:54 PM
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Safe spaces are being mentioned with increasing frequency on ATS. Many of you will have heard of this term while some of you may not or have limited information. I will look into the origins of safe spaces, primarily to establish if they were born out of feminism. I will also present arguments for and against safe spaces finishing with my own conclusions. For clarity and continuity, I will look at the arguments against safe spaces first as some of the arguments in favour, are in fact counter-arguments.

What is a Safe Space?

As my OP relates to safe spaces and women, I have opted for feminist descriptions.



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.


Another feminist expands the above description:



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.



Origins of Safe Spaces

There are differing accounts on how safe space's came into being.

One account claims safe spaces began life as ‘women centres’ on university campuses in the 1970s. These centres were a designated place to protect women from physical harm as well as offering assistance with problems related to academia.

In another account, scholar and activist Moira Kenney believes the idea of safe spaces originated in secret gay bars in the 1960s before being adopted by women's movements. This was prior to homosexuality being decriminalized and these spaces were deemed safe, as in safe from the police, but not without risk.



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.


Another account suggests safe spaces started with corporate America in the 1940s, mainly due to the work of psychologist Kurt Lewin. At the request of corporate bosses, Lewin devised sensitivity training where discussion, in an environment free from repercussion, facilitated an awareness of unhelpful assumptions, implicit biases and behaviours which prevented individuals from becoming effective leaders. Sensitivity groups gained momentum in corporate America due to numerous psychologists in the the 1960s. Humanistic therapist Carl Rogers developed the idea into encounter groups which were more aimed at self-actualisation and social change whilst retaining the ‘safe space’ environment.


The Arguments Against Safe Spaces

The author of an article on the 'sexism of safe spaces', who incidentally is female, believes safe spaces are a protective measure which infantilize women to the point of making them incapable of handling everyday events by themselves. She describes safe spaces as both intangible and pervasive and considers them an attempt to wrap women in cotton wool in order to protect them from the realities of normal everyday life. She also believes space spaces have 'turned the clock back' on women's rights, eroding the freedoms women have fought for. She argues that "women being ‘triggered’ by words, sounds or images revives the sexist cliché that women are hysterical, unpredictable and unable to control their emotions."



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.


In a different article, a woman who gives a frank emotive account of her brush with modern feminism believes safe spaces are a result of 'victim feminism'. This lady joined an infamous Oxford feminist group which she claims, transformed her from a nervous, desperate-to-please, ‘gender egalitarian’ 18-year-old into a full-blown feminist who forgot about empowerment and began to perceive women as vulnerable, abused and traumatized victims.



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.


She describes how a random male hand, which previously would have been met with a scold or slap was now perceived as a violation which she says paralysed her thought processes and left her feeling traumatized. A random male grope became a full blown sexual assault.



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.


She claims that in time, she realised that feminism had not empowered her or made her stronger but had turned her into a quivering, stay-at-home wreck that needed protective clothing (long skirts) and the sole counsel of close female friends. Any contemplation of venturing outside was perceived as 'going into a minefield'.



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.


edit on 15-6-2016 by Morrad because: (no reason given)




posted on Jun, 15 2016 @ 04:55 PM
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The second article is obviously highly emotive which may have coloured the author's objectivity but her message certainly reinforces the first article. I do have one criticism of the second author. She believes that she suffered profound trauma from modern feminism and at the same time casually dismisses 'male groping' as something to be expected and trivialised. In one of the comments below the article, I was surprised to see someone arguing that this is a reaction to violence with violence ie just as bad. In my opinion, if a woman chooses this option, a reactionary 'quick slap' is justified, appropriate and proportionate with the only real bruising being the male ego. I digress.

Further problems related to safe spaces, identified by feminists themselves, may give weight to the argument against these spaces.



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.


*I also became aware of the fact that the feminist concept of kyriarchy omits several dominated and oppressed groups under the umbrella term of intersectionality, these being class and religion. I do have a problem understanding how these safe spaces can be inclusive for individuals who feel dominated and oppressed within these two groups. Any attempt at inclusion would surely lead to conflicting issues which goes against the ethos of safe spaces.

Another issue to consider is the echo chamber argument highlighted by another feminist.



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.



The Arguments For Safe Spaces

An online search revealed very little evidence of supporting arguments based on their own merit, rather they are counter arguments. I am not suggesting that specific arguments do not exist. The descriptions of safe spaces I provided, by feminists, can be looked at as favourable points in themselves. I did find one article, written by Sian Ferguson, a South African undergraduate who is a writer for an online feminist magazine.

Ferguson believes that due to an unmoderated internet, online safe spaces allow her to be her true self without being disrespected, silenced, or trolled. She claims she needs these spaces to remain safe referring to her emotional and psychological health.

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.


Ferguson claims that connection and healing are more important than debate. Although she believes debate to be important, she states that it is overrated and that many people falsely believe debate is paramount to progess.


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?

Ferguson also claims that not all ideas are worth debating and that there is a false assumption that the idea of progressive debate means eveything is up for debate. She refers to an online feminist group she is a member of, stating that one of their rules is that victim-blaming is forbidden with the assumption that all group members know this to be wrong. She gives an example by way of an online thread discussing rape culture. Another contributor to the thread stated that 'victim-blaming is wrong' and should be open to discussion. Ferguson then claims he proceeded to make a common, unoriginal argument to justify victim-blaming.


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#.

Ferguson believes there are valid reasons why online spaces are exclusive for people of a certain oppressed group.


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.

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.



posted on Jun, 15 2016 @ 04:55 PM
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She reinforces her argument by giving examples:

Guerrilla Feminism does not allow pro-choice versus anti-choice debates
Reverse racism and victim-blaming of any kind are banned.
Feminism 101 education on demand is not encouraged as there is an expectation that members of safe spaces undestand basic feminist theory and intersectionality.


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.


Ferguson concludes her arguments by stating that echo chambers can be useful.


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.


There are further arguments that support safe spaces for women.


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)


The next argument made me reflect on my recent thread concerning a Women-Only venue safe space at Glastonbury in which I accused the organizers of segregation.


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.


I called this segregation 'contemporary apartheid' in the Glastonbury thread. I hold my hand up. Yes it was a knee-jerk reaction.

Another argument (below) also made me pause and reflect.


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).


Conclusion

It has been pointed out to me previously, that safe spaces are merely the antics of crazy students and have no relevancy in the real world. I am not entirely convinced by this argument. Will these 'crazy students' grow up and look back at safe spaces as an embarrassing quirk from their youth? Will it be something to be laughed at in years to come when attending campus reunions?

I have spent the better part of two weeks researching and compiling this OP. What started off as a reinforcement exercise of my own prejudices resulted in further knowledge acquisition. I can see merit on both sides of the argument. To reach a middle ground on this issue would suggest some form of balancing which includes compromise. I am not sure if this would be achievable.

I would like to leave you with some words from Lisa Factora-Borchers addressing Kyriarchy:



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


The sexism of Safe Spaces

How I became a feminist victim

What’s a ‘safe space’? A look at the phrase’s 50-year history

Sensitivity training

Geek Feminism Wiki: Safe space

The real history of the ‘safe space’

6 Reasons Why We Need Safe Spaces

Truthout About Kyriarchy: An Open Letter To “Feminist” Writers, Bloggers, and Journalists


edit on 15-6-2016 by Morrad because: (no reason given)



posted on Jun, 15 2016 @ 05:00 PM
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I'm beginning to need a safe space for men who work full time on physically demanding jobs and are comfortable with themselves and secure in the individuality.

One where we can talk honestly and make fun of each other without reeling in emotional pain. One where people own there own thoughts and emotions, a place where people won't be easily offended by someone elses words, one where words bounce of me like rubber and stick to you like glue.

One where there are actually winners and losers and the losers decide to work harder to become the winners.

One where we call each other racial slurs and make fun of our insecurities so we can laugh at other while hurling insults and nobody gets offended..



posted on Jun, 15 2016 @ 05:48 PM
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a reply to: onequestion
Done!......Join one of the MGTOW groups.



posted on Jun, 15 2016 @ 05:49 PM
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a reply to: Klassified

Whats that?



posted on Jun, 15 2016 @ 05:50 PM
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originally posted by: onequestion
a reply to: Klassified

Whats that?


A place where men can obsess about women and how awful they are.



posted on Jun, 15 2016 @ 06:08 PM
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originally posted by: onequestion
a reply to: Klassified

Whats that?

Men Going Their Own Way.



posted on Jun, 15 2016 @ 06:16 PM
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a reply to: Klassified

LOl, is that a real thing?



posted on Jun, 15 2016 @ 06:26 PM
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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...




posted on Jun, 15 2016 @ 06:26 PM
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Thank you Morrad, I really enjoyed your efforts in this thread, and the comparisons you made in showing both of the perspectives. It is clear that you have done a great deal of research into this topic.

Personally, I resonated with the following:


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."

And truly there once existed what was termed polite society or civil society - where one needn't devolve into hostility to make their case during a discussion. We are headed back that way and I am seeing it more so every day.




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."

Hear, hear!



posted on Jun, 15 2016 @ 06:26 PM
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originally posted by: onequestion
a reply to: Klassified

LOl, is that a real thing?

Believe it or not, it is. You should check out some of their vids on Youtube, and their forums. These guys equal the worst feminists easily. I was actually joking with you, but if you don't know about them, read up. You'll get a few good laughs. Or who knows. You might agree with them. Different groups run from mild to wild.



posted on Jun, 15 2016 @ 06:32 PM
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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...


Hey Cranial, remember the He-man woman haters club? It was one of the first 3 stooges episodes. I guess mgtow even pre-dates modern feminism. lol.
Ok. Maybe not, but it goes back a ways.
edit on 6/15/2016 by Klassified because: edit



posted on Jun, 15 2016 @ 06:33 PM
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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...


So, basically just continue on with a non-productive mentality and creating more of the SAME divisions that the MSM also uses to keep people from striving towards betterment of society?

No, Thank you. Been there, got the t-shirt. Look around you at the world today, that mentality has not succeeded in the slightest.

People are rising above such base behaviour more and more, and I will gladly stand with them - most especially for the reasons reinforced and bolded in my reply to the OP above.



posted on Jun, 15 2016 @ 06:36 PM
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a reply to: Klassified




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.


Bwahaha !

I actually do remember that one... Three Stooges classic !

Apparently, us gals have been icky for a very very long time.




posted on Jun, 15 2016 @ 06:39 PM
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a reply to: MoonBlossom

no where safe space bull# is shattered into fractal voids of non existence where people actually have some confidence and a sense of self that isnt crushed by someone elses words.



posted on Jun, 15 2016 @ 06:46 PM
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a reply to: onequestion

Yep, you just might enjoy that MGTOW group that was recommended to you.

Some of us want to hear the voices of ALL humans.



posted on Jun, 15 2016 @ 06:50 PM
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a reply to: MoonBlossom

some of us live in reality where we dont victimize ourselves for any little thing that we can

some of us live in the real world where we take ownership for our emotions and not let silly words take control of our minds and emotions

some of us actually have a backbone and were tired of adult cry babies



posted on Jun, 15 2016 @ 06:52 PM
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a reply to: Klassified

And of course because you mentioned the awesome Three Stooges, I had to go dig out the episode....

But it looks like it was just called the "Women Haters" episode... it was their very first episode ever !




Turns out it was the Little Rascals that had the "He-Man Women Haters Club"

But I remember watching this one too:




Classic tv, love it !




posted on Jun, 15 2016 @ 07:01 PM
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PC/SJW culture, or even a great portion of modern Western culture, has definitely become very womanly and catered to women's sensibilities.

I've never in my life heard a man get insulted (or offended or whatever) and then say that he's been "traumatized", and that he has to find a place to "heal" and "connect" to recover from the "violence" of words and insults. Usually he'll just suck it up, toss out his own insults, or enage in some good old fashioned physical correction. This stuff that you're talking about is all woman-speak to me, I don't understand any of it.


edit on 15-6-2016 by Talorc because: (no reason given)




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