Safe Spaces

Standard Disclosure: I play neutral with the topic of Gamergate. This means that I support the original goals of discussion of gaming journalism and the gaming community, but do not support harassment, censorship, or hate of any individuals. I am a thirtysomething adult. Gaming is not my primary focus in life, but I feel I am a gamer in the most basic definition a gamer can be, someone who enjoys games and has played them a long time. My views are my own and not reflective of anyone else, including people who support Gamergate. I have no personal or corporate connections to anyone in gaming whatsoever, and no investment in either side. I am just a person. Plain, simple me.

Additional Disclosure: I follow Christina Hoff Sommers on Twitter, and have read her book The War Against Boys purchased from Google Play. I have no actual relationship to her nor does she follow me back. I do not believe I hold any real bias towards her views and opinions, but you, the reader, may raise this point.

Former philosophy professor and author Christina Hoff Sommers recently gave a speech at Oberlin College, and for most people outside of the college campus, this simply just means that, a speech. Inside, however, a number of “protesters” chanted and displayed signs against Sommers, protesting her views on modern feminism. They felt her speech would be “triggering” and advertised “safe spaces” for students to go in order to avoid the speech. Had Sommers been a personality that espoused radical views in a radical way that might warrant such a protest, I might be a little more accommodating, but she is just a sixty-five year old woman who has been teaching and advising the academic community. She has opinions and views built on at least forty-five years of experiences and interactions with other feminists, women, and men. She has cultivated her own theories of modern feminism based on those views. Basic, simple courtesy would be to allow a seasoned member of society to speak these views, even if you do not agree with them, and respect fellow students who might be interested in listening to what she has to say.

Sadly, this was not the case, and as she later described on The Kelly File she was given a couple of guards at the college not out of any self-described threat, but because they thought she might need them due to the overwhelming college response. The absurdity of these students would stun the average viewer, because the majority have grown up, and lived in a world where encountering dissenting opinions is commonplace, and even if you disagree with them, you let them speak, and politely counterpoint with your own view. Being told you can’t, or shouldn't speak because your opinions might “trigger” someone’s feelings, is intellectually dishonest to anyone studying this in an institute of higher learning, and for everyone else, just plain avoiding honest discussion. The next time my wife tells me about her day, I will immediately retreat to the garage and surround myself with wood planks and declare it a “safe-space” from her views on how a dog’s coat should be maintained.

As much as I’d like to mock these people for being intellectually sheltered from the real world, in many respects I actually feel bad for these people. We’re talking about having raised a generation of children who win “participation trophies” for playing sports or entering competitions. We de-empathize friendly competition and competitive behavior because we believe that will make people less aggressive and less prone to negative interactions with each other. But it seems to be particularly pushed on boys by feminist-leaning groups who believe removing competition and aggressiveness from boys will improve relations with women, as a means of “achieving equality”.

Sommers is the right person to talk about this topic. Her book, The War Against Boys, explores these initiatives enacted by various pro-feminist organizations in the 1990s, and she details how she feels they have had an impact on society and how we interact today. The crux of her writing suggests that the many initiatives feminist organizations began with primary schoolchildren in the 1990s has created a situation where boys lag too far behind boys, rather than making them equal. For this, she champions a more balanced form of “equality feminism” that suggests both genders have to put something in together, to get something out of it, together. Sadly, this clashes against these pro-feminist organizations because they believe in what is popularly called “the victim establishment” today, where women are “victims” to this Illuminati-like male-dominated society, or the patriarchy. Never mind the fact that women can make as much money as men, have the same or more political power than men, and often are the primary breadwinners for many households, especially single-parent households, in America and beyond.

So again, why do these students not genuinely want to listen to another point-of-view?

The sad reality is these people don’t want to listen. At all. The “triggers”, the “safe-spaces”, they’re manufactured mental mechanisms to shut out offending ideas because if they were to allow these ideas to fester in their mind, it would completely break down the pre-packaged narrative these people have for them. I find this very dangerous because upon leaving college and entering the workforce, they will encounter difficult interactions and ideas they are completely unprepared for, and very few of them can be easily explained by things like oppression or the patriarchy. Thing is, most of us adults in real life aren’t concerned with social justice matters because we’re too busy making sure food is on the table, our kids are safe, and there is a roof over everyone’s head. Sure, social issues are important, and this is by no means insinuating that they aren’t, but the vast majority of these so-called “social justice warriors” are millennials, many of whom come from privileged, well-off families, and either they are aware of that and are being willfully ignorant to harass other people, or they have so much internalized shame for perceived slights against “marginalized groups” that they see this as penance.

Either way you slice it, the fear I have going into the future is that these people will continue to wiggle their way into positions of power, and since they’ve built this near-foolproof way of holding on to it despite logical discourse, they will continue to erode our sensibilities until we’re all one of them simply to get them to stop berating us. I applaud women like Sommers who are willing to get up in front of these repressed self-important kids and tell them that your life is what you make of it. Hope and change will not fix the world, you have to be the change to yourself, and to others in your community.

Because like it or not, we’re all in this together.