Why All Colleges Need Safe Spaces and Why Richard Dawkins is a Monster Coated in Garbage Sauce
This. From a man upon whom Oxford University conferred the title of “Professor for Public Understanding of Science” from 1995 until 2008.
For fuck’s sake, when I was a teaching fellow at Harvard, students in my own damn classroom would pretty regularly say the most intolerant shit without even realizing the words coming out of their mouths.
Most of the time, it wasn’t even intentional. It wasn’t meant to be bullying. More often than not, it was a product of being raised in some of the most sheltered and privileged households in America where no one ever told them a damned thing about what life is like for queer students, for students of color, or for women in general.
(And most certainly never about what life is like for the poor.)
Their ignorance of “the real world” was fucking palpable.
I once had a straight white male freshman in my class say that trans women were just lesbians who were confused about who they were. I corrected him. Usually this is enough for them to stay quiet long enough to write something nasty in their anonymous teaching evaluation later. But he kept on insisting he knew better than me, a gender and sexuality scholar, because he knew a trans woman who was a lesbian.
I repeated my assertion that his logic is as ridiculous as his insistence.
But was he a bully? No. He wasn’t a bully. And any student internally offended by what he said was probably not traumatized.
Mostly they were just shocked by how incredibly stubborn someone at Harvard could be about their own ignorance.
And they are legion.
Having taught quite a bit by now, I can say pretty confidently that kids who grow up without the privileges of straight white men grow pretty thick skin by college. They don’t break down in tears every time someone utters something wrong or even hurtful. This is not the first time someone has said something willfully ignorant about people like them and it certainly won’t be the last time.
And that’s why there are safe spaces.
Because imagine how fucking exhausting it is to know that that kid is going to graduate with the same degree as you.
Because so many students live at college, safe spaces are about getting to take a break from constantly being around privileged people who will spend four years of campus life blissfully ignorant about who you are, what your struggles are about and what you have to contend with to attend the same fucking university.
They fucking surround you.
Imagine going to school with Richard Dawkins, a man who has known nothing but privilege and affirmation for being a cishet white man.
Imagine him telling you that who you are is wrong.
That what you believe about yourself is wrong.
That he knows you better than you know yourself.
Now imagine there are 10 of him in every lecture hall.
Five in your dorm.
Fuck, maybe he’s your roommate.
Imagine every time they open their mouths, they’re 100% sure only their perspective of the world is correct.
The perspective of someone who has never been made to feel wrong about being born in his body, being attracted to who he is attracted to and for taking up the air that he does.
Scientifically, you miss a lot of the world’s truths when you haven’t experienced it from the vantage of someone getting the shit end of it.
Rich men will never know the felt experience of being a poor black trans woman trying to get an affordable apartment from an intolerant landlord who thinks she’s some kind of freak prostitute.
But fuck you if you insist you know better than she what her life is like.
Safe spaces aren’t about bullying.
They aren’t about coddling students who can’t handle the real world.
They’re about giving the toughest students on campus a fucking break from shitheads like Richard Dawkins.