In Defense of Safe Spaces

Get in formation, snowflakes.

Being a Twitter user is pretty much the worst.

Actually, scratch that.

Being a politically conscious Twitter user is the worst.

For the past two years or so, the faux-politicians of Twitter have been on a mission to decimate “liberals”. Hurling insults about snowflakes or cucks or the dreaded safe spaces.

All I see are a bunch of middle aged white people trying to preach about something they haven’t experienced. Or, better yet, click bait articles painting safe spaces with broad strokes.

As a person who has been in many spaces deemed “safe”, I am still confused about the whole thing. For us, these places were judgment free and non-discriminatory. Certainly not some ceremonial breeding ground of liberalism, I thought.

But are they?

For all the furor they inspire, trigger warnings are relatively rare. According to a National Coalition Against Censorship survey last year of more than 800 educators, fewer than 1 percent of institutions have adopted a policy on trigger warnings; 15 percent of respondents reported students requesting them in their courses; and only 7.5 percent reported students initiating efforts to require trigger warnings. — Katy Waldman, Slate

A Safe Space is…Actually this:
“A place where anyone can relax and be able to fully express, without fear of being made to feel uncomfortable, unwelcome, or unsafe on account of biological sex, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, cultural background, religious affiliation, age, or physical or mental ability.

A place where the rules guard each person’s self-respect and dignity and strongly encourage everyone to respect others.”

That’s it. Seriously.

Trigger warnings and safe spaces aren’t a way to avoid disagreement or debate. The clinical version first appeared back in the the early 1900s when psychologists were working to classify “war neurosis,” or the trauma of serving in the military. That led to the more modern discovery of PTSD and what “triggers” those painful memories of war. — Lindsay Holmes, Huffpost

A Safe Space is not…
A place to avoid the opinions of others. Or at least it shouldn’t be.

And this seems to be one of the strongest misunderstandings of safe spaces. They do not exist for the sole purpose of avoiding political opinions, which seems to be the reasoning behind many of those insufferable Twitter comments.

In all actuality, I’ve never been in a safe space where people have talked about politics at all. And, if it was, it was more concerning their personal safety. I’m not sure when treating people with dignity and respect became political anyway.

In short, people don’t create safe spaces to talk about fighting climate change. That’ not really, nor has it ever been, the point.

So why is the Black House an issue in the eyes of some alumni who write saying that we should integrate all of our students into a single community rather than isolate them into groups? I have never gotten a single note questioning the presence of Hillel, of our Catholic Center or any of the other safe spaces on campus. — Morton Schapiro, The New York Times

Now, A Safe Space is…
Yes, sometimes a way to avoid trauma. Does this mean people retreat to a safe space every time something troubling happens? No. Does this mean safe spaces don’t exist outside of college campuses and schools?

No. Not at all. (Ever heard of therapy?)

In my experience, every safe space existed to give people a place to breathe, let out some feelings or get resources. I feel far better equipped to deal with many aspects of my life because of safe spaces.

But even so, all of this was so rare in my experience. We just wanted a place where nobody felt judged or discriminated against. I don’t think this is a radical idea.

If you want to scream “no means yes, yes means anal”, a safe space isn’t going to stop you. Nor is it trying to. Everyone is just going to know you’re a disgusting, un-safe creep.

That’s on you.

Most safe spaces I have been a part of were staff meetings, group therapy or classrooms.

In all of these places, feeling safe to express yourself is only a positive. You want to be able to be comfortable around those you are working, grieving or studying with. This shouldn’t be up for debate.

Many groups eat together in the cafeteria, but people seem to notice only when the students are black. Athletes often eat with athletes; fraternity and sorority members with their Greek brothers and sisters; a cappella group members with fellow singers; actors with actors; marching band members with marching band members; and so on. — Morton Schapiro, The New York Times

Do safe spaces ever go too far?
Of course.

Safe spaces should not be echo chambers. These spaces exist to incorporate diverse people and, if necessary, opinion.

Which, I believe, is the whole point of education, right?

Millennials still deal with a lot of difficult stuff on a daily basis. Having places where they can feel safe for a little while, express themselves and be better prepared for the road ahead is a benefit most students will only experience in college.

Let’s not forget many, many students experience trauma in many forms previous to being in college. Most, if not all, realize they are not always going to have accepting spaces available to them. The same goes for trigger warnings. We’re all well aware it’s not practical to slap a “TW” on everything in the world.

Many institutes of Higher Education understand this. They’re doing something the rest of the world hasn’t quite caught on to yet: Giving people the space to work through trauma and the resources to make it happen. This not only prepares them better for the workforce but the rest of their lives.

Who wouldn’t want that?

Hi, I’m Chris. Thanks for reading! If you liked this, please consider supporting my work by following me on Medium and Twitter or giving this piece a ❤. It helps others find it!