There’s a lot of talk about “safe spaces” nowadays on the internet. A “safe space” is somewhere that a person can go without fear of being harassed, essentially.
To be sure, some attempts at creating “safe spaces” are inappropriate. There have been a few examples of college students trying to make classes into “safe spaces” because the subject matter of the class itself makes them uncomfortable.
And to be sure, I am against this sort of “safe space” in a classroom. If the subject being studied makes a person uncomfortable, their being uncomfortable shouldn’t prevent other students from studying the subject. Most people agree on this, I am reasonably certain.
I would also venture that most people would also agree that a classroom should be free of harassment. Argumentation, yes, challenging of views, of course…but harassment really has no place in a classroom. And if a student can’t differentiate between having their views challenged and being harassed, they should leave the class.
This works both ways, however: if a person can’t challenge another person’s views without resorting to personal insults and harassment, they don’t belong in the classroom, either.
There was a fairly recent episode of South Park that dealt with the subject of “safe spaces.” It’s been cited many times by people who believe that the very concept of a “safe space” is a threat to freedom of speech, or something like that.
I saw that episode — which featured a musical number — and I laughed at it. I found it hilarious. But here’s the thing: that episode dealt with *online* “safe spaces.” Several celebrities hired one of the South Park kids (Butters, I think) to edit all criticism of them from their social media accounts, hide all negative press, etc. They wanted their online experience itself to be a “safe space.”
Which, in case you guys haven’t noticed, pretty much every social media platform has a “blocking” function. If someone is harassing you on social media, you can block them.
And, for that matter, if someone simply says something you don’t like, you can block them. Believe it or not — and I am talking mainly to the anti-“safe space” crowd here — some people actually use social media solely for socializing.
I know, I know, it sounds crazy. Why everyone doesn’t use websites designed for sharing pictures with your friends to promote political agendas and whatnot is truly a mystery. Nonetheless, some people simply want to look at pictures of their friends, read jokes, things like that.
My sarcasm in that last paragraph is also aimed at myself, definitely. I have been unfriended many times for posting too much political stuff, or blocked for saying something someone found offensive, or whatever.
But let me tell you something I have never done, something I wouldn’t do even if everyone on my friends list blocked me: I wouldn’t accuse anyone of stifling my right to free speech because they didn’t want to read my rants any more. I’d probably be aggravated, sure, but I would still be free to rant and rave about any subject I wanted to. Just because someone else doesn’t want to read it doesn’t mean my speech has been hindered.
If someone wants an online “safe space” that’s free of Michael Walker’s personal opinions, that’s their business. Personally, I prefer reading a wide variety of different opinions on things. I have a natural tendency to be argumentative, so that variety in opinion gives rise to many occasions to argue.
That’s just me, though. And if someone stops arguing the point and starts attacking me personally, I reserve the right to block them. I have only resorted to this a couple of times, and I most often unblock them after I have cooled off a little.
I don’t really view that as “creating a safe space,” I view that as removing someone from the conversation who has stopped bringing anything of value to the conversation. Any idea or opinion I publish on my Facebook page or elsewhere is up for debate. If you disagree with me on something, by all means say so.
But keep it clean, eh?
Back to the South Park episode about “safe spaces”: the “safe spaces” they were making fun of were *online* safe spaces. They weren’t really talking about “safe spaces” in real life, places people create where harassment — most often race or gender-based harassment — isn’t allowed.
I think it’s kinda silly when people talk about how these places are “attacking free speech.” I mean, prior to whichever group creating a “safe space” for themselves, the anti-“safe space” crowd didn’t have an opinion on that group at all. This group experiences harassment, they create a harassment-free environment for themselves, and all of a sudden, people who hadn’t given them a second thought are screaming “ERMAHGERD, MUH FREEDOM UH SPEECH IZ BEEIN TRAMPULLED!”
People who have no actual relation to this group at all, people who have no legitimate reason to interact with this group at all, now imagine that this small group of people who were trying to avoid being harassed are attacking their freedom of speech!
And they get online and talk about how these people are destroying freedom of speech, and they make impassioned arguments about how their freedom of speech is being stifled…
And they post articles from pundits decrying the death of free speech…
And they share offensive things just because they’re offensive, just to prove that nothing offends them, true champeens of free speech that they are…
And never once does anyone stop them.
Never once are they actually denied the right to express themselves.
Yet a small group of people — people who have been legitimately harassed and even threatened, not just online but in real life — want to make a place for themselves that is free from harassment.
Who is this actually a threat to?
Whose speech is actually being stifled?
A person shouting racial epithets?
A person making sexist comments?
A person making actual physical threats?
For reasonable people — which, in most instances, the anti-“safe space” crowd are reasonable — a group creating a real-life harassment-free “safe space” has no effect whatsoever.
The only way this sort of “safe space” affects you is if you were one of the people shouting racial epithets or threats or sexist comments, or whatever.
And if you were or are one of these people, guess what?
You weren’t bringing anything of value to the conversation anyway.
And now you’re “playing the victim” by pretending your freedom of speech has been stifled.
Yes, you are.
Poor you! The mean people in the safe space don’t want you to call them names anymore! Those meanies! They got sick of you threatening to hurt them because you don’t like them, and they banned you from their club!
You poor baby!
How dare they treat special little ‘ol you differently, just because you were being an asshole to them!
Poor you! All you did was shout insults and threats at them whenever they expressed an opinion! All you did was drown out their voice with ridicule and threats of physical harm!
And they don’t want you in their safe space!
They must hate free speech!
You love free speech! That’s why you were shouting insults and threats at them, stifling their free speech! Because freedom of speech is important!
Clearly you are the victim here.
Even though no tangible hindrance to your actual “freedom of speech” has been put in place…
Even though you didn’t really have an opinion on any group that created a “safe space” before they created the “safe space”…
Even though you’re still free to say whatever you want…
Clearly *you* are the victim here, O Noble Maker Funner Of Safe Spacers.
You poor thing!