Why the “Safe Space” Phenomenon?

I conclude that it has two ultimate causes. One is well known: The leftist doctrine that men victimize women, whites victimize nonwhites, normal people victimize sexual deviants, and so on.

But this doctrine has been around for decades, if not centuries. It wasn’t enough to create the “safe space” phenomenon until a few years ago. (Although we can identify a precursor in the various “ethnic studies” programs created starting in the 1960s whose main purpose was to give academically-weak nonwhites a semi-academic field in which they could excel.)

The second cause of the Safe Space is  the contemporary belief that school officials must do all in their power to raise the achievements of members of these “protected classes.” If women’s grades are being lowered by male chauvinism, if nonwhites’ grades are being lowered by white hostility, if sexual deviants are having their grades lowered by intimidating sexually-normalist rhetoric, then college officials feel duty-bound to step in and help. The trend in American education is for laws and regulations to require more and more efforts by school personnel to achieve “equity.”

And it’s not just about educational achievement. A college education is increasingly regarded as necessary if an individual is going to succeed in life, regardless of his field. Those colleges are letting society down by forcing too many non-privileged students to drop out, and they’d better do something drastic to restore equity.

So it makes perfect sense for colleges to create “Safe Spaces,” places where the non-privileged on campus will be safe from whites, men, the sexually non-deviant, and so on.

The “Safe Space” is the logical end of the leftist doctrine that certain classes need protection. The only uncertainty now is just how big the Space will be made and just how “safe” it will be.

27 thoughts on “Why the “Safe Space” Phenomenon?

  1. I wouldn’t say it’s the logical end, it’s just the next step. After all, why should only SOME places remain safe? The next logical step is to make all spaces ‘safe spaces,’ by removing the oppressors (straight, white males, it seems) and allowing the oppressed to flourish. Once the oppressor has been removed, surely the oppressed will rise to the status and achievement they deserve.

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  3. I think it’s just the latest result of a toxic combination of modern CYA culture and a bunch of hippies with the moral barometer of the Bunny Ranch thinking “but we must do SOMETHING!” In my day it was required sessions telling us that gay people don’t have great access to health care (??) and that most women are sexually assaulted every year.

  4. The entire campus where I teach has been declared “safe.” On the door of the office that I share with a colleague, representatives of the SEIU have placed a flyer saying that “Higher Education Should be Safe For Everyone.” As not everyone participates in higher education, the claim is next to meaningless, but such is the character of slogans. Wood’s reference to the “Bunny Ranch” piqued my somewhat salty sense of humor: I wonder whether the actual Bunny Ranch, in Nevada, has declared itself a “safe space.” (SEIU: “Brothel Visitation Should Be Safe For Everyone.”) By the way, most college and university campuses have brothels. They’re called “dorms.” So much for “safe spaces.” A congenial acquaintance is a “faculty member in residence” in the high-class “honors” dorm on campus. He suffers from sleep-deprivation because of the loud continuous “moaning and groaning,” as he styles it, that keeps him awake nights.

  5. Maybe Nietzsche was right about eternal recurrence. Here comes more segregation. 🙂 If the left wants to protect nonwhites from whites, why does it reject white nationalism? We could form our own society that they would be welcome to avoid. I’m not a white supremacist. How could I be one when I know that on average, Asians are smarter than whites? But the Europeans founded the United States, I wouldn’t mind if most Americans had descended from Europeans. Racial diversity can be a weakness.

    • On college campuses, de facto segregation is the convention. Aff-Ac rules mandate cohabitation in the dorms, as in the classroom, but the student-body habitually self-segregates. A Créole, I cannot extricate myself from integration, but I have no objection to student freedom-of-association. I celebrate freedom-of-association.

      • Dr. Bertoneau, you have no problem with freedom-of-association. Neither do I, but I would prefer dorms for men and other dorms for women to protect students from sexual temptations. Where do you put people who feel same-sex attractions? I don’t know.

        Still, I think it would be a good to have sex-neutral single-occupancy bathrooms for transgendered people, Men may pretend to be transgendered because they want to rape women. Parents shouldn’t need to take little children into restrooms where the children will see, for example, male genitals on a woman-like man who’ll get more transgender surgery. It seems to me that gender identity disorder deludes people with it.

    • My bet is that a century hence we’ll be back where we started with universities. Single sex colleges. Unsure whether or not you are a man? Then you can’t go to the men’s college, nor can you go to the women’s college. Period, end of story.

      I would not be surprised if colleges got to be explicitly religious again, although that seems far less certain.

      • In a way, colleges are already explicitly religious, in that Liberalism, the political version of Unitarianism, is a religion, not to mention a morality. If the colleges taught Greek and Latin, and Nineteenth-Century literature, their curriculum would be, while being basic to Western Civilization, irreligious, that is, not particularly Christian, but resolutely moral, metaphysical, ethical, and, from a contemporary point of view, utterly non-conformist, thus opening the way to genuinely religious insight. Let’s confine college to Plato and Aristotle, and Wordsworth and Coleridge. As it is, the content of the college-curriculum is Aztec and Muslim, and tribal and sacrificial. The now-irrelevant BHO is a perfect example of that syllabus.

        Unitarianism. Arianism. (See Emerson’s “Divinity School Address.”) Monophysitism. Islam. Berkeley. Yale. Harvard. The pedigree of Liberalism. Step by step back into the wretched, sacrificial past. And so much for progress.

      • More than just universities are likely to “regress.” If rape continues its evolution into the woman regretting it, and marriage continues its evolution into an open license for the woman to extort whatever she likes from the man, then publicly verifiable chastity, arranged marriage, and a deep inquiry into the quality of a prospective wife’s family (not to mention a hefty dowry paid to the groom’s family) would seem to be mandatory to protect our sons.

    • Good idea, Dr. Bertoneau. Would students need to rent apartments off campus if the school were too far from their homes to commute to and from campus? In dorms at the State University of New York at Albany, each suite includes three or four single-occupancy bedrooms and a single-occupancy bathroom. Suitemates tend to be of the same sex, too. But who knows what happens behind closed doors?

  6. I recently wrote on this very issue. Safe spaces may sound absurd to right-wingers, but leftists have had their mental point of origin, their imperative, and their priorities considered true and rightly observed in mainstream society, culture, and media for decades. The result is solipsism.

    https://anarchistnotebook.com/2017/02/02/leftist-solipsism/

    As anyone who has proposed right-wing ideas to leftists can tell you, their response isn’t so much outrage or indignation but physiological trauma. That there are actual people out there who disagree with them, in contradiction of this long-held presumption, can cause self-doubt as to whether they have a proper grasp of reality.

    With that in mind, perhaps we can see the origin and true nature of college campus safe spaces. For a right-winger, the entire notion sounds bewilderingly preposterous. Even if offered a safe space for right-wing ideas, they would reject it and find the very idea infantile and insulting. However, for a leftist, the purpose of a safe space isn’t so much a sign of emotional immaturity on their part, but an innate desire to protect their mental point of origin and the presumptions it carries, in which everyone shares the same values.

  7. Although I believe that most of the thoughts that one nowadays finds sheltered in an official “safe space” are crazed delusions, I don’t see anything wrong with safe spaces per se. Liberals gave us the notion that one should forever expose oneself to a barrage of opposite opinions, and they did this because they knew it would produce widespread skepticism. In the 18th and 19th centuries, this was mainly turned against creedal Christianity, the explicit intention being to produce flaccid, latitudinarian quasi-Christians.

    I submit that, when a man forms an opinion with care, he should thereafter retreat into a “bubble” or “safe space.” If it is the sort of opinion that might be altered by new data, he might poke his head out from time to time, and see if any new data has been unearthed. But, in general, a man of “settled opinions” should not make it over easy for others to unsettle those opinions. Opinions are, properly, the foundation of a man’s ethos or moral character. They were not meant to be forever juggled and tossed about, as if they were playthings.

    An analogy to human courtship may be apposite. A young man dates a series of young women, and in that same stage of life exposes himself to many points of view. An old man aims to enter more deeply into the woman he has wed and the opinions he has adopted. He’s no more interested in “opposing points of view” than he is in other women.

  8. JMSmith,

    *I submit that, when a man forms an opinion with care*

    But isn’t that the rub? I largely agree with the spirit of your comment, but iron sharpening iron occurs within a context of exchange of ideas, no? If I had stayed in my safe space of considered opinion, I’d very likely still be a postmodern atheist. Although I agree we shouldn’t always be subjecting our beliefs to the criticisms of others. I believe – as I think most here do as well – that not all beliefs are created equal. Instead of safe spaces, Id tend to advocate competent authority outlawing the dissemination of certain dangerous ideas – ideas too dangerous to man and his soul to be freely discussed and disseminated – which is to say a safe space I guess 🙂

    • For everything there is a season, and this includes putting one’s ideas to the test. I agree that safe spaces for young men and women should not be anything more than a temporary refuge. At that stage of life one should confront the enemy, and perhaps suffer defeat. But I don’t see the point in reading opposing points of view after one has confronted and rejected them. If a Christian has given due consideration to the arguments of atheists, and found them unpersuasive, there is really no reason for him to go on reading these arguments (unless, perhaps, something else happened to raise doubts about his faith). It’s not as if new and improved atheist arguments are rolling off the assembly line every day.

      An apologist should, of course, understand the arguments of the other side; but for an ordinary person to seek to be battered about by the winds of opinion strikes me as needless vexation of spirit. Our ethos is the operating system of our life. Once chosen and installed, it should be left alone unless it causes trouble.

      I think you and I are in basic agreement.

  9. I first took note of the safe space at the University of Nebraska circa 1999. My thought was a prof’s door with the Safe Space sticker was a kind of reverse scarlet letter. That is, any prof without the sticker could be regarded as untermensch.

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  11. Alan
    I’m currently a senior at an all-male prep school. I’m a Confessional Protestant(Reformed Anglican) and a very reactionary guy. Are you familiar with St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland? I’ll probably be headed there next year. It seems like the only place in America where I could get a serious classical education. I wish there were a Protestant version of St. John’s.

    • Welcome to the Orthosphere, paleoconprodigy.

      I don’t know much about St. Johns; one day about 25 years ago I visited their Santa Fe campus while on vacation. My impression (admittedly based on only a brief encounter) was that it was very secular even then. There is a Catholic version in Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, CA.

      It seems that having a proper education in Christianity and the classics is something you must pursue without much institutional support, but if St. Johns forces you to have a real encounter with the Great Books, you will benefit in spite of any outward stumbling blocks a secular college may place in your path. I wish you the best.

  12. Alan – When I hear “safe spaces” I think of some structural components of drug and alcohol treatment facilities. With the psychologization of society – it doesn’t surprise.

  13. Ambrose Bierce once wrote a short story whose name escapes me, in which a time traveller to the future discovered a mental institution, in which not the insane but the sane lived, while the insane had everywhere else to live; the sane were in there by choice, too, IIRC, willingly separated out from the mad world. 🙂

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