Wednesday, May 23, 2018

thinking out loud on safe spaces

thinking out loud-

Communication gets tough when words/phrases take on differing definitions particularly when those definitions are politically - socially charged.

It makes me think of The Giver and how words like 'love' were discouraged because it was too imprecise a term. Language is symbolic by it's nature and as a result is going to be malleable and imprecise at times. I can get ranty just like other people about how a word or phrase is used. I do, in fact, sometimes get ranty on that topic.

Not a fantastic personal attribute.

All that to say, I'm not exactly sure how to unwind our current social construct of 'safe spaces'.

I've used that phrase safe place - a lot - and it has meant different things. I'm sure I've interchanged space and place because while they don't mean exactly the same thing, they're strong synonyms.

How I know I've used the words -
1. in a therapy setting, you won't be judged and what you say is confidential (within the limits of the law). This is a 'safe place' to talk about what you don't think you can talk about anywhere else.
2. at our training center - safe place means if someone is being an asshole on the mat - I will invite said asshole out the door. Have done and will do again if it's needed.
3. on any mat I'm teaching, if student A decides other students are good targets for predation student A will be escorted off the mat, again have done and will do in the future should it be required.
4. at a presentation to a bunch of men who oversee regional programming for an international martial arts organization 'safe place' for training for women - if your male students strip down to their underwear to change out their groin protection and that makes the women (in your culture) the men to the bathrooms.
5. don't hunt your students as your built-in dating pool regardless of your to be a dangerous human should be done in a safe place -
6. training (again) is a safe place in in we work hard to control for injuries and acknowledge they happen sometimes anyway-


In my experience, safe place/space has never meant the same as comfortable or easy. Nothing grows in comfort, comfort encourages stasis and living things that fall into stasis are on the slow slide to death. What it looks like from my breakfast table is that safe is becoming interchangeable with easy and comfortable and whatever the opposite is of challenging. College profs are being told they can't challenge a student's answer in class discussion because that wouldn't be 'safe'. Holding standards is considered a violation of someone's rights to (without judgment) behave as they choose. To create a safe space, you are allowed to do and say as you please and no one is allowed to say anything to the contrary and these safe spaces are populating where perhaps they should not.

I have a kid about to go off to college. If he says something illogical and ill-formed in one of his classes I hope the prof challenges his thinking. If he misses a due-date on a paper and he gets a 0 for it and it tanks his grade, there better not be a safe space welcoming him with open arms for the harsh and hostile attitude of the instructor. That 0 should be uncomfortable. Life is full of consequences and if he doesn't get a chance to learn the balance between action and impact in his job as a student it will a brutal transition to life outside the ivory tower.

Acknowledging prejudice and hostility born of the narrow affordances that can cause both ignorant and informed aggression is a thing - balance and intelligence is also a thing. Where do we draw the line? Should there be safe spaces where pedophiles can gather without the judgment and scorn of other nonpedophiles? Oh, wait. Those already exist and most folks think finding those sites and shutting them down is a good idea.

Maybe we should create safe spaces in prison where the pedophiles can be housed together because we know they'll be targets in the genpop...they should be safe from this kind of discrimination, yes?

I rant once in a while. No question about it. I get opinionated and monkey-brained. This adventure in thinking-out-loud isn't about pointing fingers at the safe-space activists any more than it's an effort in self-condemnation. It's a wondering...and perhaps a cautionary example: be careful what we ask for...