The push to create safe spaces on college campuses has recently become an issue of critical importance to American progressives. Safe spaces, or designated places accessible only to certain minority groups, have faced both praise and condemnation from media pundits and college administrators across the globe. Hundreds of safe spaces have been opened around the country, but one activist believes that several newly identified minority groups have been largely ignored.
“Bigender people are not safe in rooms full of mono-gendered people, and women like me are not safe around thin people,” said Annie Markland, a feminist activist and emotional rape survivor who heads a Tumblr campaign to highlight oppressed micro-communities. “They can’t just mix a bunch of people together with different traits and expect us double-minorities to not feel threatened.”
Safe spaces, also known as positive spaces, have been endorsed by many progressive media outlets. Supporters have pointed out the desperate need for safe spaces due to the ubiquitous nature of white nationalism and bigenderphobia on college campuses. One article on Everyday Feminism discussed the dangers that oppressed groups face from “privileged people” who “enjoy debate.”
Debate is important. But it’s also overrated. People often assume that debate is of paramount importance to progress. And indeed, debate can encourage people to be thoughtful and to open their minds. However, focusing on oppressed groups is also important. –6 Reasons We Need Safe Spaces
The campaign for safe spaces is largely fueled by the ideology of intersectional feminism, or the belief that women can be doubly or even triply oppressed depending on the number of underprivileged groups they subscribe to. Intersectional feminists use gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity and trauma history to divide people into ultra-small “safe” groups.
Critics have countered that the creation of safe spaces is an unnecessary and divisive practice that suppresses, rather than promotes, social diversity. Opponents have also expressed concern about the movements’s fear-based ideology, and the implications safe spaces have on the suppression of free speech.
Markland considers the criticisms “an act of violence.” While she understands the value of free speech, Markland believes that those in the oppressive classes fail to understand the intensity of her negative feelings. “People would be dropping this whole free speech issue if they had a little less privilege and a little more empathy.”
In recent months, Markland reports that her activism has lead to some major achievements.
“We have been working on creating a safe space for every oppressed group. We now have a safe pool hall for bigendered students and a safe driving class for tired asian women.”