Why ‘Safe Space’ Politics Should Scare You…

The first incident of violence at Occupy Vancouver came long before a juvenile kid in the Black Bloc hit a cop in the face with a flagpole, and long before an occupier bit a fireman and another stole a cop’s ammunition during the ‘sacred’ fire incident. It was a seemingly unexpected event that happened at the end of a General Assembly (GA) that was dedicated to discussing how we’d make Occupy Vancouver a ‘Safe Space’.

I arrived shortly after the GA had begun and things were going smoothly. The rhetoric was a little strong though and I noticed how, as controversial statements were made, there was a clear division in the audience.

People gathered at an Occupy Vancouver General Assembly

It became obvious over time that one particular affinity group was steering the conversation from both the stage and from the audience. They were, in effect, pressuring people from outside their group to accept every one of their pronouncements.

The violence occurred during the final three minutes. The facilitator made an announcement that they would hold the first planning meeting for building a ‘safe space’ policy two days later. Then from out of nowhere, and in an obviously planned move, they announced that this meeting would be for ‘women and female identified’ people only!

People in the audience became visibly upset- both male and female. One man was brave enough to step-out and file a complaint. A facilitator looked straight at him and yelled-out “check your white male privilege” Emotions ran high- and, when the meeting was over, three men and one woman stood there looking shell-shocked.

I went up to the man who spoke-out and asked him if he was okay, and offered him an apology for their behaviour. I then tried to explain what they were saying using less caustic language when he looked at me and said. “I let my wife do whatever she wishes to do, I am not a sexist.”

I explained how the women leading the meeting would have a problem with the word ‘let’. He then let out a chuckle and said “Of course! If anything, my wife ‘lets’ me do things, not the other way around!” It was clear to me from this conversation that he was not a sexist, just an average guy who was offended by the facilitator’s aggressive tactics.

There was a long debate at OV after this incident. As usual, people who supported this tactic came after me, and others, labelling us as sexist, racist, and other ugly names. But, in the end we prevailed, and we accepted as a group that this incident was executed wrongly and in future incidents where we discussed Safe Spaces there would be a less violent approach.

This was my first experience watching the violence of Safe Space politics- unfortunately, it would not be my last…

I’m not sure about the history about how the concept of Safe Spaces became a tool to oppress people, but it seems to have run its course as a positive movement. It was obvious to me as I watched it used against others at Occupy Vancouver- more obvious when I saw it used against me at Occupy Toronto.

Have a look at this screenshot from February:

Now, I’ve previously mentioned how Krystalline Kraus is a Krap reporter– this goes to show it even more. Rather than check the facts, she went along with a lie that I was banned from Occupy Vancouver (nobody has ever been banned), and how I was ‘caught stalking’ a woman- also complete poppycock. Where does Rabble.ca find people like this!

More important, these two people, who were complete strangers to me,  made it transparent they wanted to implement a Safe Space policy as a weapon to exclude someone from the movement. The International Socialists play dirty this way with dissenters, as I’ve explained in my article about The Waffle.

Luckily, people at Occupy Toronto are beginning to wake-up to the dangers of Safe Space politics- here’s a screenshot from a conversation on the Occupy/Decolonize Toronto Facebook page this week:

A similar incident is currently taking place at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver right now where a student has proposed the building of a Men’s Centre. The concept is similar to the Woman’s Centre which was founded there back in 1974. It would be a Safe Space where men could go for counselling and support for issues like suicide, drug abuse and other personal issues facing male students.

The reaction was anything but what would be expected- or, was it? Have a look at this video:

Does any of this language sound familiar? Well, if you have spent any time in a Canadian university or Occupy movement it certainly would! It is all language from the radical side of the feminist movement- people who have little-to-no tolerance to points of view alternative to their own. This, despite the fact that the vast majority of Canadians don’t so strongly agree with these concepts.

One part of the video, in particular, is quite telling. It is where the students, who are all members of SFU’s far-left community, complain how the people trying to organize the centre haven’t consulted with students in the far-left! There’s a sense of inherent privilege in this community, people need to learn how to put it in check.

But they won’t- because, they aren’t using this issue to make spaces safe, it is a cynical tool used by people to take and hold power over others. In the case of the SFU & York incidents, the radical members of the student unions don’t want to see others getting a foothold of power at their university. In the Occupy movement, this is a tool they use to scare away some, and to exclude those to remain, so that they can keep power there.

At Ryerson student union about two years ago, there was a call out to try to create the very same thing and it was rejected by the very heavily Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) populated student union executive and board for the reason that it would just be a space where white males would gather, and use the safety of this room to marginalize and oppress everyone from women to persons of colour and so on…

Safe space logo from the GLBT community…

As a gay student at York University just explained to me that Safe Spaces are a ‘leftover’ from the past, from back in the day when the world was less accepting. I also spoke with a female student from University of Toronto who agrees from her perspective too. Feminism has come a long way in Canada, and has changed our society a lot since the 60’s.

Occupy was supposed to be about stepping-past the rules and institutions of the past. But, somehow along the way, the movement has become more about the old-left than new anything. If we let them get away with their tactics, and they actually win, we will live in a very scary world indeed…

Permanent link to this article: http://www.genuinewitty.com/2012/05/18/why-safe-space-politics-should-scare-you/


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  1. While I agree with the need for safety and ensuring that everyone is an equal, the problem we have with the safe space policy here is that it is by, design, created to be discriminatory and exclusionary . If one is a white male they are basically treated as a pariah within the movement , while the same movement cow tows to other groups of convenience for the sake of optics and to garner favor. This same so called safe space policy is used to openly attach some without any reason, other than some simply do not like what some have to say.

    It is clear as well that while the leaders are , for the most part reasonably well educated , there is clearly a directed animosity towards those persons who may hold higher degrees of education , as these higher educated non – leaders are able to articulate and better argue flaws and discovered inconsistencies which plague this movement. The safe space policy is very much one sided and a tool to oppress by design , a bespoke oppression, taylor made to suit the person to be targeted for oppression .

    One of the very best examples of this bespoke oppression i had witnessed was at a recent event where several occupiers along with several others who appeared to be anarchists approached a person and started to try and harass him for no reason, going so far as try and suggest that the person had no right to be a a public event. this escalated to a physical assault, all in the name of a safe space. if this is not a contradiction , I must wonder what is.

    Yet another example of how this safe space policy is nothing but a poorly written fable a tool of convenience only , is that these so called leaders claim to be wanting to represent all persons, yet, openly ignore those who have been with occupy from day one, but with one very important difference, they are without homes to return to. the3y get evicted but where are these leaders when that takes place? At home in their Richmond Hill homes , eating good food while those other people are not sure where the next meal is coming from. yet, this is seemingly an organization that claims to have a safe space agreement. What they indeed do have is a discrimination by design policy , a group of neandertholian henchmen to apply this design and take the fall, while the leaders are distant enough, disconnected enough to claim clean hands.

  2. occupy vancouver accuses anyone they don’t like of stalking. I can provide an example. When I started posting the information these dumb facilitator shills publish online, like their personal addresses, I was accused of stalking. Subsequently they initiated a cry for every one of their members to contact the RCMP. I was then contacted by an officer from the Victoria police whom understood my position. I am allowed to post links to information that anybody can get online using google. Simple as that. It is not stalking it is just shortening the steps that others would have to do to uncover the same information. Anybody that is a stalker gains skill at their trade I am certain that if a “stalker” wanted they would have found the information the same way that I did. These shills were actually rather annoyed as I was exposing their fake grass roots in soros NGO’s and the addresses and real identities of these individuals were exposed as a result. If you can’t handle the heat as a leader, then get out of the kitchen. We know where our prime minister lives and we certainly know his real, full name, as well can get his credentials upon request. The same cannot be said for these shady leaders of occupy. They want the leadership role without any of the burdens attached.

    • Gravy Train on May 22, 2012 at 01:13
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    Any time anyone starts talking about a ‘safe space’ instrument other than the bible, I wonder how soon until I will have to start chanting “let my people go!”

    • Tamara Dippel on May 24, 2012 at 05:48
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    At the Occupy Toronto Campsite I didn’t think about it at first, but we got the biggest yurt and the men got this tiny one, When I realized this, and heard the men complaining I (being a believer in equality) agreed that it wasn’t fair since there was a much higher number of men there than women. My biggest concern was what would happen if we had lasted the winter and there was a man suffering hypothermia? There would be resistance, I think, letting him into the women’s yurt was the impression I got and I made it clear to the woman in charge of the safe space that if there was a situation like that I would bring the man in. Survival comes first. It really bothered me that the whole safe space for woman thing was being approached from a such a manic perspective… must protect woman and children, with fervor. It is a great disappointment to me as I believe in equal rights (not woman favored over men, but us being EQUAL to men) and it seemed out of fear or a sense being victims before any crime… Aren’t all people supposed to be innocent until proven guilty? At one point when I was told we had to protect the women and children I said what children? There aren’t any here… the person I was talking to said there would be…
    Some of the woman were open to dividing our yurt for the cold winter so men could sleep in there, thank god… but I agree the safe space can become twisted into a not-safe space and it was happening here in Toronto too. For any guys in TO I am sorry you had to put up with that. It was wrong and it seems it has been multiplied in the new GA in various ways not just womans “safe spaces”… safe space my ass!! The way they’ve set it up they can be controlled so easily!! Some of us in the old GA tried to warn them but they’ve gone ahead… they aren’t safe at all and can be greatly manipulated through their new rules… But the danger isn’t physical so they won’t see it till it’s too late…
    It’s sad and frustrating!!! I want people to feel safe but not at the expense of dignity or rights/ freedoms. Safe spaces are a good idea in concept but can be hijacked or twisted in practice.

    1. Is it not fair that someone can be critical of something they love? To not be critical, and let negative things happen, seems self-destructive to me…

      And, as for OPSEU, they are a public service union whose members are not impacted by trade agreements. Considering this, why are they spending their member’s contributions to promote this issue?

    • Some Guy on November 22, 2013 at 13:34
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    “It is all language from the radical side of the feminist movement- people who have little-to-no tolerance to points of view alternative to their own. This, despite the fact that the vast majority of Canadians don’t so strongly agree with these concepts.”

    I think this is much more to the point than to slander the safe space movement or to call it “scary.” For marginalized people, it is very comforting to have places to go where you know that you won’t have to endure niggling insults or subtle communications of exclusion just because your lifestyle/identity/etc. That’s what a safe space is, a place where it’s declared that if someone takes such a crack, someone else will stand up about it and say, “Not OK.”

    But in no way should this be taken to mean a place where stick-up-their-asses radicals (and yes, I am a radical) should be allowed to reverse the hate. So I think the intolerance in practice and not the concept, which can be executed very peacefully, is the issue here.

    1. I wrote in this article about safe space politics, not so much about safe spaces themselves. I believe that, if run properly (without the politics and manipulation), there is definite value in the safe space concept…

  1. […] a single person on the far-left speak out about how these women were assaulted.  What happened to all of the concern about safe spaces and anti-oppression? Oh yeah, I forgot- these tools are only to be used when they have political […]

  2. […] is happening at universities across the country- there was a similar incident at Vancouver’s Simon Fraser University when some people wanted to open a Men’s Centre. Many people believe that the glue that holds […]

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