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: https://www.genuinewitty.com/2012/05/18/why-safe-space-politics-should-scare-you/