Some of the craziest campus stories last year had to do with so-called “safe spaces” which to be honest, is really voluntary segregation. But you can’t call it that.
At Brown University, during a debate on feminism there was a “safe space” for students who found any of the arguments presented “troubling” or “triggering.” The room was stocked with “cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calling music, pillows, blankets, and a video of frolicking puppies.”
At Yale, a student who became known as the “shrieking Yale student” berated a member of faculty because he thinks students should be able to wear whatever Halloween costumes they want. “It is not about creating an intellectual space! It is not! Do you understand that? It’s about creating a home here!” she screamed. Apparently universities aren’t supposed to be intellectual spaces.
Well, I’ll be the first to admit: there are some people who need safe spaces. And we need them thanks to liberal policies. In fact, one German city is instituting gender segregation to provide safe spaces for its female citizens.
As Slate reports:The city of Cologne has a new idea to keep women safe from the kind of organized sexual assaults that horrified the world on New Year’s Eve. With the Cologne Carnival—Germany’s Mardi Gras equivalent—starting next week, city officials have announced that there will be a “safe zone” for women at the public event, as well as extra street lighting. Cologne has 10 percent of its police force currently investigating reports from around 100 women who say they were surrounded by groups of men, groped, robbed, and, in at least two cases, raped. Even so, much of the city’s public edicts after the attacks have placed the onus of safety on women themselves.
Men’s rights groups are already condemning the safe zones as discriminatory toward men, a few of whom were also robbed during the New Year’s Eve attacks. I don’t have much sympathy for that complaint—pickpocketing is always a danger in large crowds, and in Cologne, women were specifically targeted for sexual assaults because they were women. Still, any time there’s a space limited to one gender, it raises concerns of exclusivity and gendered essentialism that need not have a place in Cologne’s efforts to combat a rash of sexual assaults.
And even a safe zone staffed with social workers, as Cologne’s will be, is a shoddy Band-Aid on a gaping wound. The plan raises all kinds of questions about the purpose of the zone, none of which invite satisfying answers. What will happen in the safe zone? Will it be a place for women to sit around, talking softly about the patriarchy, before returning to the fray? Will there be barriers around the safe zone, with crowds of men leering through the bars, waiting for women to exit? Why would anyone hang out in a safe zone while Carnival is going on? Are women supposed to visit the safe zone to report a sexual assault after it’s already happened?
Designating one certain area “safe” implies that the rest of the city is “not safe”—that the only place women can expect bodily autonomy is in an isolated, single-gender quarantine. Consider what one “safe zone” says to the men of Cologne about the spaces outside its bounds.
Instead of trying to heal a wound with policies like this, why not address the root cause of the problem which is the inflow of refugees into their countries? The citizens of Europe are paying with their dignity for the costs of political correctness.
[Note: This post was authored by The Analytical Economist]