A student at Harvard University published an op-ed on Wednesday complaining that her school’s “safe spaces” are just not safe enough. According to Madison E. Johnson, her time spent in the “safe space” was really great at first — there were “massage circles,” “deep conversations,” and “times explicitly delineated for processing and journaling.”
Yes, journaling and massage circles. Readers who studied at less glamorous institutions will no doubt feel the ache of deprivation. Don’t you yearn to display undiluted your “more radical views,” free from laughter, contradiction and accusations of pretension? Which is to say, though not out loud, free from other people? All this in a “beautiful” space, one that’s “rife with consciousness.” Though preferably only yours. Is that too much to ask?
But then it all changed.
Ah. It turns out that a fellow seeker of safety needed a space in which to air their “more radical views,” specifically, their radical poetry:
A white poet gets on stage and says the n-word a few times.
A student poet going rogue. And so,
I’m realising “safe space” might mean different things for different people.
It’s a learning curve, that whole reciprocity thing. What with the radicalism and all.
The poetry slam presents the real question. At this point in reality, can there even be a truly safe space?
You see, if it’s even remotely possible that “any facets of your experience or identity… could be mobilised against you,” thereby causing you “harm, panic, anxiety, disadvantage” – or fits of pretentious hysteria – then the space you’re in “is not safe.” “And you shouldn’t call it safe, because that is dangerous.” Despite such complications - complications that no mortal brain could possibly have anticipated - Ms Johnson is clear about what a safe space means to her:
For me, a safe space is one in which I feel that I can express all aspects of my identity without feeling that any one of those aspects will get me (including, but not limited to) judged, fired, marginalised, attacked, or killed.
Yes, killed, as in killed to bits. Possibly by radical poetry. In a safe space that is “dangerous.” On a campus where tuition and board costs $60,000 a year.