From Trophy Culture to Campus Microaggressions

Dan Shuchman, chairman of FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education), the group that fights for free speech on campus, has written this Wall Street Journal review of a book by one of my favorite thinkers, Frank Furedi. Furedi wrote “Paranoid Parenting” back in 2002, which was the first book I read about this new phenomenon of “helicoptering.”

Now he is at the vanguard again, and I think there’s a direct link from that book to this one. “What’s Happened to the University?” is about hypersensitivity on campus and the idea that if you do or say anything that anyone else interprets as hurtful, no matter how unintentional or mild, you have done something painfully wrong and must be punished.

All students are assumed to be fragile, which seems to Furedi, and Shuchman, and me, like a continuation of a childhood so insultingly sheltered that kids aren’t even allowed to get a raindrop on them at pick-up. (See yesterday’s post.)

Anyway, Shuchman says it better:

Rancorous trends such as microaggressions, safe spaces, trigger warnings and intellectual intolerance have taken hold at universities with breathtaking speed. Last year’s controversy over Halloween costumes at Yale led to the departure of two respected faculty members, and this year made the fall festival a flashpoint of conflict at campuses across the country. The recent explosion in the number of university administrators, coupled with an environment of perpetual suspicion—the University of Florida urges students to report on one another to its “Bias Education and Response Team”—drives students who need to resolve normal tensions in human interaction to instead seek intervention by mediators, diversity officers, student life deans or lawyers.

As Frank Furedi compellingly argues in this deeply perceptive and important book, these phenomena are not just harmless fads acted out by a few petulant students and their indulgent professors in an academic cocoon. Rather, they are both a symptom and a cause of malaise and strife in society at large. At stake is whether freedom of thought will long survive and whether individuals will have the temperament to resolve everyday social and workplace conflicts without bureaucratic intervention or litigation.

Mr. Furedi, an emeritus professor at England’s University of Kent, argues that the ethos prevailing at many universities on both sides of the Atlantic is the culmination of an infantilizing paternalism that has defined education and child-rearing in recent decades. It is a pedagogy that from the earliest ages values, above all else, self-esteem, maximum risk avoidance and continuous emotional validation and affirmation. (Check your child’s trophy case.) Helicopter parents and teachers act as though “fragility and vulnerability are the defining characteristics of personhood.”

Once again, it’s not the parents or even teachers I blame. They are all swimming in this same soup that insists kids can’t handle anything. Not a walk around the neighborhood on Halloween. Not a half hour at the library alone.  Not a sleepover. Not even some free time at the local park. How does that theme of danger everywhere and hence the need for constant protection/oversight play out as the kids get older?

The new demands for “balancing” free speech with sensitivity and respect have several unifying themes, according to Mr. Furedi. One is that they are based on the subjective sensitivities of anyone who claims to be offended. If words can cause trauma and are almost akin to violence, an appeal to health and safety guarantees that “the work of the language police can never cease.” Microaggressions, by definition, are committed unconsciously and without intent. Since “it is almost impossible to refute an allegation of microaggression,” the author views them as the ultimate “weaponisation” of offense-taking. Emory University students, for instance, demanded redress for their “genuine concern and pain” after seeing the name of a major presidential candidate written in chalk on campus, an incident proving “that in a world where anything can be triggering, people will be triggered by anything.”

There is a “beguiling” appeal to well-intentioned calls for civility and respect, Mr. Furedi says. After all, “sensitivity is an attractive human feature and essential for minimising conflict.” He cites the Chancellor of the University of California at Berkeley’s seemingly benign exhortation that “we can only exercise our right to free speech insofar as we feel safe and respected.” Yet Mr. Furedi convincingly demonstrates that, by ranking liberty on par with or subordinate to other values, “the deification of the commandment ‘Do Not Offend’” transforms fundamental liberties into liberties “contingent on other people’s sensibility.” Freedom becomes a “negotiable commodity” that inexorably will be bargained away.

Ironically, Mr. Furedi observes, for a movement that claims to be driven by concern for individual empowerment, respect and autonomy, the new campus values actually represent an astonishingly pessimistic and condescending view of the ability of human beings to deal with the basic challenges of life. They are premised on the “supposition that people lack the intellectual or moral independence to evaluate critically the views to which they are exposed.” As a practical matter, the notion that human dignity mandates protection from the pain of “hurtful” speech is “possibly the most counterproductive” rationale for constraining freedom; “people acquire dignity” by learning to deal with “the problems that confront them,” not by relying on the “goodwill” of an administrative elite.

Throughout history, the impulse to censorship has been driven by political or religious zealotry. In the 21st century, Mr. Furedi posits, speech suppression has assumed the mantle of mental-health therapy. But policing actual speech and books is not sufficient. In today’s environment, no matter what you say, it is exclusively the “individual who is hurt or offended . . . who decides what you really meant.” Thus people’s inner lives and imputed motivations, even unconscious ones, have become “legitimate terrain for intervention” by authorities. In an unprecedented twist, students themselves are agitating for the imposition of campus thought control.

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From coddled childhood to campus kookiness.

From coddled childhood to campus kookiness.

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42 Responses to From Trophy Culture to Campus Microaggressions

  1. bob magee November 10, 2016 at 12:17 pm #

    I can tell you one organization that does not promote self esteem above all – competitive Irish Dance judges. Or at least one I have observed.

    A particular competition had only 1 entrant.

    The judge awarded a SECOND place finish.

    Why?

    Judge stated “it was not a championship quality performance”

    Never so proud to be Irish-American!

  2. LGB November 10, 2016 at 12:24 pm #

    It’s one of the few times that I agree with Dawkins: http://www.twitter.com/RichardDawkins/status/658022567085801472

    Although this is a wee bit ironic: https://richarddawkins.net/2013/09/secular-safe-zones-offer-campus-shelter-to-atheist-students/

  3. Jessica November 10, 2016 at 12:28 pm #

    Great article!

    I will say I’m surprised by your saying you encountered the “new phenomenon” in 2002. I was born in 1983 and my memories are of being extremely helicoptered. There was a panic about children being abducted (faces on the milk cartons) and everyone’s moms thought we were in mortal peril at all times.

    The early 1990s was also the height of the “participation trophy” system, at least in my little school.

    I’m from Alabama, so it was as far from a progressive, overly-educated environment as exists anywhere. I wonder if my experience was anomalous for people in their early 30s now?

  4. Jessica November 10, 2016 at 12:29 pm #

    Wow, Bob, that’s harsh! Maybe I’d be a little tougher if i had enrolled in Irish dance as a child.

  5. Jess November 10, 2016 at 12:57 pm #

    @Jessica, I think while that was the start of the helicoptering, it had not yet become ingrained in our culture. I was born in 83 as well and had the run of the neighborhood, while my husband, born in 86, was hardly allowed outside except for school and sports (his parents are calmer now, but still). Nowadays, it’s so ubiquitous that to not be hovering over your kids is considered strange. Late 90s and early 2000s seems to be when that cultural shift happened, not necessarily when helicoptering itself started.

  6. bob magee November 10, 2016 at 1:04 pm #

    @Jessica

    real reason was that in order to advance to higher levels one had to earn X number of 1st place finishes. Judge was protecting the integrity of the system. Competitions were all over New England and top dancers were invited to compete for Regional championships (which fed into Nationals and then the Worlds held in Ireland)

    I will admit that there were many participation ribbons handed out.

  7. Dean November 10, 2016 at 1:38 pm #

    Right, Jess. Not hovering has become suspect and worthy of criticism. I was taken to task after going into a public restroom and allowing my boy, age 11, to sit on a rock outside and wait for me. What was Marcos doing? Sitting quietly watching a squirrel.

  8. lollipoplover November 10, 2016 at 1:40 pm #

    “Bias Education and Response Team”—drives students who need to resolve normal tensions in human interaction to instead seek intervention by mediators, diversity officers, student life deans or lawyers.”

    Because children are not taught anymore to work through differences and resolve conflicts. Everything gets escalated. A child who is shunned because they use foul language and put down others gets painted a victim and he is being bullied. When they enforce their own rules, there’s always a Nellie Olesen to tell on them or manipulate the adults to get their way. The are told to speak up and tell on one another. Teachers hate these kids. I hate these kids, and hate is a strong word.

    The little girl (7) up the street was over our house last week, playing the game Clue with my daughter and few other kids down my basement. They love this game and know the rules. I heard some yelling and the little girl came storming up the steps and left. She yelled back down the basement steps, “I’m going to have my mom text your mom and you’re going to get in big trouble!” My kid yelled back, “And my mom will ignore it because it’s nonsense and you’re just a poor loser!”. And that was that. I did ignore and will point out to other parents when we need to let our kids work through conflicts, especially the petty ones. We do they no favors by coming to their rescue and resolving ever problem for them.

  9. Kirsten November 10, 2016 at 1:42 pm #

    This could not be a more brilliant analysis of this deeply disturbing trend. You and Furedi (whose Paranoid Parenting book I loved and can’t wait to read this one) have so precisely and thoroughly untangled the intricacies of the logical fallacies in these campus arguments about microaggressions, trigger warnings and safe spaces that my brain is practically buzzing as each point resonates. Thank you. Unfortunately this perfect analysis of the objections I felt to these policies on a gut level, despite being a fairly liberal person, makes me even more uneasy. I have watch the Left slipped farther and farther into regression and a type of neo-Fascism that alarms me about the future of our society. It’s not enough to make me adopt traditionally conservative positions, but I am finding that what my then “uber-liberal” parents believed in in the 1970s would now qualify as conservative in the eyes of some of these “progressives”. My type of liberalism harks back to, among other things, the Free Speech Movement at Berkeley in the 1960s several years before I was born. I am not native enough to believe that the students involved in the FSM would have been as enthusiastic about supporting conservative free speech if it had happened at the time. But I think they would have been much less likely to want censorship against any views than the average liberal undergrad of today.

    It is an uncomfortable position for me as I find myself making common cause with conservatives as they defend free speech and against so-called ‘Progressives.’ But I have to do it. Freedom of thought, speech and expression are too fundamental.

  10. jimc5499 November 10, 2016 at 1:47 pm #

    We have had college graduates come for a job interview and bring their parents. Not to sit and wait, but to actually sit in on the interview. Where I work we have two groups. One group, the creative group, is full of young college graduates. The other group, I’ll call them the operations group, consists of older people the majority of them are not college graduates. The creative group’s job is to push the envelope on their designs and they are pretty good at it. The operations group’s job is to turn those designs into reality, while managing the cost. I work in Engineering which is a part of the operations group. Until a managerial change a few months ago, the creative group was allowed to run rampant. I noticed that I wasn’t being invited to meetings that I should have been invited to. When I asked about that I was told that I say “No.” too much. I have to say “No.” when their design violates Building Codes, Fire Codes, Electrical Codes, the Laws of Physics etc.etc. The managerial change occurred when a project got to the building site and the electrical contractor refused to install it. When the customer complained to upper management, upper management called me and wanted to know why I approved the project. When I said “What project?” It hit the fan. They ran the entire project through sub-contractors because our Engineering department would have said “No.”

    By the way the majority of those faces on the milk cartons were as the result of custody disputes. Those children were perfectly safe. A co-worker was granted full custody of his daughters. When he found out where they were, he packed their things and all of them left town. Their pictures were on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s website for years.

  11. lollipoplover November 10, 2016 at 2:13 pm #

    Just saw this article:

    http://insider.foxnews.com/2016/11/10/classes-canceled-college-students-deal-shock-trumps-win

    While it’s fox news and speaking very condescendingly of millennials, the fact that campuses need to even offer these services astounds me. Everything is so dramatic. I was upset over the election results but just ate vast amounts of chocolate and wine and feel much better (not really). Have to get up and work and take care of my family. Some has to pay for dog food. And healthcare. The show will go on.

  12. Jo November 10, 2016 at 3:13 pm #

    My husband, who is a university lecturer wished a “Happy Halloween” to students this year. After class a student came up to him and chided him on his lack of sensitivity. “That’s a very hurtful statement to the Jewish community. A lot of Jews were killed one Halloween. You need to be more sensitive to your students.”

    1) I can find no record of a Halloween massacre targeting those of Jewish descent. Can anyone enlighten me?
    2) really?!?

    This incident will now be a part of his file, potentially affecting promotion.

  13. BL November 10, 2016 at 3:14 pm #

    “Emory University students, for instance, demanded redress for their “genuine concern and pain” after seeing the name of a major presidential candidate written in chalk on campus”

    And since said major presidential candidate has unexpectedly won the election, I wonder what these students are doing now? Probably all in catatonic stupors.

  14. Jason November 10, 2016 at 3:43 pm #

    @Jo – Are you sure he didn’t wish them a Happy Kristallnacht?

  15. SteveD November 10, 2016 at 4:01 pm #

    jimc5499, Thank you for telling us your story.

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

    I’m posting your story here again in case somebody skipped your post.

    You show us that living in THE REAL WORLD and denying truth causes very real problems for lots of other people.

    You said:

    “We have had college graduates come for a job interview and bring their parents. Not to sit and wait, but to actually sit in on the interview. Where I work we have two groups. One group, the creative group, is full of young college graduates. The other group, I’ll call them the operations group, consists of older people the majority of them are not college graduates. The creative group’s job is to push the envelope on their designs and they are pretty good at it. The operations group’s job is to turn those designs into reality, while managing the cost. I work in Engineering which is a part of the operations group. Until a managerial change a few months ago, the creative group was allowed to run rampant. I noticed that I wasn’t being invited to meetings that I should have been invited to. When I asked about that I was told that I say “No.” too much. I have to say “No.” when their design violates Building Codes, Fire Codes, Electrical Codes, the Laws of Physics etc.etc. The managerial change occurred when a project got to the building site and the electrical contractor refused to install it. When the customer complained to upper management, upper management called me and wanted to know why I approved the project. When I said “What project?” It hit the fan. They ran the entire project through sub-contractors because our Engineering department would have said “No.”

    ——————

    Creative people are THE most likely people to live in a fantasy world and deny reality.

    I should know, because I’ve been a full-time artist most of my life. Fortunately, some of us ARE grounded in reality and understand that rules and regulations do not exist simply to take all the fun out of life.

  16. Sarah Trachtenberg November 10, 2016 at 4:07 pm #

    Am I allowed to say I feel offended by people being offended all the time like this? And if so, is my feeling offended as important as their feeling offended? Hold on, I have a headache.

  17. Backroads November 10, 2016 at 4:13 pm #

    Great article! Now I wish to read the book. A copy has been theoretically sold to me now.

    Anywho, here’s a generic helicoptering event for y’all: A teacher on my 2nd grade team has a “crazy parent” who comes to volunteer. Oh, you say. It’s good when parents volunteer at school, especially since my school doesn’t bother with background checks. Well, she volunteers for four hours in a row. She obviously cares about her community and school.

    She hides in the boys’ bathroom to make sure everything is going okay with her son.

    When asked about this incident, she responds that she is heavily involved in her children’s education and feels very sorry for the rest of the kids who don’t have such good moms.

    Her kids are nervous, helplessly handraising, emotional wrecks who are scared to do new things.

    All of this is extremely, horribly true.

  18. BL November 10, 2016 at 4:15 pm #

    “@Jo – Are you sure he didn’t wish them a Happy Kristallnacht?”

    Not all that long after Halloween (but do they celebrate Halloween in Germany?)

  19. Anna November 10, 2016 at 4:24 pm #

    “Because children are not taught anymore to work through differences and resolve conflicts. Everything gets escalated. A child who is shunned because they use foul language and put down others gets painted a victim and he is being bullied.”

    I see this between my son and the neighbor kids who’ve been trained to tattle to an adult the minute the slightest friction arises. It’s gotten so bad they can’t play for more than a few minutes before one of them will engineer or provoke a conflict so she can run to her mom and report somebody for “unkind words.” The craziest part is how blind the parents are to how much damage it’s doing to the little girl herself: she’s obviously deeply unhappy and lonely, but instead of learning what it takes to be a friend, she’s being taught to sabotage her friendships.

  20. Coasterfreak November 10, 2016 at 4:54 pm #

    “the University of Florida urges students to report on one another to its “Bias Education and Response Team”—drives students who need to resolve normal tensions in human interaction to instead seek intervention by mediators, diversity officers, student life deans or lawyers.”

    This made me think of something. I live in a neighborhood that has a page on Facebook where we can all post various things. It’s usually filled with people complaining about dogs, traffic, etc. Something I have noticed is that the younger residents (think mid to late 20’s) who comment on other people’s complaints use “call the police” as their default suggestion for first course of action. Not “talk to your neighbor and ask them to not leave their barking dog out all day” or “well, we live in a neighborhood and sometimes you just have to deal with barking dogs” but “call the police.” To me, getting authorities involved should always be the LAST course of action when all other avenues of conflict resolution have been exhausted and proven ineffective.

    It’s never the older residents saying to get the police involved, only the younger ones. The ones who have grown up during the time when helicoptering became a real thing that is expected of parents, not something that one friend’s “crazy” mom did all the time.

  21. Donna November 10, 2016 at 6:03 pm #

    Jo – You have to go back to pretty much the dawn of the Catholic religion – several centuries before there was a Halloween – to find it, but basically the ancient festivities of the Catholic All Saints Day in eastern Europe frequently included pogroms against the Jews who were associated with evil, the devil and witches. Many Jews, however, take part in Halloween, and those who don’t generally don’t because of the pagan and christian origins of the holiday, not because it memorializes a Jewish Halloween tragedy.

  22. Curious November 10, 2016 at 7:07 pm #

    Does it all change with the Culture of the New American Politics?

    Funny how the language of civility gave way on a grand national scale to threats and mean spiritedness. Will respect and graciousness never return? Will my right to frighten and harass my neighbor trump her right to live in peace and tranquility?

    I grew up in the American Sourh. it was no fair country for anyone except the superior elitist race and gender. But we were mostly safe from insults in public.
    These days no one is safe. Anywhere.
    Soon that will apply at the White House as well.

  23. Barry Lederman November 10, 2016 at 11:32 pm #

    Re: Jo’s comment about ‘Happy Halloween’ being offensive to Jews.
    I am Jewish and I never find it offensive if someone says something nice to me. I do not celebrate Halloween, Christmas or Easter, but if someone says Happy Halloween or Merry Christmas to me, I understand that from their perspective they are saying something nice to me and I say Thank you. It is never wrong to be nice.

  24. LGB November 11, 2016 at 1:20 am #

    This email just came in from my husband’s employer: “In light of the election results, we want to host a safe place to talk about what happened and offer support to each other.” Oh goody. There’s an extension clause on all of that infantilization you experienced in college. It goes well into the workplace. When you’re 40. ((Face-palm!)) I’m the farthest thing from a Trump fan and am still having a hard time stomaching all of this.

  25. John B. November 11, 2016 at 2:42 am #

    @Barry

    Barry you are the voice of reason and common sense.

  26. sexhysteria November 11, 2016 at 3:51 am #

    Supposedly sensitive speech is merely a euphemism for censorship and an excuse to promote political correctness.

  27. Katie G November 11, 2016 at 6:39 am #

    it’s certainly trending that way, sexhysteria!

  28. Kenny M Felder November 11, 2016 at 7:17 am #

    Well said as always, Lenore.

  29. Puzzled November 11, 2016 at 8:57 am #

    LGB – if you live in a jurisdiction where a Democrat won something, it might be entertaining to show up at the safe space and claim to need support because your State Senator, or whatever, will be so and so. Or it might not be.

  30. Paula November 11, 2016 at 10:13 am #

    http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/man-receives-sex-act-while-blacked-out-gets-accused-of-sexual-assault/article/2565978

    Look at this student’s case a female student performed oral sex on a male student she admitted was unconscious two years later HE is expelled after SHE accused him of sexual assault

  31. Lisa November 11, 2016 at 10:24 am #

    @Backroads There is a mom at your kid’s school that HIDES IN THE BOYS BATHROOM to make sure everything is going OK with her son and the school is aware of it and they allow her to continue to volunteer??? That is crazy!!! What would happen if the dad of a girl did that in the girls bathroom???

  32. pentamom November 11, 2016 at 10:31 am #

    ” I understand that from their perspective they are saying something nice to me”

    This is the view I share and what I hope everyone would do.

    But there is a generation being raised to believe (obviously not all, but a lot) that the other person’s perspective is not valid unless it is fully affirming of one’s own. To wish someone a holiday that might not be theirs is “privileging” their own perspective over the other person’s. And that’s so bad that any positive intentions are discounted.

    What is overlooked or dismissed in this thinking is that nobody functions without privileging his own perspective over different ones — that’s why you hold it, because you think it’s the right one.

  33. LGB November 11, 2016 at 11:16 am #

    @Puzzled There’s no shortage of Democrats getting elected in my area. That’s an awesome idea! 😉

  34. Anna November 11, 2016 at 4:07 pm #

    “But there is a generation being raised to believe (obviously not all, but a lot) that the other person’s perspective is not valid unless it is fully affirming of one’s own. To wish someone a holiday that might not be theirs is “privileging” their own perspective over the other person’s.”

    Yes, as if saying “Merry Christmas!” means “I sure hope you observe and celebrate this festival,” whereas really, what most of us actually mean is, “I’m overflowing with good will and happiness because of this occasion that I celebrate, which makes me wish you well too.

  35. Backroads November 11, 2016 at 5:47 pm #

    “@Backroads There is a mom at your kid’s school that HIDES IN THE BOYS BATHROOM to make sure everything is going OK with her son and the school is aware of it and they allow her to continueo to volunteer??? That is crazy!!! What would happen if the dad of a girl did that in the girls bathroom???”

    I believe she was suspended from volunteering for a time. But you’re right. Imagine the outcry if it had been the dad in the girls’ bathroom.

  36. pentamom November 12, 2016 at 8:27 am #

    Yes, Anna, exactly.

  37. Muriel Dr. Mom November 12, 2016 at 11:56 pm #

    Really though, how widespread is the Special Snowflake Syndrome on campuses? Didn’t I read recently that a survey of college presidents denied this type of censure going on there?

  38. Buffy November 13, 2016 at 6:56 am #

    “But there is a generation being raised to believe (obviously not all, but a lot) that the other person’s perspective is not valid unless it is fully affirming of one’s own. To wish someone a holiday that might not be theirs is “privileging” their own perspective over the other person’s.”

    This is also kind of like the accusations of “cultural appropriation” when a college food service serves tacos, or eggrolls, especially if they’re not made correctly. Dining hall food generally sucks, and I haven’t read of protests when the hamburgers are burnt!

  39. BL November 13, 2016 at 8:29 am #

    @Muriel Dr. Mom
    ” Didn’t I read recently that a survey of college presidents denied this type of censure going on there?”

    Lance Armstrong denied using PEDs for, what, 15 years?

    I think Lance had more credibility.

  40. FF November 13, 2016 at 5:18 pm #

    Hi,

    let me start off by saying I’m a big fan of this blog and movement, and have been for the past 4 years (since I became a dad for the first time). I have two very small kids, but hope to start ‘free-ranging’ them as soon as I can (and already am, little by little).

    Also, I’d like to think of myself as a big proponent of free speech and free thinking. I try to be as anti-dogmatic as possible. I want to teach my kids to question things. And I have a natural alarm that rings every time someone says something like “there should be limits to what a comedian can say”.

    Having said that, I have been following these issues (even if from afar) regarding “the coddling of the american mind”, safe spaces in campuses, etc., for awhile now. At first, my gut reaction was similar to the ones I’m reading on these comments, a sense of disbelief from the ridiculousness of the younger generations and a certain anger at perceiving the possible noxious implication these movements could lead to.

    Then I started to try to read about what the other side was saying (not so easy, actually) and managed to hear some insights from people on the actual frontlines, while doing some soul searching myself, and right now I’m kind of at a different place regarding this debate. It’s not one of advocating for people to be silenced because they say things other people disagree with, but it’s also not one that judges and dismisses young people’s right to challenge environments that they perceive as threatening and toxic. And especially not one that parallels that challenge to some kind of infantilization, or kookiness.

    Having said that, I’l like to leave some notes regarding this issue.

    – First of all, it’s not really productive to have an argument about this while drawing on anecdotes or isolated incidents, like a student calling out a white person for wearing dreadlocks or that one person that wanted to ban a Holocaust remembrance session because it considered the Holocaust to be european centric. They are great for Atlantic magazine long pieces, but don’t really help the debate.

    (or even the fact that Jerry Seinfeld has “friends” who don’t go to campus to perform anymore, without giving out any other details about what those comedians are including on their acts, and especially since Seinfeld’s own gripe was about the bad reception he got regarding a stupid joke he makes about a French king being effeminate)

    – Second, the concept of safe spaces arises from the needs of certain minorities or fringe groups to have a place where they can talk about issues without being judged or constantly talked down to, as frequently happens to them in most other environments. It can not be easy for an 18 year old gay male to feel comfortable in an environment where his “friends” use ‘gay’ (or worse) as a sort of insult, or punchline. I can understand why this person would appreciate having a safe space where it would be possible to have certain conversations without fear of judgment, etc. Is the existence of ‘safe spaces’ a good thing? Of course not, because it means that something in fact is wrong. But do you have any other way of suddenly eliminating all of the racism, sexism and other ignorant things most of the people say, overnight? I don’t think so. And if there is a place where safe places seem to work, is in fact universities. People are young, probably away from home, but also starting to come to terms with who they are… but

    – That doesn’t mean that they can do all that by themselves. I think that sometimes they have the right to call upon the administration of these places to help them. The Yale board telling black students, which wanted to ban blackface from campus on Halloween, that it was an issue that should be solved by the students among themselves, is actually a great example of the lack of empathy we usually approach this matter. This was not an issue of people avoiding confrontation or asking to be coddled, but it’s perfectly reasonable that a minority of black students wouldn’t be able to solve this issue by themselves – nor there is any reason they need to. It’s the same thing when we tell a frail, bullied kid that he needs to “handle things himself, because that is a kid’s matter” – I don’t know if you are that kind of parent, I’m not.

    – About microagressions. This is not really easy to discuss, because there seems to be a bit of divergence regarding what exactly the term means, or how we should deal with them. But isn’t it kind of obvious that our culture has a lot of toxic elements to non-white people, minorities, lgbt people or even women? Go read Wesley Morris’ (pulitzer prize) piece on the issues around the black penis and black sexuality, for example. Or remember the times people said things like “you are the whitest black I know”. And shouldn’t these be called out? Or why shouldn’t we try to educate people on them? I think the biggest problem people like us have with concepts such as these is someone else implying that we are racist or sexist, which we always thought we are not – but guess not, maybe we are a little (even on a micro scale).

    BOTTOM LINE, I think there have some excesses regarding these student’s movement against what they perceive is offensive or harmful, as is bound to happen, when you have thousands of opinionated 18-23 year olds, and all of them have cellphones with cameras. These excesses have been amplified by some of the media, and then fed into two types of demographics: people like us value “free speech” but are unable to realize that our culture is still very toxic, and bigots who fight against political correctness and the right to say racist or sexist stuff without being called out.

    Nevertheless, I think there is some kind of merit and value regarding these movements. I don’t think we should them as a threat against free speech, and I actually see some sort of courage in standing up against the status quo and try to fight what you perceive as hate or offensive (even if you can be a bit misguided). Because these people are still the minority. Larry the Cable Guy is still filling out big venues and Fox news seems to be doing well. And most importantly, they force us to rethink about the things we say, and analyze some of our behaviors, and this can be a good thing. I think that most of all we should engage this students and with empathy try to work out these issues with them, without being condescending or trivializing.

    We talk about the dangers of “infantilizating” the next generations, but a very large chunk of the older demographics is deep on anxiolytics and that have just elected one of America’s biggest manbaby personalities. Maybe there is a different better way.

  41. Papilio November 13, 2016 at 6:12 pm #

    “the Jews who were associated with […] witches”

    Past tense? (I’m looking at you, Lenore! 😛 )

  42. test November 14, 2016 at 3:04 am #

    @FF I agree and disagree. So three points:

    – Safe space is not the same thing as african-american club or feminist club. The latter should be places to talk in without being judged and former is new invention and a bit different. Also, you should not need formal university rules for that free talking,any room and a group of like minded people should do.

    – I agree that “solve it by yourself” is often cop out and amounts to enabling the bullies if bullies are bigger in numbers or have higher social status or any other advantage. However, the solution should be in organizing it so that minority can defend itself, but does not flip into becoming bullies themselves. And radical progressives are bullies when then can and they are untouchable due to area of sanctimony. Women are underestimated and so on and so forth, but the solution that allows outraged feminists to skip fair process and bully random guy who did nothing wrong is wrong.

    – “Calls out” breed resentment. They don’t convince anyone, they just make target feel like a victim. That does not mean you should tolerate racism, but you really should not overreact and destroy people over remarks. Call out is an attempt to use problem by force while you simply don’t have actual power except in small bubble.

    Namely, the “you are the whitest black guy” could be solved by just talking. That person and you interpret it differently. “”Fuck off you realize it is insulting” would be fine if you really feel insulted, but ritual public shaming and call outs are not.

    —————————–

    I kind of agree that minorities and women are expected to put up with jokes, insults and condescension lest they be “oversensitive” in some circles. However, it is also true that while males are popular punch bags and automatically guilty in progressive circles (oddly enough, often by other better-then-thou-white males). White males are supposed to shut up and take it in radical progressive groups. We should realize that is aggression/oppression all the same.