Tuesday, February 09, 2016

The sexism of Safe Spaces

Students' unions that want to ‘protect women’ are turning the clock back so I am rather in favour of it.  Safe spaces for men were once numerous -- private clubs etc.  And in Australia many public bars in hotels were "men only" -- places where men could relax without risking female criticism.  Let's revive all that!  If safe spaces are OK for women, they must be OK for men too

Safe spaces first appeared on campus in the Seventies as ‘women’s centres’. Back then, a safe space was designed to protect women from physical harm, as well as helping with academic problems. Today, the safe space has taken on a much more ethereal and wider-reaching role, protecting students from mental harm – from words, feelings and images.

In the past, safe spaces were confined to one area – a building where supposedly troubled students could go. The contemporary safe space sprawls across entire campuses, following students into classrooms, bars and even bedrooms. Take the following from Bristol University students’ union: ‘Being a safe space means that each and every member feels welcome to participate in empowering, non-judgemental and non-threatening discussions, activities, services and events.’ The safe space is no longer a specific hiding space for students; it’s a general way of life at university.

Safe spaces mirror the sexism women fought against in the past. Universities and students’ unions now deem women too vulnerable, too weak and too scared to manage university life without bureaucratic structures to protect them from other students. Living on many UK campuses today is like living in a Jane Austen novel, except it’s not a patriarchal society confining women to the safety of the drawing room; it’s their own peers.

In October 2013, the University of Swansea students’ union refused to give the Pole Fitness Society official SU status. SU officials ruled that female students didn’t realise how ‘pole fitness’ was damaging them: ‘Although “pole fitness” is sold as an empowering activity, we believe that women have been deceived into thinking this is a way of taking charge of their sexuality and their own decisions.’

Not only did Swansea think women were stupid enough to be hoodwinked into joining the ‘multimillion-pound sex industry’ — they also passed bans on lads’ mags and ‘pre-loading’ (drinking), because they decided that women needed a ‘student experience free from inequality, sexual oppression and objectification’.

In November 2014, a debate on abortion was cancelled at Oxford University because protesters objected to the two speakers being male (one of them was spiked editor Brendan O’Neill). First-year student Niamh McIntyre, who instigated the protests, told the Independent that she had decided to shut down the debate because ‘it would make me feel threatened in my own university; as a woman’. As a woman, McIntyre felt threatened by the fact that two men were going to have a conversation, that ‘their words and views might hurt women’. Not that their words would hurt women, but might hurt women.

In October 2015, the University of Cardiff students’ union made the headlines for trying to ban feminist Germaine Greer. Greer’s talk, entitled Women and Power: the Lessons of the 20th Century, was protested against because of Greer’s ‘misogynistic views towards trans women’. According to the SU’s women officer, Greer had ‘no place in feminism or society’ (despite her longstanding work as a feminist).

Previously, Cardiff had banned un-PC comedian Dapper Laughs for the same reason – his presence on campus would supposedly marginalise and threaten women. Quoting its ‘Anti-lad-culture policy’ and ‘Zero-tolerance policy’, which protect women from being exposed to rude words and pictures, the SU stopped Dapper Laughs from performing.

In the past three years, UK universities have also banned pop songs, costumes and sunbed advertisements in accordance with safe-space policy and in the name of protecting women from mental harm.

Safe spaces undermine the freedoms women have fought for. Arguing that women are ‘triggered’ by words, sounds or images revives the sexist cliché that women are hysterical, unpredictable and unable to control their emotions. The idea that magazines, naked boobs or racy chants make women feel unsafe suggests women are too weak to slap a man if he says something unpleasant.

But the most reactionary function of the safe space is that it closes women off from public life – shutting them back in the metaphorical home. Women are big enough, tough enough and ugly enough to be exposed to just as much public life and debate as men are. For decades, women fought for the same freedoms as men – safe spaces turn back the clock.


Why must David Cameron insult Oxford, when it gave him so much?

Charles Moore

In 2000, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, accused Magdalen College, Oxford, of class bias in failing to admit a student called Laura Spence, a pupil at a Tyneside comprehensive. This was grossly unfair — how could the Chancellor know the details of a particular case? It was also outrageous in principle: why should a politician tell a university whom to admit?

This Sunday, David Cameron did much the same thing. In the middle of his EU negotiations, the migrant crisis and the other genuinely important things the Prime Minister must deal with, he found time to offer an article to the Sunday Times, headlined ‘Watch out, universities; I’m bringing the fight for equality to you’.

He attacked his own university, Oxford, for admitting only 27 black men and women in 2014, and said he wants to legislate ‘to place a new transparency duty on universities to publish data routinely about the people who apply to their institution… and who gets offered a place.’ This ‘will include a full breakdown of their gender, ethnicity and socioeconomic background’.

Why? Why does a Conservative Prime Minister want, like apartheid South Africa, to classify people according to race, and, like a state socialist, to engineer the composition of free institutions? Why does he, who benefited so much from Oxford, unjustly insult it? Why does he question the motives of one of the few British institutions which the world still recognises as outstanding?

What is the cultural rottenness, the mental cowardice which leads this well-educated, moderate man to assail the glories of his own country? Almost nothing depresses me more than this weird urge to foment a cultural civil war which no one needs.


Reply to "Rhodes must fall" agitation at Oxford university

Give it a break with your puerile, ill-informed, 'war criminal" drivel! You've previously tried to link Rhodes’ sponsorship of the Jameson Raid, which was reprehensible and undoubtedly catalyzed the 2nd Boer War, to culpability for what transpired in the camps as a consequence of Roberts and Kitchener's ‘scorched earth’ tactics.That is historically inaccurate rubbish. It is also highly improbable that either of Kitchener or Roberts, whilst acquainted with Rhodes, would have sought his advice on military strategy after his actions during the siege of Kimberley. If you are looking for a "hidden hand" behind Roberts or Kitchener then Milner, who was Governor at the time and a close confidante of Roberts, is a far more likely candidate.

Accumulating a fortune through being an astute businessman does not make one a war criminal. There were no indigenous peoples forcibly removed from the semi-arid landscape around the de Beer's farm that became the focus of the diamond rush that was already in full swing when Rhodes got to Kimberley and where he made his fortune by buying up small claims and consolidating them. Not stealing but purchasing with money borrowed from financiers.

The reason that the statue is has nothing to do with Rhodes political views or attitudes but simply because he left an amount of around $3billion in today's money to his alma mater Oriel on his death in 1902.

If you want to get your knickers in a knot over statues or memorials to politically incorrect people there are plenty to choose from. In the hypocritical Mr Qwabe’s home province in South Africa, Shaka Zulu [the borderline psychopathic Zulu leader who killed two million around 1820] is memorialized by having an airport, complete with statue, named in his honour. This is a man who laid waste to an area the size of France during his bloody rise to power having murdered his half brother who was heir apparent. He certainly had no qualms about executing vanquished foes or even 7000 of his own people when he deemed them to be insufficiently distressed at the death of his mother Nandi in 1827. Rhodes was a veritable choir boy on the genocide front compared to him. Our Mr Qwabe is curiously silent on this statue but perhaps that is because his ancestors, the Qwabe clan, re-invented themselves as relatives of the Zulu during Shaka's rise to power.

Closer to home, there is of course the magnificent Wellington memorial on Pall Mall. A brilliant general, Arthur Wellesley, but also vehemently opposed to extending the franchise in the Reform Act of 1832. That wonderfully politically correct monarch Henry VIII adorns St Bartholomew, and there are any number of statues of Roman emperors scattered around Europe including the UK and notably one of Caesar, conqueror of the Gauls, in front of the Louvre.


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