Woke Dad

My Un-Woke Dad Tries to Explain Safe Spaces

In this column, we ask our dads about politically correct terms and issues.

by Hannah Ewens
17 May 2017, 7:30am

Woke Dad

My dad likes to wear fringed Topman scarves as an accessory in spring and autumn, and sometimes gets involved with a Cuban heel. My dad will carry everyone's bags on holiday if we tell him to, which we obviously do. My dad is a trained mechanic and likes to talk about cars, DIY, football and Rod Stewart (he likes everyone I date more than me because they are willing to indulge him in these four topics). My dad is too embarrassed to go to the GP when something is wrong and waits until the offending symptoms get so humiliating that he nearly collapses from the shame of inevitably having to go.

My Dad is a hero. I love him very much. He is definitely not woke, though. I think of him flailing helplessly when trying to get gender pronouns right and I know, truly, that he is of a different age. Yet, he is kinder and opposed to hurting people's feelings than nearly every supposedly conscious man in their twenties I know. So here it is: another week, another lesson for my un-Woke Dad.


What's the concept? Safe spaces.
What does that mean? An environment or space in any form, real or online, in which a person or category of people can feel safe in the knowledge that they'll not be exposed to discrimination or harassment. In schools, they are a symbol that a teacher, educational institution or student body will not tolerate hate speech. Critics claim that safe spaces stifle freedom of speech because they hinder discussion.
Who came up with it? Scholar and activist Moira Kenney traces the beginning of the "safe space" idea to gay and lesbian bars in the mid-1960s. With anti-sodomy laws still in effect, a safe space meant somewhere you could go to hang out in peace.
When did it catch on? As ever, although it's not a new idea, it's been used consistently online and offline since 2015, particularly with regard to universities.


VICE: Right, so: safe spaces. What does that mean?
Un-Woke Dad:
They want to keep men out?

Well, not necessarily men, but yeah. It's something to do with certain groups of people in certain places, and you might have heard it to do with universities.
What, like a closed shop? A secret society.

The idea of them can make older people, usually men, very angry.
They're angry to the younger generation because they don't want to get out and work.

No, dad.
Look – "safe spaces"? I hadn't heard of "micro-aggressives", had I?

What does that sound like to you? What does safe spaces evoke in your mind?
Safe spaces... sounds like someone's comfort zone.

I don't know what to say to that.
I really don't know, Hannah. Can you just fill something in so I look like I know?


VICE: And?
Un-Woke Dad: I hadn't heard of it and it sounds like nonsense to me. There is no such thing as a space like that because everyone loves criticising, don't they? Everyone's opinion of things is just an opinion, so you could be criticised wherever you are.

I thought you'd say that.
Where are these spaces?

Why? Do you want one? These places could be in schools or in universities.
I have a safe space... in my bed! Imagine all the bickering that goes on in schools with bullying and stuff. Is there a safe space for children? No – that's why they all go mental. It's not just teachers, is it? It's the students themselves amongst themselves. You are always going to have opinions and one will always be more aggressive than another. We are all individuals with different temperaments and everything. Someone is going to bully someone and someone is going to take it and get depressed, so there isn't really a safe haven. Not on this earth.

How about at universities, when they're allowing a speaker to come in when they've been openly racist or misogynistic in the past?
You should be able so say whatever you like. You mean they are trying to mollycoddle youngsters now? They need to hear the truth.

What if it's not the truth? What if it's just hate speech?
Well, sensible people will take that on board and make a decision for themselves, won't they. You mean brainwashing? I mean, yeah, I guess youngsters can be brainwashed. That's what's happening with ISIS and terrorists across this country. It is all about brainwashing to a certain extent, getting young people to come and join them. Alright then – dad takes it back.

So you've changed your mind now?
No, I don't believe in them.

Great. Thanks, dad.


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