An important post about how both safe spaces both matter, but also how expansion of safe spaces or radical changes within the safe space can lead to bad outcomes. In this, like almost everywhere else, trade-offs are inevitable for what is safe to one is dangerous to another.
More importantly, it talks about how some people for their own good can't be a support for other people's bad experiences, but that if you are willing to support them, then you need to support them all the way. It's talking about anorexics, but I think it generalizes to marginalized, discriminated or unloved groups.
And yes, the internet is a problem because it places different norms together in places like Twitter and leaves them to fight each other.
Here are the most important quotes, according to me:
Safe spaces are great. Safe spaces are a really important thing. But sometimes I see people talk about them like the point is to expand them outwards and make the entire world a safe space, which sounds great…
and which really won’t work. And the way it fails will hurt a lot of people.
because say there’s a religious community. It’s fair of them to want a safe space where atheists won’t come in and say ‘these beliefs make no sense’ and 'have you looked at double-blind prayer tests?’
And say there’s a person who was raised in an extremely coercive faith community, and now they’ve decided it’s not true, and they’re in the process of angrily rejecting hateful and damaging things that they internalized as religious teachings. (I know several people like this).
These people both need safe spaces. One needs a safe space to practice their traditions without people interrupting to say 'none of this is true’, and the other one needs a space to say 'none of this is true!’ and 'I can’t believe I agreed with this nonsense!’ and 'wow look at these double-blind prayer tests!’ What’s disruptive for one person is healing and important and necessary to another
The problem is the internet.
like, to be clear, I don’t think it’s morally obligatory to support anorexics. There are a lot of people who, for their own mental health, cannot have a supportive healthy relationship with someone who has disordered thoughts around their weight/the desire to lose weight dangerously/scary beliefs about their own body and habits/whatever.
And if you think that it’s just not going to be healthy for you, it’s okay to say to a friend “I can’t be part of those conversations” and if the conversations are turning out to be unavoidable to say “maybe we need some distance”.
What I think is a problem is when people think it’s “supportive” to be there emotionally for your friend only when they’re saying the right things, only when they’re expressing a desire to beat the eating disorder and get to a healthy weight, only when they’re not experiencing distorted thinking. Because that just creates a dynamic where most of our intimate relationships are founded on not admitting (to ourselves or to other people) that we feel conflicted about recovery, that we’ve found mental workarounds that don’t actually challenge our distorted thoughts but which help make us functional, that we actually don’t think of our eating disorder as a separate beast that lunged at us from outside but as a natural outgrowth of our own preferences.
If you say “I can only support you when you’re working on recovery”, what you get is people who will learn, automatically, to lie and assure you they’re working on recovery, and who will have to seek out the actual hard emotional support from someone else.
And if you say “I can only support you while you’re working on recovery, because you expressing your distorted thoughts is an evil and malicious act on your part”, then, congrats, you’ve just given someone with an anxiety/self-loathing disorder something new to be anxious and self-loathing about!
It’s always okay to say “I can’t listen to this”. It’s pretty much never okay to say “how dare you experience this.”