Madelaine’s Important Opinion On: Safe Spaces

Spent the best part of a month discussing this in my head

Question: Should we have safe spaces for women?

Verdict: Neutral.

I, like many women who have to exist in a public space, have often thought; ‘ If only I could shop/walk home/drink coffee in a place where I wasn’t worried about experiencing sexual harassment, creepy men or being raped and murdered in a ditch.’

Yes, that would be nice, wouldn’t it? A nice big room with sofas, just for women, where you could sit down to rest without having to stare at the floor in case a man stopped to demand your number. Where you could go when a creepy guy had been following you for twenty minutes in a shop. Where you could go knowing no one was going to feel your ass in the queue or grab your arm when he calls you pretty.

Better still, maybe a special walkway where only women could walk back at night through. Imagine being able to walk home or around a park in the evening without thinking about the guy behind you, or how you could fight back with your keys! That would be nice. Not having to put up your hood and shove in your headphones to exist in peace down a street. Yes. No men. Just a few precious rooms and roads where I wasn’t scared.

Unfortunately, once you start thinking about where you’d like to be safe, it looks like you are going to need a different planet, with no men. Which would suck, massively. Most of my friends are men, the coolest lecturers and role models I have are dudes, and how awful it would be to not have guys around to chat with or bounce around with on trampolines! For real, that would suck. It would suck considerably.

Surely, what we really need is for all spaces to be safe, rather than banning men. There should be a massive metaphorical sign on every road, bridge, alleyway and mall saying ‘MADELAINE HANSON EXPECTS SAFETY AND RESPECT FOR HER RIGHT TO EXIST HERE’. That should just be the norm.

We should all gasp in a deathly silence and stare when a man calls a woman a bitch for not stopping to talk to him, and ask him to leave the shop.

We should all turn to the guy following a woman home and ask him what the fuck he is doing. Men should leap up in sheer outrage when a male friend harasses a woman who is clearly scared in a club. That’s normal.

That should be normal. It should be totally horrendous and unacceptable to see a woman being abused or harassed in front of you.

The problem is, that when you make a safe space for women, you are essentially saying she doesn’t have the right to expect the same safety in public space.

It’s just another place to hide from abuse rather than society tackling it.

We’ve had hiding places- a good word for what a safe space actually is- for years. Thousands of years. We hide in bathrooms and sit in the stalls or do our make up to avoid you and get some time out. We stay at home at night so we don’t have to worry about assault. We take taxis and ubers instead of trains, night buses or walking, so we don’t get raped or harassed. These are our safe spaces. And they really suck.

It’s like living in a locked room or car is the only way you can get through life as a woman. We live in little temporary prisons, imposed on us by perverts. Staring at wet tissue paper on the bathroom floor while your heart rate returns to normal after a man gropes you in Starbucks. Hiding in the corner of a bus with your glasses on because you are terrified of being spoken to by a creep. Pretending to be on the phone even when your battery is dead so the taxi driver knows you can tell someone you are being raped. Doesn’t that suck? Surely you see that sucks?

We will always have safe spaces. I’ve used them myself, and if you told me I couldn’t go hide in the bathrooms or a locked car, I’d freak out as much as any woman. But building them? Surely that just tells me to tolerate sexual abuse in public, right? That I can only expect to be safe around women because men are so dangerous?

Come on. Guys, you aren’t monsters. You are humans. Don’t make us treat you like wolves who we need to barricade ourselves in against. Call out harassment and stop doing it yourselves. We need a cultural change here, not a female only world.

Written by

24 year old with an awful lot to say about everything. Opinions entirely my own. Usually. madelaine@madelainehanson.co.uk

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