Safe spaces: not just for marginalized groups anymore!
You read that right. Even as Northwestern University plans to quadruple its number of safe spaces for African-American students, tiny University of Redlands has created a safe space for heterosexual men.
The program, known as DUDES (which, I swear to God, stands for “Dudes Understanding Diversity and Ending Stereotypes”) is, according to the school’s website, “a traveling Men’s Center… for students who identify as Men, as well as women, transgendered students, and male allies” and “provides support for students who would like a safe space to talk about men’s issues.”
Aside from using the forbidden word “transgendered” (and for some reason capitalizing “Men”), the description seems fairly innocuous and not at all like some sort of totalitarian reeducation camp designed to reprogram deplorable cis-het frat-boy rape machines into endlessly apologizing, effeminate pansies.
The “men’s issues” referenced in the description are straight out of Emma Watson’s famous “HeForShe” speech and include pornography addiction, body image issues, and unwillingness to seek help for mental illness or suicidal thoughts.
All these are negative side-effects of our culture’s concept of masculinity, and I’m all for talking about them, but I’m more interested in the fact that there is such a thing as “men’s issues” in the first place.
Sure, there are women’s issues, black issues, LGBT issues, and so on, but now it seems as if a group no longer needs to be oppressed to have issues. The idea of DUDES (I can’t even type it without cringing) seems to contradict the narrative of other victim groups that paint straight (especially white) men as oppressors who need to recognize their privilege and take their boots off the necks of the marginalized.
The idea that the oppressors have their own issues might just be a step in the right direction.
I know, I know. The idea of a safe space for men (or “Men,” if you’re whoever wrote that web page) seemed ridiculous to me at first, too, but if it helps to break down the us-versus-them mentality currently driving the safe-space movement, I’m all for it.
On college campuses and other progressively minded environments, a claim to victimhood seems to be the quickest way to be taken seriously, but if Men can form a group like DUDES without being shouted down with cries of “appropriation” and “privilege,” then maybe we’re reaching a point where we realize that everyone is a victim in some way.
There’s certainly a debate to be had over the causes of the issues facing men as well as their severity relative to other groups, but the fact that their existence is being acknowledged at all may just mark the beginning of the end of the culture of victimhood.
Maybe, just maybe, and probably not, but maybe, we can finally agree that, to one degree and in one form or another, everyone can suffer as a result of their identity and focus on helping each other rather than punishing the privileged.