14 October 2012

There is no such thing as safe space.

Trigger warning: Ableist slurs, specifically the r-word.


There is no such thing as safe space.

Someone I've known for a long time and generally like and get along with (and who generally likes and gets along with me) has apparently decided that it's okay to call people and ideas and things "retarded." She says it's okay because "well I'm not actually talking about actual disabled people." She says it's okay because "well everyone around here uses that language." She says it's okay because "well I'm not trying to be offensive." She says it's okay because "people who get upset over this are too damn sensitive."

I've asked her nicely please don't say that. I've told her firmly that's not okay stop saying that. I've yelled DON'T USE THAT WORD IT'S HURTFUL, IF NOT FOR OTHER PEOPLE'S SAKE THEN FOR MINE AND FOR THE SAKE OF RESPECTING ME AND OUR FRIENDSHIP. More than once. I thought I got the point across. But apparently not.

I talk to some of these people, including her, when I'm upset and need someone to talk to. I thought I trusted her. I thought she was good people. I thought she and the people around her when I'm around her were safe space.

Safe space is NOT dropping the word "retarded" and then making excuses and defending it and accusing me of being the one who gets too angry too upset and too damn offended. Safe space is NOT accusing me of policing your language or being hypersensitive or overly emotional. Safe space is NOT accusing me of making your space unsafe for you to say whatever the hell you want when it's actually you who are the one dropping hurtful, hateful slurs that give rise to the kinds of attitudes that let people like me get MURDERED and our murderers EXCUSED.

I'm pretty sure that safe space doesn't exist anymore. I'm pretty sure I'm done trying to find it. Because I can't take this anymore, hoping, praying, whatever, that this place I'm going to or this place I've been forever is going to be a safe space, lulling myself into a false sense of security and comfort only to be blindsided and attacked out of nowhere. It might as well be a gigantic sign in red letters.


Go ahead, put up the signs. At least then you'd be honest about it. But I guess since everything you don't like is just -- r-word here -- you can do whatever the hell you want and it doesn't really matter anyway as long as YOU get to be safe and unchallenged in your nice privilege blankets.


  1. I'm sorry your hurting,
    there are safe spaces,
    take heart.

  2. I don't think safe space and allies mix very well... and I don't think she's an ally.
    And hugs.

  3. From your link at the top of your page:
    "Non-ableist language:
    Always respect an individual person's preference for identifying or describing xirself.

    For insulting people's intelligence:

    I also don't like it when someone uses the R word, but am literally confused as to how it's not equally ableist to use the term unintelligent to insult a person's intelligence when it is estimated by government sources that 38% of individuals on the spectrum are medically identified as having an intellectual disability. It could be perceived as equally hurtful to people listening in with intellectual disabilities, to see a category of insulting people's intelligence portrayed as acceptable behavior along with unintelligent as a suitable word to insult people's intelligence. I've seen people in online autism communities identify that they have learning disabilities, and watched the "smart" folks on the spectrum continue to insult their intelligence, when they identify they are communicating as well as they can and even called ignorant when they don't fully understand metaphors, when that is a clinical feature of the spectrum.

    I made straight A's in school but had my intelligence insulted most of my life, because I had difficulty with speaking, hand writing, and understanding metaphors. I don't think it is ever okay to insult anyone's intelligence, because people don't usually wear labels announcing their particular cognitive or motor skills impairments to others, but I can't stop anyone from doing that or from promoting the idea that it is acceptable, I can only bring the issue to their attention, and try to provide a different perspective.

    I personally don't think it is worth losing a friend over different perspectives, as they can be very hard to come by over the course of a lifetime. Having friends, even those with different perspectives that sometimes will not bend them to satisfy others, makes a much safer world than not having friends because one cannot find ones with the same perspectives.

    Everyone has their own personal limits on ableist language; it can be a high standard to expect others to adopt ones limits, but there should never be fear in providing different perspectives.

    It's almost impossible to convince some guys that Rape jokes are ableist in nature, however many cannot imagine a women's perspective on the issue. It's a similar issue with insulting intelligence for those that are comfortable with their cognitive abilities that can't imagine a different world as well as for some that use the R word in casual conversation. Intellectual privilege underlies many insults of intelligence.

    I have a lifelong friend with an intellectual disability, one of the few long term friends I have had outside of spouse and family, and perhaps the thing about her that has made many lifelong friends for her, is I have never heard her speak a bad word towards anyone; putting herself above others has never seemed part of her reality. I suppose there may be a certain privilege associated with intellectual disability for some as well. It can make one question what is a disability when it comes to peace of mind:).


Hi! Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me. I manually approve comments, so sometimes it takes a few weeks, months, or even years to find and approve comments. This delay is normal. (Note that I also don't publish every comment, since this is my personal blog.) Unfortunately, anonymous commenting isn't available anymore since it resulted in over one million spam comments in a short period.