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'Marie Claire': Men Aren't Allowed to Criticize 'Safe Spaces'

Safe spaces have completely infested college campuses, are detrimental to everyone, and are against the spirit of the First Amendment.

That sentence isn't exactly news. However, as a male, according to Marie Claire contributing editor Jessica Valenti, my writing it is unacceptable.

So she writes in her column titled "Men Don't Get to Say We Don't Need Safe Spaces":

This weekend when Notre Dame students walked out on their commencement speech by Vice President Mike Pence -- a man who supports conversion therapy, a practice so abusive it's banned in multiple states -- it was dismissed as "PC culture" run amok. (Pundit Tomi Lahren quipped, "Think this kind of crap will fly in the real world? Good luck holding a job, kids!") When online activists demand that Twitter ban users who threaten violence or use racial slurs, they're "snowflakes" who can't tolerate disagreement. And if rape survivors have the nerve to request a moment of emotional reprieve during conversations that might cause them to revisit their trauma … well, they just need to grow up and get out of the "cocoons of their 'safe spaces.'"

It's this last one -- from a recent commencement speech given by New York Times columnist Bret Stephens -- that irks me the most. Stephens, who told graduating seniors that "safe spaces, physical and intellectual, are for children," kicked off his talk by telling the story of an event at Brown University where two speakers came to debate rape culture. The school's students organized a room for those who might get upset during the conversation, and Stephens recounted that the "safe space" was filled with coloring books, calming music, pillows, and videos of puppies.

But here's the thing: I was actually one of the speakers at that debate, and I visited the so-called "safe space" beforehand. I don't remember puppy videos and pillows; if there was calming music or coloring books, it wasn't noticeable. But singling out details like this -- making it sound like a preschool for hysterical grownups rather than a quiet room with trained counselors -- is an intentional move to discredit.

A simple read of Stephens' column makes it clear that he is referring to the work of someone else. In this case, comments made by Judith Shulevitz in the pages of the New York Times -- the Times got it wrong, not Stephens.

Valenti misrepresented Stephens and his comments.

She steps up her demonizing in the next paragraph:

Is this really what conservatism is about -- making fun of rape victims? Laughing at young people eager to make the world a little bit kinder?

No, conservatism is not about making fun of rape victims.