WarriorThere was some fall out over “safe space” at WorldCon last summer, and surfacing from the book reviews for a while, I see the discussion is continuing. Some of this is the ongoing feud between John Scalzi and Vox Day. However, the issue of “safe spaces” is something that’s appeared elsewhere in the news headlines as something students are demanding at schools and universities. I’m feeling a need to check in on the issue.

Reading through the proposed convention policies, safe spaces apparently mean that no one can annoy you. When some evil lowlife approaches and says something that disturbs or upsets you, then you should be able to just say “no, go away” and they are required to do so. It means that you can cruise through the convention experience without worrying about anything. If anyone fails to do what you ask, then all you have to do is complain to management and they’ll take care of the lowlife who’s bothering you, pitching him/her out on the street. This is really an ideal situation, where nobody ever has to hear things they don’t want to hear, or deal with situations they don’t want to be in.

However, when you always depend on management to protect you, then you’re not taking personal responsibility for your own well-being. You end up with no self-defense skills. Punching someone in the nose is frowned upon, but there are other ways to deal with conflict. A few years back I bought this great book called The Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense by Suzette Haden Elgin (aka SF&F author and founder of the SFPA). It’s still for sale, and there are also other books in the series fitted for particular situations. This series provides real, working techniques for dealing with pushy and overbearing people who annoy you. Highly recommended.

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