Why safe spaces are important

By: Riley Head ~Copy Editor~

Recently, I went on the Women’s Day Retreat through the Center for Faith and Justice. Through the luck that my teacher sent me an email, I applied at the last minute and attended the day-long retreat. We spent the day at the Quaker home just off campus discussing stereotypes, pressures we felt, dreams that we had and common insecurities we held. We had group discussions, small group breakouts and quiet personal reflection time.

As a first-year it was an amazing experience to be exposed to so many people from other years. I struggled to meet people first semester, and in one day at this retreat I met so many other people who had so much in common with myself. As a woman, the retreat was even more enlightening. It was one of two times in my life that I was able to come to a room with perfectly random strangers and share some of the most private details of my life without blinking an eye. The common bond of womanhood allowed everyone there to be their most real selves and share so openly – without fear or suspicion. There was an understanding that everyone there was dealing with the same issues and was there for support. The overwhelmingly positive and safe environment allowed me to explore things about myself and my spirituality that the constant drone of the school year had suppressed. I emerged from the day refreshed and energized – sure of myself, reinvigorated with the power of myself and all the incredible women I met.

As the weeks have passed since the retreat, I still find myself waving hello to the girls who attended the retreat with me and sometimes drawing on the peace and strength I received from that. When I got an email for a reunion I began to think about why the memory of the weekend stuck with me so vividly. The environment that was created by people similar to me – in this case, women – was rejuvenating and unforgettable. This is the necessity of spaces with like-minded people.

Riley Head is a first-year Philosophy, Politics and the Public major and copy editor for the Newswire from Louisville, Ky.

At the risk of sounding like a liberal snowflake, I truly see the value of safe spaces. Clubs and events that invite a certain demographic are able to reach a higher level of safety and discourse. There is certainly value in different types of people coming together to learn about each other. Cultures and ways of life can be exchanged, and mindsets can be expanded in the process.

Other voices would have certainly added another layer to the conversations. For example, men at the women’s retreat could have added insight to their feeling repressed by female stereotypes, like dealing with emotions. Revelations like this are certainly important, but men in that space could have also put up walls. The chasm between life experiences can sometimes seem overwhelmingly large and exhausting to cross. Sometimes all you need is an affirmation of your own existence.

Having a place and space where you can let go of all the outside forces that can wear and tear on you a little bit every day can be a huge relief. It is a liberating feeling to know that no one is judging you and you can just live. A weight is lifted, and you can experience life with other people who understand the struggles with you. This freedom lets people bond with others in the deepest way. Having these experiences allows you to be rejuvenated and face the world with a renewed sense of purpose.