This Comic Flips Conservative Derision of Safe Spaces

July 10th 2017

Mike Rothschild

A comic that made its way to the front page of Reddit wordlessly mocks right-wing ridicule of "safe spaces" as hypocritical and self-defeating.

Created by a cartoonist who goes by the handle "RedNBlackSalamander," it shows a man wearing a "Make American Great Again" hat holding up a sign reading "down with safe spaces," all while surrounded by armed police.

The comic calls out an alleged hypocrisy among some conservatives, who claim to value free speech absolutely, yet seek to shut down competing left-wing protests via cooperation with the police.

What is a "safe space," and why are people critical of them?

As Malcolm Harris wrote for Fusion in 2015, the term "safe space" dates back at least to 1960s gay bars, where men and women could be "out" among each other without fear of backlash. "Gay bars were not 'safe' in the sense of being free from risk, nor were they 'safe' as in reserved," Harris wrote. "A safe place was where people could find practical resistance to political and social repression."

In more recent years, "safe space" has taken on a much more derogatory meaning among those who believe college students are trying to be protected from ideas they disagree with or that might challenge their preconceived notions.

The vast majority of the criticism of safe spaces has come from conservative news outlets and pundits who delight in calling pampered, coddled young liberals "snowflakes."

For example, the right-wing Washington Examiner called University of Chicago students who saw their demands for intellectual safe spaces "crybullies," while an unsigned Fox News op-ed mocked the University of Arizona for preparing a booklet on how to respond to student complaints, and conservative news media site Twitchy aggregated tweets making fun of "special snowflakes" at Stanford for needing "a place to melt down" after the 2016 election.

But liberal college students aren't the only ones accused of needing protection from contrary ideas.

Critic of President Donald Trump have noted his inability to handle criticism, either from protesters or the media. In the days after Trump's inauguration was met with massive protests around the world, at least ten states introduced legislation to criminalize peaceful protesting, with North Dakota even trying to legalize running over protestors.

Conservative college students also complained of a need for spaces safe from protest and derision after Trump's election, and many prominent conservatives pointed out that they'd been taunted and mocked at Women's March protests on Inauguration Day.

Even President Trump himself has been derided as "President Snowflake" by everyone from Piers Morgan to the Daily Beast for what's seen as a constant airing of grievances against the media, Democrats, and anyone else who might oppose him.

Typical of the mockery is this column from progressive writer Paul Waldman, who wrote in The Week, "Trump, special snowflake that he is, takes everything personally. If leaks are coming out of the government, it must be because people are out to get him—and he assumes that everyone's motives are as petty as his."

As if to emphasize the snowflake nature of safe space-criticizing right-wingers, cartoonist RedNBlackSalamander writes of the barriers surrounding his conservative protestor "From the right angle, that shape almost looks like a snowflake..."