The Physical and Mental Safety You Deserve
As an advocate for feminism, the elimination of oppression across -isms (sexism, racism, classism, etc.), I believe we can work together as individuals and as a collective to help those who identify as women feel safe.
However, advocating for physical and mental safety should never be misconstrued as supporting victim blaming. It is not your fault if you feel unsafe, and it is not your fault if you are a survivor of sexism/harassment, sexual assault, and/or rape. The fact that our nation, our campuses, and even our homes are not always safe for us is unacceptable. I support efforts being put forth to help eliminate issues such as domestic abuse, including http://www.joyfulheartfoundation.org/programs/education-awareness/no-more, and sexual assault prevention, such as http://www.whitehouse.gov/1is2many. But while we should continue to support these important efforts, it is also important to make sure we are safe in the current world we live in.
Being aware of the resources at your disposal can assist in your physical and mental safety. As students, staying up late to do projects on campus is often a norm, and it is not always possible to find a friend to work with you. Scheduling a safety escort (http://www.parking.iastate.edu/escort) anytime from 6 pm to 6 am during class times can help make you feel safe getting to and from school and University (and Greek) buildings.
Mental safety concerns may also be present in our classrooms. The concept of the trigger warning is common within feminist circles, and the growing requests for them have sparked a debate featured in The New York Times. Bailey Loverin defines trigger warnings as “a way of identifying what may cause someone who recently experienced trauma or has post-traumatic stress disorder to relieve their trauma. They are the equivalent of content warnings on CDs, video games, movies or the nightly news, and are especially useful in classes where traumatic content is unexpected.” For more information: http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2014/05/19/restraint-of-expression-on-college-campuses/trigger-warnings-encourage-free-thought-and-debate
These trigger warnings could be a message of awareness in a syllabus or a written or verbal warning before the individual video or article of concern. They allow survivors of various circumstances and events to prepare or address their concerns when dealing with in-class content (a situation they therefore can not control) that may trigger an emotional response. These warnings are not intended to impede classes that center around discussions of debatable topics or prevent the inclusion of challenging out-of-class literature and materials, and they certainly should not lead to the victim blaming that occurs in Jennifer Medina’s article: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/18/us/warning-the-literary-canon-could-make-students-squirm.html?_r=0
Trigger warnings are not a form of censorship because they are not calling for the elimination of potentially useful but challenging content. Instead, they act like movie ratings, with the understanding that most students will not have a strong reaction to the material but that some may be personally affected. Trigger warnings do not eliminate or negate important conversations regarding the challenging material or encourage people (even those who may find it personally challenging) to avoid it. Instead, the inclusion of trigger warnings provides a respect for the mental safety of students who have experiences outside of the classroom that are not their fault. Rather than making them feel additionally unwarranted trauma, let us show our awareness and concern for their experiences by providing them these trigger warnings.
Your physical and mental safety matters, and as an advocate of feminism, I support an increase of awareness and utilization of the resources you need. The Margaret Sloss Women’s Center is an excellent on-campus resource that can connect you with many additional resources (http://www.dso.iastate.edu/wc/support) and the staff are open to hearing more about what concerns you as an individual. Working together we can make the changes needed for our individual and collective safety.