July 30, 2020

Safe spaces. Do we need a third way?

Carol McKay

Photography and WritingSafe Spaces - Is This A Metaphor?, 2020

On my daily walks during lockdown, I noticed more and more pavements are becoming dual function – designated for both pedestrians and cyclists. As a non-cyclist, I’m concerned about the safety issues this brings about. But as a woman and a mother of four daughters, this is very familiar to me. It brought to mind the debate about whether we need safe spaces for women and girls, and all the vehemence of the arguments surrounding the Scottish Government’s Gender Recognition Act, which will enable people to self-identify with the gender they feel most closely fits their sense of self. The photo seemed a perfect illustration of the situation many – most? – women and girls believe they will find themselves in if there is no clear differentiation in facilities for ‘male’ and ‘female’ (e.g. in changing rooms and public toilets). Of course, people who don’t feel they fit in either of those categories deserve consideration and safe spaces, too. Yet, at the expense of the safety of others? We’re all human and we need to be able to listen attentively, calmly and rationally to all viewpoints in this debate. Safe spaces. What’s the answer? Do we need a third way?