Women’s “Safe Spaces” is something that people like to mock. I’ve even seen women mock the notion as well as men who feel we’re over reacting and being ridiculous. The idea that we’d need places we can go that are safe from male intrusion seems laughable. So let’s talk about that.
Why do women need safe spaces? What are they?
I’m going to look at my own life as an example.
I consider myself to be a tolerant leftie. I don’t care for religion but don’t begrudge people having it. If you want to wear men’s clothes, women’s clothes, a cowboy suit, I really don’t care. If you love men or women, both, neither, it’s who you are.
But I also firmly believe in women’s rights to safe spaces.
For instance, I take my children swimming every week. The pool we go to is tiny, it has a very little men’s changing room, a very little women’s changing room, and an even smaller room connecting the two with a baby changing table. That little room has locks on both doors so whichever sex parent is in there at the time can lock the other out.
Men in one. Women in the other. Parents with babies in the middle.
When I’m getting changed with my daughters I need to know they are safe, and I need to know I am safe. We are naked and vulnerable. There are no changing cubicles, the showers are glass fronted onto the main changing room. It’s an open space that you basically have to trust everyone else in. And you know that there will be no men in there, because separating by sex means everyone can feel safe and not intruded upon.
There’s an age limit, and the opposite sex over the age 0f 7 is not allowed in either. I understand why this might make it difficult for lone parents but I strongly believe it’s essential. Occasional lone parents will have to be inconvenienced for the comfort and safety of the majority.
Whilst I was pregnant a woman was in the changing room with her two young sons. They looked about 7 years old, so I’d assume at the top end of the age limit. They both had iPads. They were whispering together, watching us, giggling. The mother kept hushing them as I tried to hold my towel up to cover myself. It was horribly embarrassing but as they were allowed to be in there what could I do? After they’d left I started to relax… and then I realised they may have taken photographs on their iPads and that’s why they were giggling together. I felt violated. The staring and giggling had been bad enough on it’s own.
A few months later I was in again, with my mother and daughters. A young boy was sitting on the bench whilst his mother changed. Again watching. Staring. We got out of the showers, and wrapped in towels, but my oldest daughter is a huge fan of nudity so I hastily tried to keep her covered and get her dry and dressed, but obviously this is tricky when you’re all wearing towels and wet and we all ended up exposing ourselves despite being as careful as we could. The boy stared. He rubbed at his crotch. He kept staring.
It feels horrible. It’s upsetting. That’s our space where we should be able to freely just get out of the showers and get dry and dressed without feeling like we’re being intruded upon. We shouldn’t have to be covering our bodies in fear and embarassment in a space that should be filled with women. Because the whole point of having sex separated changing spaces is so you DON’T have to keep trying to hide yourself.
I was out drinking and partying with friends and some men started paying attention to us. A little too much. At one point the circled in on me and I tried to be polite but clear that I wasn’t interested. They backed off a little but kept watching but I carried on with my evening.
Then I excused myself to go to the toilet. I very quickly realised I was being followed. I was soon surrounded by five or six men and, luckily, was able to duck quickly into the ladies bathroom.
I remember leaning against the wall and breathing hard, hoping another woman would come in so I could go out again with someone with me but, bizarrely for a fairly busy pub, nobody came. I used the toilet, braced myself, and opened the door. The men were stood in a semi circle around the door. One pulled my hand and I was frog marched through the pub to where another man was waiting because he “liked me” and they wanted to introduce us.
Even writing about that experience my hands are sweating and my heart is racing. Had they been allowed into that bathroom? Had they been free to enter that space where I was isolated and alone? Perhaps they wouldn’t have done anything but I would have been trapped. I would have been terrified. It was scary enough in a pub with people all around, but alone?
So why is the debate going about whether women need these spaces free from men, when men are already given separate spaces to be?
The trans community is expanding and it’s become more vocal. There are places such as Canada where you can declare yourself to be the opposite gender, with very minimal effort and these laws may be rolled out everywhere. To become legally the opposite sex you don’t need to have surgery, you don’t need to be taking hormones, you don’t need to do anything except declare it. And in some places it is already punishable by law to go against that.
So, does it matter?
Check out this guy. This is Danielle Muscato. Danielle. She is legally a woman.
She is a big, masculine, bearded woman with a penis. She would be able to come into our little changing rooms and be naked around us whilst we’re changing. A big, bearded, penis having person in a space we’re supposed to feel comfortable and safe and we could do absolutely nothing about it.
Does it matter?
I get it, the transwomen who want to be in our spaces feel more comfortable and happy there because they believe they are women and therefore that’s where they belong. But what about us? The whole point of separate changing rooms and bathrooms is that it does not feel comfortable and safe and appropriate for us to be naked around strangers of the opposite sex.
And the cases of male sexual predators who have cottoned onto this are legion. Men who have worked out that dressing as a woman entitles them to women’s safe spaces, even in prisons where female cell mates are raped such as in the case of Noel Crompton Hall who declared himself trans in 1999 in Australia, was moved to a female prison and raped his cell mate, where she was locked up in a small space with him with no escape.
Carl Dahn who dressed as a woman whilst cyber stalking children to engage in sexual acts, as well as downloading masses of child porn in 2013 in Arkansas.
Christopher Todd Gard who molested an eight year old girl in a bathroom in Oklahoma in 2013. He was dressed as a woman and the girl went in alone and he attacked her.
Dana McCallum a transgender woman, who looks and lives as a woman, raped her wife three times after they filed for divorce in 2014.
I could go on but I won’t, purely because looking at all these cases makes me really sad and really scared. Just think, if Donald Trump declared himself female he’d be allowed into women’s changing rooms and bathrooms and nobody could do a damn thing.
And the thing is, so many of the transgender people I’ve encountered have been really sweet and gentle, and not interested in hurting anyone and just want to be accepted for who they are, and like most people, don’t want to do any harm to anyone.
But then there are others. The people on Twitter screaming at women for daring to reference anything biologically female. Abusing lesbians because they don’t feel sexually attracted to people with a penis… because you know… lesbian and all. Talking about how they’re lesbian women and very sexual with their penis. And want access to women’s spaces.
It blows my mind that we’ve reached this point. This point where transwomen are so abusive to women who need to feel safe when we’re vulnerable and naked and alone that we feel even less safe because they’re so aggressive towards us.
And it really damages the transwomen who are the gentle ones. The ones who don’t want to hurt, respect women completely, aren’t aggressive and looking to mark their big stamp on the world in a “I belong HERE and I don’t care what women have to say about it” way.
If we reach a point where I’ll be expected to be getting changed with my little girls around women who have their penises out in our safe spaces and have no right to complain, when it’s already awkward enough with it’s children, and when it’s already scary enough when men can just wait outside for me, then I’ll end up feeling like I can’t go out at all. I don’t want to put my daughters in that situation. I don’t want to put myself in that situation.
And then what? We’re back to a point where male bodies dominate all spaces, and women either have to give up our freedoms to go out, or just accept that we have nowhere that we can be alone.
And I know I’ll get some sort of abuse for talking about my feelings on this. Because as a woman I have to give up that right to speak so that men don’t get upset.
You can check out all my contact info an links on www.jjbarnes.co.uk, I’m on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram so you can get in touch on there, as well as find links to all my work. There’s also www.sirenstories.co.uk which has all the work by both myself and Jonathan McKinney and loads of extra content such as background stories for different characters. If you want to subscribe on Patreon, its just $1 a month to help support our work and it also grants you access to our extra podcast a week, you can go to www.patreon.com/sirenstories.
Thanks as always for reading, and I’ll speak to you soon I hope!