Safe Spaces

Recently a fair number of college students have been complaining that various symbols and words (often false flagged) are making them feel ‘unsafe’. I am reminded of something Jim Chapin said: He felt ‘unsafe’ when a couple of 16-year old Irish kids had him down in the gutter and were trying to kick his ribs in. That’s pretty close to my personal definition, although there were three of them in the case I’m remembering….

The more I think about it, the more I suspect that a lot of our present and future ‘elites’ would develop some valuable perspective from having someone beat the living crap out of them. Certainly worth a try.

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101 Responses to Safe Spaces

  1. If you want safe spaces you need secure borders.

      • garr says:

        Jayman, your blog’s really complicated. I wanted to know what you thought about Jimi Hendrix’s SciFi-Nerd gene, so I asked you about it on your “open discussion thread” but then my question disappeared and I’m worried it’s gone after I spent a half-hour formulating it. (He really was a SciFi-Nerd — “Castles Made of Sand”, “1983”, etc. — and an Aspie, I believe — see his interview with Cavett on Youtube.)

  2. The obsessions with “safe spaces” and “microagression”, the need for dozens of sexual identification pronouns; these, and many other movements are part of the sickness of excess that is plaguing us. It is said that every generation needs a good war. I’m not sure that would be the solution but a good plague might help.

  3. jark says:

    Part of it probably has something to do with the femininity of it all. Is it ever males who call for safe spaces?

    The safe space, Ms. Byron explained, was intended to give people who might find comments “troubling” or “triggering,” a place to recuperate. The room was equipped with cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets and a video of frolicking puppies, as well as students and staff members trained to deal with trauma.

    I’m not a woman so I don’t know, but its possible that hearing traumatic language can hurt as much as getting your ribs cracked.

    Also.. these people are probably shooting themselves in the foot. From what I can tell, effective trauma therapy actually makes you relive traumatic experiences, not shield you from them. You can’t get rid of bad memories by ignoring them.

    • Jim says:

      All I want are the cookies.

    • Amanda says:

      I am a woman, and I don’t think words can possibly hurt as much as physical pain. The women (and they are almost always women) who act like words are super painful simply haven’t experienced real, serious physical pain, so they have no idea what they’re talking about. I have a chronic pain condition (nerve damage), so I am very well acquainted with real pain. Nothing anyone could possibly say to me would hurt even a tenth as badly as the physical pain I’ve experienced.

      I wish they’d stop making women look like children who need to be coddled and shielded from opinions they don’t like. It’s just embarrassing and it makes women as a whole look stupid.

    • Frau Katze says:

      It’s all nonsense. It’s part of something that’s developed, in which being a victim is now something desirable. The more you whine, the more of a victim you are.

      Such tantrums used to be socially unacceptable. Now they’re rewarded.

    • Matt says:

      It largely is a female thing to talk about safe spaces. Young men (of all races) probably have a bit more machismo about making spaces viscerally “unsafe” for one another, these days, compared to 20 years ago (although maybe not more than 10 years ago, at the height of South Park-ism and the 2000s backlash against 90s PC?).

      Even in online fora which are fairly Leftist, though, “safe spaces” are not a concept I’ve encountered outside of not upsetting rape victims and child abuse victims, whenever possible. Which on the whole, is fairly difficult to argue too much with.

      Outside of that context, I suspect the term has more use in Rightist mockery, and arguments by rapidly balding and increasingly impotent Generation Xers who for why the Millennial Generation should totally wait its turn, than it actually has in speech between Millennial age Left wingers.

      • Well, except that these are based on real examples, and are often supported by deans and other administrators, so painting it as a Rightist bogeyman seems a way of wailing “Not my tribe, it’s those other guys exaggerating this.”

        BTW, my fifth son is in college, and I have heard nothing about safe spaces, but he has been assigned significant amounts of similar propaganda, which he dare not speak against lest he get a lowered grade.

        • Matt says:

          I don’t identify as a leftist personally. In general I think they’re pretty dumb and I can’t imagine any of them would classify me that way.

  4. spottedtoad says:

    Does getting your ass kicked count as shared or non shared environment?

    In any case, for most of these kids, feeling unsafe is like what Boss Tweed said about bribes- I saw my opportunities and I took ’em. The kids who jump through all the hoops necessary to get into Yarvard or Hale may not have had the full range of training in fisticuffs, but they’re plenty ruthless, in general, and yelling for safe spaces is usually just a way of throwing their weight around and proving how they can get administrators to kiss their ass.

    • jark says:

      yelling for safe spaces is usually just a way of throwing their weight around and proving how they can get administrators to kiss their ass.

      Yes, if you’re part of the group that can get presidents and deans to resign through shaming (Tim Wolfe at U. Missouri, Larry Summers at Harvard), and you also determine who is allowed to come and give talks, then the power and privilege must feel pretty good. “Safe Space” is authoritarianism hidden in a humanitarian term.

    • BarkerDole says:

      The only time in college I ever wanted a “safe space” was chemistry lab, safe from the ruthless premeds who broke labware and sabotaged experiments to beat the curve.

      My experience is that the people at these schools who are actually delicate flowers sit at home and only come out for easy humanities courses. The ones who are vocally demanding accommodations are usually cutthroats, and utterly willing to make anyone who crosses them feel vividly unsafe (occasionally even with actual, Chapin-recognized violence).

  5. Jim says:

    Reason seems to have no effect upon them.

  6. marcel proust says:

    This post should have begun with a trigger warning!

  7. dearieme says:

    I went to primary school wearing clogs. No one dared try to bully me. I’ve believed in deterrence ever since.

  8. st says:

    But isn’t obvious? The only safe space nowadays in Europe is the mosque. Ever heard of anyone blowing himself in a mosque? No, and you won’t – never. So, save yourself, go there -it is safe. The only space safe. Unless you are a woman- women are not allowed to enter a mosque. But hey, there are safe clothes as well. Wear a burka -noone is going to touch you. Even if you are in Köln’s railways station on the new year’s eve. So, put it on, put it on. Be safe. Safe spaces – good. Safe clothes – twice as good. It’s all good.

    • Dale says:

      Though of course in Iraq, people suicide bomb at mosques frequently. Won’t it be fun when the Sunni vs. Shia war comes to Europe?

    • Justin says:

      “Ever heard of anyone blowing himself in a mosque?” No, if Swedish tabloid press is to be believed, they use lambs and goats for self-gratification.

      • st says:

        You are missing my point. There are no safe places in this world. Never been. Never will. The name is deception – or self deception, your choice. The kids are misguided to believe that there is such thing as safe place.
        One day they’ll have to defend their country. Or their families. Why fight when can run to the nearest safe place? For all i know they might even be willing to pay to stay in a safe place. Or pay someone to build them a safe place. And locks them there forever – there is no safer place than a concrete made single cell -even be it on on a death row – noone would ever touch you there. Got it? Didn’t get it? No worries, does not matter.

        • Justin says:

          lol! Think about what “blowing himself” means and you’ll get my joke. A good colloquial English lesson.

          • st says:

            The only thing, you can teach anyone in the world is how to sodomise the goats and lambs you mentioned proudly, justin; or how to marry his own underage niece or a century old aunt, That’s the kind of knowledge i do not want to acquire. Noone does.
            The only thing i know is that is no place is safe with any of your kind around. So, i won’t be taking lessons from you if you were around – i would be acting accordingly. Trust me on this.
            Now go back to those swedish tabloids of yours with the pictures of goats and lambs. Or take them home with you.

  9. Pyrrhus says:

    The notion of “safe spaces” perfectly captures the feminization of the “elites” in the modern West. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, US Presidents walked around without any bodyguards or protection, believing that they had to face the same risks as other Americans. Grant and Lincoln took early morning walks alone, which greatly benefitted Albert Michelson…Woodrow Wilson and his wife often played golf alone. Of course, the notion of being protected from free speech never occurred to anyone…

  10. James Miller says:

    I wrote an article for FrontPageMag on safe spaces where I ask what would happen if protesters demanded that professors stop wearing white socks:

  11. Dale says:

    When did the word “overprotective” go out of fashion? I’ve seen complaints that protecting children from all hurt and disappointment leaves them emotionally fragile, and the current fretting about “safe spaces” seems to be a consequence of that. These days, it’s the kids of the upper-middle class who are most protected when they grow up, and that is the demographic that colleges are filled with.

  12. AllenM says:

    LOL- I was talking wid me mum the other day, and pointed out me kid has it easy- no fights after schools, no vicious attacks in the hallway- life for him in middle school has been a bed of roses compared to the daily violence of my middle school.

    Of course they expel violent students these days, instead of put them on the football team.

    These kids would read Lord of the Flies and see nothing of their reality.

    • TWS says:

      When I was a kid boys got in a couple fights a month maybe. Even my son and daughter occasionally got in fights in grade school. By jr high, high school there were fights but the police treated them like assaults.

      A couple years ago I talked to a guy who was living in Japan. His boys got in fights at school and nobody really cared.

    • BarkerDole says:

      Personal experience says you’re right: I was in high school recently enough to see a lot of kids utterly baffled when Lord of the Flies was assigned. “People are nothing like that, this book is stupid!”

      Fortunately, I was male, and had enough shady friends to have been on both sides of ass-kickings. The book made perfect sense, and I reserve the word “unsafe” for actual safety.

  13. IC says:

    Out of sight, out of mind. It is not your problem until you suffer from it too.

    • IC says:

      The more I think about it, the more I suspect that a lot of our present and future ‘elites’ would develop some valuable perspective from having someone beat the living crap out of them. Certainly worth a try.

      Chairman Mao had similar idea called culture revolution' andre-education’. Mao truly hated elites and intellectuals including those climbing up their own far left ideology ladders. Forcing them down and living among the poor were considered to cleanse the mind of elites.

      Right or wrong, I got my share of re-education in ghetto. I learned a lot. But I never want to move back that shithole for sure.

  14. IC says:

    Indeed, college environment is the safest place one can experience. But some colleges, like University of Chicago, locate in the middle of pretty shitty neighborhood. Elites from that kind of campuses can have pretty good perspective about safety.

    Theory of relativity (joke).

  15. et.cetera says:

    That rings true to me too. Like a lot of these kids, I grew up sheltered, in an upper-middle class family. Were I my younger self today, I think I would be wholly sympathetic to all the willy-frilly happenstance, if not outright clamouring for it. I stopped being my younger self in my senior year, after I got the living shit beat out of me by a bunch of drunks at the wrong party. Dignity and self-worth mean little when every gasp of air feels like driving a hot iron rod down your chest because you have 5 broken ribs. I was in a constant state of stupefaction (with a tinge of paranoia) for months after that.

  16. JayMan says:

    It’s all part of the Rise of Universalism, my friends.

    But yes, the call for “safe spaces” are one of the biggest examples that these people have no real problems. A First World problem to be sure. When life is rougher, you don’t have time to cook up such nonsense.

    All that said, I’ll take what we got over Russia or Saudi Arabia.

    • gcochran9 says:

      We’re crazy. That’s actually a dangerous state.

    • et.cetera says:

      How does you conception of “universalism” and its specificity to northwestern europeans mesh with the fact that, for example, northwestern europeans were pretty late to adopt abolitionist legislation (Charles I had passed laws against slavery in the 16th century), or the fact that the English, Dutch and German colonies were following clearly racially delineated policies like apartheid (or downright genocide in the case of German colonies in Africa) while the Spanish and the French were plenty laughed at in the pamphlets of the day for freely “mingling” with the natives?

      • Jim says:

        The Viking raiders were pretty damn mean. Hard to believe today’s Swedes have Viking raiders as ancestors. Of course the raiders were not a random sample of the Scandanavian population but self-selected for meaness.

        • et.cetera says:

          The last 50 years seem to be quite strange, for lack of a better word. The Swedes maintained their forced sterilisation policies into the late 1970s (my memory fails me on the exact year). I don’t know of any other country in Europe where old-school eugenics had such a staying power.

        • JayMan says:

          Things can change fast if there is strong enough selection pressure, as it seems there was in Scandinavia (look how fast homicide rates drop off there).

          • et.cetera says:

            Things can change fast if there is strong enough selection pressure

            That’s a meaningless theoretical. Was the selection pressure strong enough for these changes in attitude to be due to genetic changes in Sweden’s population in the past 50 years? No way. (You seemed pretty fond of the breeder equation once. What gives?)

            I’m not familiar with the history of homicide in Scandinavia. I’d need to look at the full data to form an opinion on what happened there between 1600 and 1800. (But on the whole, the genetic pacification hypothesis seems extremely plausible to me.)

            • JayMan says:

              “Was the selection pressure strong enough for these changes in attitude to be due to genetic changes in Sweden’s population in the past 50 years? No way.”

              Well, at least I know now that the problem isn’t because I didn’t explain things in my post…

              Seriously, can I get something to smack people with every time they say that?

          • et.cetera says:

            Cut the snark and show me the data then. This better be good.

      • JayMan says:

        The post was called the Rise of Universalism.

        • et.cetera says:

          You’re avoiding the question…

          • IC says:

            His typical tactics

          • IC says:

            One time he presented rational process like this: A + B = C. I told him A is likely wrong, so C is likely wrong. Instead of proven A as correct, he argued that but B was correct. With such reasoning process, I deemed either he was intellectually dishonest or simply stupid. After that, I hardly ever read his stuff anymore.

            • JayMan says:

              Your trouble (and that of many like you) is that what you think constitutes a sound argument or constitutes strong evidence and what actually does are often quite different things.

          • JayMan says:

            That was a hint – the hint being that the answer was contained within the post…

          • IC says:

            I sincerely hope the following found on internet is not an African phenomenon. But too much coincidence already.

            It is this “winning personality” among Blacks, that makes it hard for so many to accept the validity of their failing tests of abstract reasoning ability…

            Millions around the world delighted in the badinage between Muhammad Ali, perhaps the greatest boxer of all time, who failed the IQ test for his military induction physical, and TV sports announcer Howard Cosell.

            “I’m gonna whoop him Howard. You just watch!” Cosell responded, “You’re feeling very truculent today, Muhammad.” Without batting an eye (or opening a dictionary) Ali uttered one of his trademark retorts, “Truculent? If that’s good, I’m it!”

            Asked on the CBS news program Face the Nation, “Muhammad, you say you’d never throw a fight, but what about that IQ test?” Ali shot back, “I told you I was the greatest, not the smartest!””

      • IC says:

        Salesmen need to say thing appealing to their audience to make money. Truth? What truth. This is the problem for research grant application. The beggars can not choose. Pandering to research grant committee corrupts research effort. When politics is involved in research, the result is almost always predictable.

        This is another reason that most revolutionary scientific breakthrough were often from those were truly independent or self-actualized people. Their minds are liberated from financial benefactors. Darwin was from rich family. Einstein did not do scientific thinking for financial reason.

        Indeed, intellectual curiosity is truly luxury.

      • Greying Wanderer says:

        “widening circles of compassion” or something like it was the phrase I think

        so maybe the widening sequence goes
        – self
        – clan
        – tribe
        – nation
        – race
        – species
        – save the newts

        • st says:

          um…what about family? Not in the circle? OK, i can live with that, it’s your family, i suppose. Do what you must then and good luck.
          Anyway, why so simple? Let me help with few more choices).
          (children first, partner next, parents next, self last.
          -Clan – really? have you seen a clan’s mate lately? Ok, you put it at front of your family, good for you, or good for your family, not sure.
          Now what if your clan consist of multiple races? What if your tribe consist of multiple races? What you gonna go by, in your scheme of compassion, by rase or by tribe membership?
          Now, what about, as Prof. Cochrun implied on multiple occasions, your tribe in fact consists of multiple species? What would be your choice? Going tribal? Going racial? Going special?
          But let us go even further.Lets imagine some of the members of your nation are members of some religious cult, be it ufo nuts – let say, Grey worshipers or something, and you are member of another cult. Infidel, so to speak, since you do not believe in greys, say, you believe greens. But hey, those are from your nation.But what if the grey cultists do not share same believe in the circle of trust and compassion as you do? To simplify it, they are high-ranked in your circle of compassion. But you are not ranked in theirs, in fact you’re missing from theirs. Where would you go? By their circle? By yours? Would you like your children to share the same mail office with theirs, since they are the same nation? Time will tell….

          • IC says:

            This is obvious flaw in hypothesis of Jayman and alike. They try to explain human behavior with simple one reason. Such simplicity reflects their mental simplicity unfortunately. At end, they are not scientist. They defend their belief like a ideology or faith. They wish their faith explaining every thing in the world. In the process, they did not realize how stupid it looks.

            Human camaraderie (clans) can be generated in any kind of associations including sports team, fan clubs, physical features, social classes, races, ethnicity, religions belief, political beliefs, and more. Depending on situation, humans are complicated creature who often adopt multiple identities/associations. They constantly switch their affiliations with various clans. Strength of bonding in any clan depends on level of threat from common enemy toward that particular clan.

            Thus Jayman and Chick are just bunch of idiots in my opinion.

            • JayMan says:

              “Depending on situation, humans are complicated creature who often adopt multiple identities/associations.”

              No shit.

              “Human camaraderie (clans)”

              Nope, not what a clan is.

              “can be generated in any kind of associations including sports team, fan clubs, physical features, social classes, races, ethnicity, religions belief, political beliefs, and more.”

              Sure. But not with equal ease in all parts of the world. Just look at the World Values Survey.

              You’re primarily arguing against claims I’m not making. “Greying Wanderer” has it pretty wrong, for the record.

          • IC says:

            Ku Klux Klan looks like a clan for me. You can deny it.

          • IC says:

            You also argued like women. Are you really a man?

          • Jim says:

            IC – I looked up definitions of a clan and got –

              -a group of closely related families


              -a group claiming descent from a common ancestor

            I don’t think the Ku Klux Klan (despite the word “Klan”) fits that definition much better than
            the Communist Party. No doubt members of the KKK have a common racial identity but if common racial/ethnic identity is what defines a “clan” then the Nazi Party and Irgun were “clans”.

            You’re stretching the meaning of the word “clan” to an absurd extent.

          • IC says:

            “We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.”

            There are no permanent friends or enemies, but permanent interests. This basic rule also applies all human relationship including those in family and relatives. Any one failed to recognize such age old wisdom are idiots in my opinion.

            When people started from false base, the rest are just rubbish. Worthless to read even. Using sophistry to appeal unintelligent mass is all they left to do.

          • IC says:

            Hairsplitting wordsmiths : sophists.

            They do not give a shit of truth. All they are arguing much just like Muhammad Ali.

        • IC says:

          There are no permanent friends or enemies, but permanent interests. People lack this kind of wisdom end up with stupid ideologies. Certainly racism, communism, all those -isms are the same idiocracy. To be honest, some BHDers are becoming ideology like idiocracy and they tried to explain every things under sun by BHD.

          You name it. Determinisms of IQ, genetics, environment, and more are really committing the same fallacy which is blind men and the elephant. No matter how detail and sharp the sense of blind men, lack of vision leads them arguing with each other endlessly.

          The analogy can be applied to human intelligence when some people lack intellectual depth to think conceptually with multiple dimensions.

          • IC says:

            Among all bloggers who are able to show such multiple dimensional thinking are Greg and Razib. That is the reason I only read their stuffs. Well, they happens to be scientists too.

            Coincidence? Not really.

      • dearieme says:

        Apartheid was introduced in South Africa after WWII, long after it has ceased to be anybody’s colony.

  17. TWS says:

    As a society we’ve become sheep not Shepherd dogs and certainly we’re not wolves any more. I’m not sure I like living in a world where you cannot slug some jerk in the jaw for grabbing your wife’s ass.

    Safe spaces are for infants and domestic animals. Not adult humans.

  18. ctmorey says:

    Post 9-11 helicopter kids’ first foray into the world..

  19. Frau Katze says:

    I’m an older woman. I would feel unsafe if my life were at threat or I were in danger of serious physical harm. Play dough? Please! Unbelievable.

  20. jeff77450 says:

    I’m 57 and grew up on my parents’ stories of the Great Depression and my father’s stories of WWII.

    I put myself through college by first serving in the army for three years and earning the education benefits. I worked too. My parents didn’t contribute a dime. When I graduated I was debt-free.

    I served in the army reserve for 21 years and served in Kuwait & Iraq in ’91.

    These brats make me want to puke. 🇺🇸

  21. My generation (I’m 27, although I remember a few older professors in college who talked like this, too) equates “unsafe” with “uncomfortable” or “irritated.”

  22. garr says:

    Most of the violence and physical intimidation at the Junior High School I attended around 1980 wasn’t directed towards the people who are now provided with “safe spaces” — it was Blacks fighting each other and also physically intimidating and low-level-assaulting (kicks, shoves) the nerdier (non-Italian) White kids. If the tough Italian kids had offered the nerdy non-Italian White kids protection in exchange for having their homework done, or if the nerdy White kids had been encouraged to carry sledgehammers (or rapiers) and use them when necessary, this privilege being denied to the ruffians, there wouldn’t have been such a problem.

  23. et.cetera says:

    the answer was contained within the postJayMan

    Were it so, I wouldn’t be asking.

    Most of the argumentative content of your post seems to revolve around the very informal construction of a NW-european-ness index. So far, so good. So good, so uninteresting.

    You also, intermittently but consistently, and without argument, allude to “universalism” as a dependent variable. Hence my question.

    • Purple Furple says:


    • JayMan says:

      Read it again.

      Allow me to simplify and says something I was going to say anyway: much of modern universalism is an interaction between the special reciprocal altruistic (the precise meaning of that term as used here described in the comments to said post) traits and modern technology. I described the “slippery slope” process that occurred, but it boils down to this: when there are no “natural” demarcations to what are targets of sympathy, it only takes humanizing information expand the boundary of sympathy. Most of that information was provided by mass media – books, newspapers, magazines, radio, TV, and now the internet allow people to actually see and relate to starving kids and Africa. Hence they become like everyone in the previous confines of the circle: targets for sympathy. As I said, runaway universalism was inevitable for that reason.

      Clannish people do have natural demarcations on whom are targets for sympathy: typically people much like them. Hence they are not as affected by humanizing information about other peoples in the world.

      Hopefully this clears it up.

  24. cliff hanger says:

    Pass the word it is not required that you be politcaly correct it is achoice

  25. Thomas says:

    Collegians’ demands for “safe spaces” and refusals to brook alternative points of view are symptoms of a deeper problem. Some have called it the capitalist paradox. Capitalism — which I prefer to call a regime of (relatively) free markets — not government, has liberated most Americans (and most Westerners) from the Hobbesian fate of a poor, nasty, brutish, and short life. The most “liberated” are those who are the furthest removed from the realities of everyday life (such as being kicked in the ribs by yobs): collegians, the ex-collegiate academicians who propagandize collegians, the ex-collegiate pundits and so-called journalists who have absorbed enough academic theorizing to have developed a distorted view of reality, and ex-collegiate politicians and high-ranking bureaucrats who eagerly adopt pseudo-intellectual justifications for the various collectivist schemes that serve their power-lust. This is a roundabout way of agreeing “that a lot of our present and future ‘elites’ would develop some valuable perspective from having someone beat the living crap out of them. Certainly worth a try.” The functional equivalent of having someone beat the living crap out of them, would be to slash appropriations for tax-funded universities, and especially for the so-called liberal arts. The possessors of soft minds and bodies would soon learn about real life, and be forced to live it alongside the proles whom they profess to love but actually disdain.

    • garr says:

      The fifth-rate urban colleges at which I adjunct are almost exclusively populated by rib-kicking yobs, and yet the teachers are thoroughly soft-minded and soft-bodied (well, most of them are women, so I guess it’s okay that they’re soft-bodied). Actually, these rib-kicking yobs don’t do much rib-kicking because they’re always looking at something called “Facebook” on these little machines they carry around with them, and have devices constantly strapped around their heads that direct rhythmical noises through their aural cavities non-stop. So I guess these are rib-kicking yobs only in the sense that they’d be kicking ribs if they didn’t have those machines on them.

  26. j says:

    What a Safe Space protects against? Cultural Appropriation, Slut-shaming, Fat-shaming, Cissexism/ Cissupremecy, Heterosexism, Ace erasure, Bi erasure/ Monosexism, Ableism, Sexism / Misogyny, Trans-misogyny, Racism, Dyadism, Binarism, Mental illness- shaming, Multiplicity Hate, Otherkin Hate, etc. The mere presence of a healthy heterosexual blonde would menace the self-esteem of slutty, obese, mentally ill trans persons.

  27. epoch2013 says:

    I would say these Safe Spaces aren’t really safe until they have a proper lock.

  28. ursiform says:

    Tripe from this morning’s LA Times. Note that she stereotypes and insults a large, disparate group of people while whining about microaggression.

    How millennials should deal with baby boomers at work
    A day at the office
    Los Angeles Times
    Ann Friedman

    Advice on how to attract and manage millennial employees has become a fixture of business journalism and corporate reports. Thanks to extensive research, we know that millennials may come to the workplace with “a sense of entitlement, a tendency to overshare on social media, and frankness verging on insubordination,” as the New York Times explained recently.

    But what happens when baby boomers dominate your office culture? What are the best practices for handling their Luddism and fragile egos?

    In the absence of reliable intelligence and seminars on the topic, millennials have had to invent coping mechanisms for working alongside their elders. Because millennials — according to many business-section articles — may be more comfortable on digital platforms than with face-to-face communication, I asked them to share what they’ve learned via Twitter. Respondents quoted below are all working professionals age 33 or younger.

    NEVER say, ‘This is so easy.’ Recognize that baby boomers have a lot of fear and anger about technology, and tread gently.

    First, it’s important to never assume that your baby-boomer colleagues, born between 1946 and 1964, are unfamiliar with new technology. It’s far more likely that they’ve read about it, tried it once and decided they hate it. Therefore, it’s important not to offer a technology-based solution to every workplace problem — think old-school too. And don’t talk to boomers as if their methods (even the ancient ones) are stupid. Keep it constructive. Suggest ways to optimize without remaking their entire process.

    If you do find yourself demonstrating how to use a new digital tool, Chelsea Reil suggested, “NEVER say, ‘This is so easy.’” Recognize that baby boomers have a lot of fear and anger about technology, and tread gently — even in the midst of a reply-all disaster or an ill-advised joke about the pointlessness of Instagram. As Christina McDermott explained, “There are people there who want to learn things like social media but don’t have the confidence.”

    In a boomer-majority office, it’s often necessary to ignore mild but routine sexism, cautioned many millennial women. Remember that some boomers joined the workforce before anti-harassment policies were created. For sexist transgressions that seem too small to take to HR, millennials may want to establish a group text thread — a safe space for venting.

    On a similar note, studies show that boomer men are likely to subconsciously favor younger employees who look like they do. Millennial men will want to keep an eye out for this behavior, and recognize their (unfair) comparative advantage.

    If you’re lucky enough to work with boomers who are concerned about systemic sexism, racism, ableism, classism and other important -isms, you may find that they’re nevertheless confused about queer issues and can’t quite grasp the problem with so-called microaggressions. But don’t mock their clueless questions. At her last job, Elena Potter saw these queries as educational opportunities: “I wanted them to know it was safe to ask, and I would guide them toward respectful language and understanding around basic stuff.”

    Open communication — and the occasional after-work beer or midday coffee session — is vital. “Understand it’s a learning process,” McDermott said. “See what skills you can swap rather than chiding them for not ‘getting it.’” Brittney McNamara agreed, adding, “Listen to them and they will listen to you.”

    Millennials may find that baby-boomer self-esteem has declined precipitously in response to rapid societal change. It’s difficult to deal with that kind of emotional baggage when you’re trying to get work done, but a few solicitous questions go a long way. Imani Oakley advised, “Ask them how they did it — baby boomers love to be heard and admired.” April Quioh has noticed that her boomer colleagues have a “jones for humility,” so it’s best to display a willingness to learn from them.

    It’s also important to signal to your boomer colleagues that you’re aware of American history prior to 1990, without threatening their conviction that lived experience is invaluable. Of course you’ve listened to Fleetwood Mac, know who Richard Nixon is, and have heard that dad-joke about how “This must be the local!” when the elevator stops at every floor. Instead of insisting that you’re already quite familiar with these cultural touchstones, however, just chuckle gently or ask a follow-up question about Lindsey Buckingham.

    Restraint, millennials on Twitter agree, is indispensable, even when boomers aren’t showing any. Older colleagues may drop comments such as, “I have children your age!” Under no circumstance should you point out that you have parents their age. Just smile and don’t stop smiling for the duration of your employment. If you are tempted to roll your eyes, carefully fix your gaze on your computer until the feeling has passed. The modern workplace functions best when employees of all ages are able to avoid making a big deal about the comments that annoy them most. Headphones help.

    Finally, remind yourself, like Anne Brown, that you’ll “probably be old and lame someday too.” Or, as Tim Brack put it, “remember that you’ll be in their shoes in the end… complaining about the latest generation.”

    Ann Friedman is a contributing writer to Opinion. She is a millennial.

    • It must be nice to be Ann Friedman and know the answers to everything. Perhaps when she grows up she will realize that life is not as she thinks it is.

    • st says:

      Um.. the baby-boomers invented personal computers, internet, software packages for commercial use, IT and all the rest of those fancy gadgets like iphones that millennials believe are their deep secret that only they have access to. What did exactly millennials invented – i mean, besides safe spaces?
      But is it their fault they have no clue?
      It’s not, its their parents and teachers folt. And they are baby-boomers, broadly. They left PC reach out, grab and shape the souls of their children. They will discover reality perhaps too late – maybe when it will be really, really too late. I mean, the PC media calls the children of millennials “Z” generation. Rightfully.
      Its pity Z arrived so soon, with so many things left undone and undiscovered. First of all – the doors for space exploration that never got opened. Baby-boomers were close. Now the human kind will have to wait for another… what, millenias? More? Never?
      I really do not care about the rest of consequences of baby-boomers demise. But that one…such a chance missed.

  29. AllenM says:

    Well, Hsu has finally done it, posted an entry that if properly deciphered would be enough to end his career-

    One step short of the obvious conclusions that can be drawn- and it will be a very interesting day when it goes mainstream in implications.

    In short, corporations can finally go Brave New World on their employee selection.

    And use science to justify it. LoL

    • another fred says:

      “Strictly speaking, the data only show correlation, not genetic causation, but the most plausible model is that genetic differences are causing morphological differences. One could check this easily by comparing individuals raised in different environments and cultures.”

      He almost touches the third rail with the “most plausible model,” but covers himself in that he acknowledges it needs to be checked. I doubt that anyone could get a grant approved to do the “checking,” but the answer will probably flop out of some other research some day.

  30. another fred says:

    I grew up as a shy overprotected child and learned a lot when I got out into the world (as was my intent), but barely escaped with my life on a couple of occasions. While there is certainly a lot to learn from real experience I don’t think everyone understands certain recent changes in the world, at least in the US.

    While children still scrap and fight, and need to to be socialized, the level of violence in fights between strangers, especially strangers of different ethnicity, has gone way up. There are not too many rules left. Bar fights can escalate to lethal conflict in a blink. Getting “smacked in the face” doesn’t just mean that you smack the other guy back. Too often it means that the smackee tries to kill the smackor.


  31. linsee says:

    Jonathan Haidt at Heterodox Academy has a long post on the social changes driving the shift to a a victimhood culture (especially at universities). Worth a look.

  32. IC says:

    However, low level of stress can give you delayed death penalty (reduced life expectancy).

    Trolls are just psychopaths who enjoy killing people slowly. If people did not have coping mechanism, they are venerable to such attacks. This might explain smarter people are better off with fewer friends or live in place with lower human density (more personal space).

    So blame your heart attack on those trolls in life.

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