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Rukan Saif
Jul 02, 2020
In Forum VI - Safe Spaces
safe space (n.) 1. an academic setting that encourages active engagement, innovative thinking, and analysis 2. a community in which people, usually of marginalized groups, are able to secure respect under the aegis of college campuses. Ex: a breastfeeding room for new mothers Nowadays, the second definition is strikingly more contentious. Those against safe spaces claim that such environments coddle students, infantilizing them in the face of the “real world.” However, denying marginalized communities, such as BIPOC and members of the LGBTQ+ community, safe spaces highlights everything wrong with this “real world.” It perpetuates the idea that the microaggressions against them are expected and organic. Coates says it best in his book Between The World And Me: discrimination “is rendered as the innocent daughter of Mother Nature,” invoking that it is the repetition of such comments that reinforce their normality. This is why safe spaces are essential on college campuses. If campuses do not standardize environments of inclusivity and emotional security, the current “real world” will continue running rampant, and this rampancy, which manifests itself through police brutality and systemic discrimination, can take severe psychological tolls. According to the Healthline article “Why ‘Safe Spaces’ Are Important for Mental Health — Especially on College Campuses,” Dr. Juli Fraga notes that “approximately one in three college freshmen have a mental health issue.” Even in this situation, minorities are underrepresented. The National Survey of American Life found that 9.1% of African Americans display signs of PTSD, versus the 6.8% of non-Hispanic white people, and 55% of LGBTQ+ youth feel unsafe at school due to sexual orientation. The suicide death in Native/Indigenous youth is more than twice that of non-Hispanic white people. A central tenet of public health is to ensure that public health services are available to all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Safe spaces are a central tool to begin bridging this health equity gap. And in some ways, instituting the second definition encourages the nascency of the former. Acknowledging the experiences of marginalized communities concomitantly encourages civic engagement, empathy, and analytical thinking. Perhaps safe spaces are the key to erasing the real world and revolutionizing a new one. References:
Rukan Saif
Jun 02, 2020
In Forum V - Prostitution
In my attempt to understand prostitution through the public health lens, a commonly propounded question was whether prostitution should be legalized. In the Harvard article “To Protect Women, Legalize Prostitution,” a point author Annamarie Forestiere made for legalizing prostitution was that women sell their bodies every day in legal ways through pornography, sugar-dating, and exotic dancing. The last example—exotic dancing—caught my eye. After reading Forestiere’s article I wondered why she singled out exotic dancing, as well as whether prostitution could be validly compared to exotic dancing. Exotic dancers, better known by the sobriquet “strippers,” often perform acrobatic tricks on poles on strip clubs. There are several disparities between prostitution and exotic dancing; in exotic dancing, the rates of sexual abuse are much lower than in prostitution because the dancer has more control of his/her/their body. Many—if not most—strip clubs have strict regulations on whether patrons can touch exotic dancers. Additionally, in her article “Exotic Dancers Aren’t Prostitutes,” Judith Lynne Hanna writes that exotic dancing “offers women the opportunity to work fewer hours and earn more income than they would in doing many other jobs.” In fact, another article by Cosmopolitan chronicles a woman’s journey through medical school, which she paid for through exotic dancing. Hanna also writes that “most dancers feel empowered by the financial independence they achieve, and they talk about the increased self-confidence and self-esteem gained.” There are also myriads of health benefits that come from pole dancing, such as the healing effects on bones, joints, and blood flow. From the articles I’ve read about exotic dancing, most performers are passionate about the art form itself—not the financial benefits. ...which brings me to my question: Was Forestiere correct in comparing prostitution to exotic dancing when so many view the latter as a genuine art form? Or was Forestiere implicitly perpetuating the chronic stigma against the sex industry?

Rukan Saif

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