I Can't Seem To Make My Apartment A Safe Space For WomenCommentary • Opinion • gender • sex • ISSUE 35•47 • Dec 22, 1999 By By Marvin Balsam By Marvin Balsam Like many single guys these days, I'm rather proud of my apartment. It's in a decent building, the furniture's tasteful, and I keep it nice and clean. All in all, it's a real nice place, and I spend a good deal of time keeping it that way. But if there's one area in which I've failed, it's in making my apartment a safe space for women. I've tried, mind you. Believe me, I want women to feel comfortable when I bring them here. I play soft music, I have some rather nice houseplants and wall tapestries, I make them soothing tea. I even read from the many poetry anthologies lining the bookshelves. I do everything I can to make it a nurturing, woman-safe space. But then, just when I think I've got it down, another woman somehow winds up finding her safety compromised. You'd think that after everything I've done to create a supportive, non-hostile environment, women would be safe here, but that simply isn't the case. Oh, it's not as bad as when I first moved in a couple years ago. It definitely wasn't a safe space for women back then, let me tell you. If you know where to look and what to look for, you can still see the signs. There were a few times that women felt so unsafe, they insisted on leaving right away, and I almost had to force them to stay. I can even remember one comely young co-ed who got so uncomfortable, she tried to force her way out. I don't remember what happened after that. The problem can't be the neighborhood. My apartment's in a good part of town: reasonably close to shops, right between two nursing colleges, and a five-minute van ride from the deep section of the river. And, like I said, the interior's totally redone. I've got a nice collection of Native American pottery, some cozy floor rugs and plenty of world-music CDs. What could possibly be more woman-safe than that? It's perfect! At least, so I thought until I tripped over that waitress in the shower one morning. So, obviously, there's still a lot to do. I suspect that my chin-up bar could be contributing to a phallocentric and possibly misogynist environment. And I wouldn't want a woman to spend too much time in the trophy room—women don't like taxidermy. Furthermore, the makeshift workshop in the bathroom could be "othering," as could the giant strap-on six-D-battery razorcock above the fireplace. And it can get pretty awkward explaining why, once inside my place, you need a key to get back out. These things are all on my to-do list. Okay, so my apartment is still a work in progress. But when I'm done, I want any woman, no matter how big a lying, betraying, filthy whore, to feel safe here. I think I have a good idea of what still needs to be done. I have pretty strong feminine instinct, probably because Mother dressed me up like a little girl until I was 14. Perhaps I'm not as good of a listener as I could be when women are trying to express their emotional and survival needs. It's just a matter of being sensitive and trying to understand what they're saying—even when they've lost their tongues. With their help, I just know I can make this a safe space for women.