We’ve all been there. The seemingly harmless spider on the wall you’ve been suspiciously eyeing for the past few minutes moves a little too quickly towards your desk, and all hell breaks loose. You start screaming, your roommate starts screaming, your dormmates from down the hall gather to check out the commotion and all of a sudden nine different people are scrambling for Febreze or a crusty shower flip flop with which to slay the beast.
While few may agree with me, I am a fierce proponent of the philosophy that spiders should be taken outside, not smashed with a shoe and thrown in the trash (which seems to be the go-to move). Unfortunately, arachnophobia isn’t easy to eradicate; it’s pretty deeply entrenched in our primal instincts. Humans have learned to fear the unnatural and the uncommon, so the prospect of a creature with eight fuzzy legs and just a few too many eyes is pretty disconcerting to us.
But in my unpopular opinion, spiders’ bad rap is fallacious. There’s nothing innately scary about them; unless a spider is posing an immediate threat to your safety, there isn’t any objective reason to fear it. Besides, have you ever stopped to consider how weird we must look in the eyes of an arachnid? An animal’s creepy factor isn’t a fair measurement of its right to live.
If it’s a black widow or a tarantula, okay then, stomp away (or get someone to do it for you). Have some basic instincts for self-preservation. But that’s a rare instance. Most of the spiders that make their way into our dorms are small and harmless.
Nonetheless, people kill innocuous, unimposing spiders all the time under the impression that they have no real value as creatures. I’m not trying to argue that bugs deserve the same rights as humans, but extending amnesty toward any and all creepy-crawlies is still a healthy exercise in empathy. If scooping it in a Kleenex and tossing it out the window costs nothing on your end but allows another creature to live, doesn’t that have a positive net impact on the world?
The next time you feel the need to crush the spider on your dorm room floor to impress your cowardly friends, take a moment to think: How much more noble and considerate would you appear if you politely escorted the creature to its natural habitat instead of stomping it to smithereens like a barbarian? Chivalry can live on with the spiders.
And finally, if someone requests that you not kill the spider and you do it anyway, that just makes you an asshole. Sorry, I don’t make the rules.
In sum, it’s time we do away with the notion that the arachnids are out to get us. If you happen to stumble across a spider that’s been led astray, I urge you to act out of kindness instead of terror. Set down the shoe and do what you know is right.
Contact Eden Gibson at eden3 ‘at’ stanford.edu.