i dream of being possible

The safest are the most privileged

(This was originally posted at Womanist Musings. Reprinting here for archival purposes.)

No, seriously, are there safe communities?

Perhaps my post at the beginning of last week was an inauspicious beginning to the week with everything that went down with SnowdropExplodes. I do find it ironic beyond belief that I began the week at WM reflecting on whether or not there are safe communities. I also drew an analogy to the feminist community and how often it alienates the people it purports to help (women). Mere days later? My point was proved (on both accounts) (and in case anyone is wondering? I’m also not a feminist).

And I’m not just talking about feminism. My purpose in the other post was to discuss the problems with trying to build moments based on identities. About how this leads to identity policing and this over investment in the terms. It was also about the notion of safe spaces and communities. And how I don’t believe this exists.

A constant criticism throughout the whole Schwyzer business has been about how it makes Feministe an unsafe space for women. Similar arguments have been made about Renee’s decision not to ban SE from commenting. All this about ensuring that WM is a safe space for women. Should it be? Could it be?

Part of this is premised on the notion that Renee (or anyone else) should be able to prevent the incursion of predators into communities. Of course, I’m not trying to be specious in discussing possible predators, when we are discussing actual predators. Yet it highlights my point. Renee didn’t know and  SE has been participating on this site for years. Which means that, for years, a predator was within this space. Are you shocked? Surprised?

I have zero doubts that there are other predators who have been contributing and engaging in the comments. I could be a predator (actually… I don’t doubt that some might think so – and this would be okay). I’ve certainly done many things I’m not proud of (and even too ashamed to write about, even under a pseudonym online). Womanist Musings isn’t a safe place for me, yet here I am. My decision. And everyone has different mileage.

We live in a world where, right now, women are being abused, raped, and exploited. This is being done, generally, with state and social sanctions. This is true of the imperial countries hell bent on the exploitation and eradication of POC (again, disproportionally impacting women). A world that continues state sanctioned Indigenous, queer, disabled, trans*, etc. genocides. This is the world we live in and many of you know this (and this is likely not surprising to anyone on this site).

Sites like WM and other crucial spaces for discussion (even the F_eminist ones) are important. They are also fully within this world _same world. I find it an almost ridiculous privilege to insist that any space be safe. The people who are safest in this world are the most privileged. It is unsurprising that this notion of safe space is something I most often see white, able, hetero, cis women articulating a need for. Making it a priority. They are also amongst those often privileged enough to gain access or have the ability to create safe(r) places.

I meant it when I said that I don’t want a community. Creating illusionary safety in imaginary communities* doesn’t help me be free in this world. It doesn’t alleviate my dysphoria. It doesn’t help me when I’m walking alone at night having people threaten me violence for being bakla. It doesn’t help me get better access to credit. It doesn’t help me get a job.

I understand the efficacy of having these spaces. Of finding places where we can commiserate and share our experiences. Our every gathering is revolutionary in and of itself. But this is just it: revolutions (from what I imagine and from what history has taught me) aren’t safe. How can they be, when the fundamental conflict is between those who oppress us and those who wish to be free?

What is a safe community? Who gets them? Who has the privilege and power to create these spaces? How are the boundaries enforced? How are the boundaries determined? Is the safety real? How can we be sure?

  • My use of imaginary here is only intended to refer to the conceptual, rather than physical, space wherein these communities exist. They are real nonetheless but you just won’t find one on a map.