Some notes on SafeR Space

During this event we, as an organising group, want to contribute to everyone’s comfort as much as possible. For that we provide food and drinks, a zine corner and a chill-out area, amongst other cool stuff. But these are not the only factors which contribute to feeling comfortable in a space where a lot of people with different lives, backgrounds and experiences come together.

Most of us have experienced and experience discriminatory behaviour in their everyday lives, experiences that are harmful for the affected persons.
[some examples of discriminations amongst many others, are: ableism, cissexism/cissupremacy, racism, sexism, heterosexism, antisemitism, homophobia, trans*misoginy, ageism, mental illness shaming, classism, slut-shaming, sizeism and neurotypicalism]
Unfortunately these discriminations don’t stop at the doorstep of our activists circles and alternative groups and we have all internalized a lot of bullshit behaviour throughout our lives. Changing this doesn’t happen over night and requires a lot of work and dedication as well as constant reflection on our actions. But we are convinced that it is necessary to actively counteract and overcome the structures of oppression which exist in society.

What does that mean for this event?
Together with everyone we would like to create a space which is less likely to reproduce discriminatory behaviour.
Therefore we thought about some infrastructure beforehand, like a retreat room and a safer space team which will rely on the involvement of the participants of this event. But we believe, that the core effort to create a safer space is not done by a group of people assigned for that but by everyone who takes part in the event and visits the meeting. This means that everyone should take over responsibility for their actions and that we should support each other in making the space safer for all of us.

To take over responsibility for ones actions from an anti-oppressive standpoint, it is important to become aware of not only our own privileges (such as: skin colour, gender identity, desires, age, abilities, money, language and a lot of others) and our own social position, but also of inequalities and the positions of the people around us. This helps us not only to cope with and learn from each other in a respectful manner but also to actively support people who had negative experiences when they need it.

Some notes on knowledge and language:
On this meeting, a divers group of people will come together and spend more or less time with each other. It can happen that we only meet each other in one workshop, it can also happen that we share a bedroom for a whole week. Or we meet chopping veggies for the KüFa (german expression for “kitchen for all”) and start chatting. We all come from different backgrounds and have different knowledges. On this meeting, we want to create a surrounding where different levels of knowledge are respected, taking into account, that knowledge is shaped by the structures of society and it can be a privilege to not have to cope with certain topics as well as taking into account that not everyone around us has the same level of knowledge in the same fields as we do. Additionally, not everyone speaks the same language as we do and terms which we are using in our everyday language might not be known to others around us. Language can be a very excluding factor and please take into account that the working language of this event is not everybody’s mother tongue.

Violent/boundary crossing behaviour:
We see the definition, if a boundary crossing behaviour happened, to be made alone by the affected person (=the person whose boundaries were crossed). The experience of violence is influenced by the individual history and experiences of a person and is perceived differently by different people. Regardless of how the harrassment looked like: if the affected person perceives something as boundary crossing/discriminatory behaviour, it is their perception and they should be supported and not questioned.

How to react when being called out:
When called out (given criticism on our behavior) many of us immediately get embarrassed/confused/irritated and formulate rash explanations that can quickly become defensive, turning into rationalizing our own actions and dismissing the other person’s reaction.
It’s quite possible that the other person might not have called you out in the best way either. Aggressive tone or language might make you feel overwhelmed and less receptive to what they have to say. However, you should NEVER use this as a justification for not listening to them or devaluing their opinion. Tone policing has always been a prominent tool in perpetuating oppression. Conveniently, you thereby obscure the original problematic behavior that caused you to get called out in the first place.
In this case, no one learns anything, and soon everyone is just angry and inarticulate.
So please don’t do that. Remember that getting called out isn’t about needing to defend yourself. Let’s all try to keep this in mind and LISTEN to each other. The point of calling you out is to draw your attention to how you’re being oppressive (these things can be very structural, subtle, and difficult to see through privileged lenses), so that you can work to change it. In that way, a call-out is a very generous gift. Take it.