The Architecture of Online 'Safe Spaces'

What is a "safe space"? According to Geek Feminism Wiki, a safe space is: area or forum where either a marginalised group are not supposed to face standard mainstream stereotypes and marginalisation, or in which a shared political or social viewpoint is required to participate in the space. For example, a feminist safe space would not allow free expression of anti-feminist viewpoints, and would typically also prevent concern trolling and continual Feminism 101 discussions in favour of feminist discussion among feminists. Safe spaces may require trigger warnings and restrict content that might hurt people who have strong reactions to depictions of abuse or harm or mental illness triggers.

How do we build safe spaces online? Is there such a thing as an online safe space? If this potential online space is safe, who is is safe for? And from whom?

With my baby, Guerrilla Feminism, I've attempted to construct an online safe space. This digital space is supposed to be safe(r) for marginalized folk. Is it perfect? Hell no--but I have heard it's a better space than most. 

Part of building and sustaining a digital safe space is immediacy. For example, if a troll comments on the GF page with a bigoted remark, etc, either myself or another GF mod must immediately (or as soon as possible) remove this comment and ban said person. Ideally, the comment is removed before too many community members see it, thus, lowering rates of trigger-dom. It's not always possible for this immediacy to occur, but it's typically what GF is known for doing well. 

Though GF is considered a "safe space" by many community members, it is, unfortunately, not always a safe space for myself or other mods. Since our ability to sustain this digital safe space is dependent on our moderating of posts, we are often forced to deal with extremely triggering comments. We are typically the first (sometimes only) people to see these comments, and it's our job to remove them. You know that saying, "Never read the comments"? Well, we have to ALWAYS read the comments. 

Now, I have many privileges, so there are not too many things that get posted that end up triggering me (unless it has to do with rape, sexism, misogyny, and a few others). So, if I am the first person to see a racist, homoantagonist, transantagonist, ableist comment, I want to be able to remove this before another mod who does not have the privileges I have sees it, and thus, might get triggered by it. I have white, straight, cis, able-bodied privilege--the least I can do is use these privileges for good. In essence, my privileges have afforded me the ability to create an online safe space.

The unfortunate thing about digital spaces is that it is quite easy for pages/forums/etc to say they are "safe", but not really be safe. For example, there are several feminist pages on Facebook that claim safety and inclusivity, when their moderation is sub-par or nonexistent.

There is also this double question of, "Who is this safe space safe for? And who is it safe from?" In GF's case, the space is supposed to be safe for marginalized folk--folks who experience oppression on a daily basis--who experience oppression merely for existing. And to answer the second part of that question... GF is supposed to be safe from bigoted, hateful, oppressive folk, who would like nothing more than a world of white, rich, cishet, able-bodied, neurotypical people. 

We don't want that shit at GF. 

I do my best at continuing and sustaining GF as a safe space. I am not perfect at it. I don't think it will ever be perfect, but I think it's pretty damn close. 


Autumnal Hymns: A 2014 Fall Playlist

I love Autumn. It's my 2nd favorite season after Winter. The leaves are wet and crunchy. Everything smells fresh. Apple cider is plentiful and pumpkin-flavored things are everywhere. Have yourself a listen to my "Autumnal Hymns" playlist, breathe in this beautiful season!

UW-Madison Police Department Perpetuates Rape Culture

*TW: rape, rape culture, police bullshit*

I was raped. I was raped when I was 18 by my boyfriend. On UW-Madison's campus in the summer of 2004. I didn't report it, and I'm glad I didn't.

Guess what? The internet keeps everything.

Guess what? The internet keeps everything.

You see, just yesterday the UW-Madison Police Department released their "Badger Beat"--a monthly newsletter on crime and other goings-on in the Madison campus community. The article was imbued with victim blaming language. 

The initial title of the article was, "Shedding The Victim Persona--Staying Safe On Campus." Here is the article in full. I've bolded the problematic parts:

It’s October already, and most of you are starting to get into some semblance of a routine here on campus. Now is the time when all of those pieces start to come together and you finally feel a sense of belonging and routine. As students and staff of the university, all of us play a vital role in making day to day life on campus interesting and fulfilling.
With the university located at the heart of Madison, we are offered a slew of activities and diverse communities to satisfy any interest. Though crime in the city of Madison pales in comparison to others like Chicago, Milwaukee, or Boston, we certainly have our fair share of incidents.
The UW-Madison Police Department conducts intensive patrols throughout campus with the goal of protecting our students and staff from suffering as a victim of crime. However, police can’t be everywhere. Each of us must take a hard line when it comes to ensuring our own safety. The following are some simple tips to help develop a proper mindset:

Don’t travel alone – it’s always a good idea to utilize the buddy system whenever you go out, but especially at night. It is no secret that a higher proportion of crimes against person or property occur at night. The ability for a criminal to hide their intentions under the cover of darkness is too big of an opportunity for them to pass up. By traveling with a trusted friend, you make yourselves a less desirable target.
Travel on well-lit paths – for the same reasons you should travel in groups at night, it is also important to follow the beaten path. In most cases, the beaten path is the brightest path as well. Stay in the light and you rob a would-be criminal of at least one advantage: concealment.
Preplan – know the route to and from your destination. Be familiar with it, and have an alternate route in case of any unforeseen changes. It is a good idea to see the route during the day, and take note of the presence of lighting for travel at night.
Be a hard target – a victim looks like a victim! If you move from one destination to another, and the only thing you recall about the trip is the last text message you received, then there’s a problem. The military calls it 'keeping your head on a swivel' and it’s probably the most important thing you can do to ensure your safety. If you present yourself as easy prey, then expect to attract some wolves. If you make yourself a hard target, one who is aware of their surroundings, you take away two elements of a crime: desirability and opportunity.
Drink responsibly – everyone wants to have a good time and alcohol is sure to be a part of that (if you’re over 21, of course). Know your limits and those of your friends. Don’t be afraid to tell someone “enough is enough.” Have a plan: where are we going to stay? How are we going to get there? Over-consumption of alcohol will quickly make you an easy target."

So, as a survivor this tells me two things: 1). My rape was my fault; and 2). I should never report a rape to the police should it happen again.

I emailed the Media Rep about my concerns and he replied glib and indifferent. Later, I noticed he or someone else discreetly edited the article to remove the exact parts I highlighted without any acknowledgement that the Police Department did wrong. 

This article could have easily been called: "How to Not Get Raped." Because really, that's what the content says.

The UWPD assured me that the piece was meant to be "GENDER NEUTRAL" (seriously, they wrote it in all caps), and they said it was meant to reflect safety in "ALL" (again capitalized) crimes. However, NOWHERE in the original article does it say the words "rob" or "theft." 

If you're going to write a piece on how to stay safe on campus, you need to consider your audience. You need to think about what your community might say in response to what you write. You need to know and understand your community. You need to anticipate these things. You need to take a goddamn Rape Culture 101 class. 

Being a "victim" is something that happens TO us. We cannot make ourselves victims. "Victim" is an identity that no one chooses. 

The UW-Madison Police Department makes me glad that I never reported my rape 10 years ago. If their attitudes are so horrid now, I can only imagine what they would have been like back then. 

10 Random Facts About Me

Age 6, taken in my preschool

Age 6, taken in my preschool

1. My mom took me to my first gay pride march in Madison in the early 90s. The next day, in preschool, I apparently led my peers around marching and chanting, "2-4-6-8, how do you know your kid is straight?!"

2. In 3rd grade, I was diagnosed with 2 learning disabilities: dyscalculia (the math version of dyslexia), and a language-processing disability in which I have difficulty articulating what I know in my head in speech and/or in writing.

Hermitage I lived in

Hermitage I lived in

3. After my parents divorced when I was 5, my mom dated a woman for many years. My brother and I went back and forth between our dad's house and mom's house. After my mom and her partner broke up, my mom, brother, and I lived in a hermitage on the grounds of Holy Wisdom Monastery.

My first (and at this point, only) published book of poems

My first (and at this point, only) published book of poems

4. I published a chapbook of poetry in 12th grade as part of an independent study. The book sold at the feminist bookstore in town, A Room of One's Own Bookstore.

5. I used to be terrified of public speaking. In fact, it was part of my IEP (individualized education plan for people with disabilities) to NOT have to do this. I now LOVE publicly speaking! 

6. My nonno drove for the mafia. He has always said to me: "Chrissa, if you ever need money, we know people, but you need to make sure you can pay it back." Suffice it to say, I have never utilized this connection.

7. I was a ballet and jazz dancer for 13 years. I was on a dance team that competed regularly.

Nonno lookin' tuff

Nonno lookin' tuff

8. I had a breakdown in highschool (who didn't really?) where I got extremely physically ill, put on anti-depressants, and was out of school for 4 months. It pretty much stemmed from my 3 best friends at the time ostracizing me from our group, which led to me eating lunch for half of a school year in the girl's gym locker room. When I came back from my hiatus, I stopped giving a shit about anyone there.

9. I have an older brother who is super fucking smart, and just finished getting his second Master's Degree at MIT. His name is Kael (short for "Michael"). My nonno, dad, and brother have the same name: Michael Angelo Greco 1, 2, and 3.

That leotard was so sheer it should've been outlawed

That leotard was so sheer it should've been outlawed

10. When I was in 2nd grade, I wrote to my two favorite authors at the time: Kevin Henkes and Eric Carle, respectively. They wrote back! 

Selfies After a Breakup (TW: body dismorphic disorder)

Selfie I took before going to his place to be broken up with.

Selfie I took before going to his place to be broken up with.

I take a lot of "selfies." It has taken me a long time to love myself, and it still is hard some days. So, I like to document the days where I really am feeling in love with myself, my appearance, my everything. 

Growing up, I hated how I looked. I thought my nose was too big and broad, my lips were too thin, my forehead too big, my face too oval, my head too big. I was a ballerina from the age of 7 until 18, and this fucked with my self image even more. I always had a booty. Even at my thinnest, I still had that goddamn booty. In middle school, I remember being told by white boys that I had a "ghetto booty" and not in a positive way (not to mention how goddamn problematic saying that is anyways, ugh). But I digress...

The point is... it has taken me a long time to be comfortable with how I look. I take selfies about every other day, and after my breakup this past May, the selfies continued. I documented my appearance after a truly horrendous breakup (he cheated on me, but I didn't find out until a month after he broke up with me).

So, without further ado... here are my (every other) daily selfies after my hideous, heart imploding breakup (from May 10th, 2014 to today, September 16, 2014.