What is a "safe space"? According to Geek Feminism Wiki, a safe space is: 

...an 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. 

 

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