Safe Space

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Noisebridge may or may not be a "safe space". This is a controversial subject.

One proposed improvement is the concept of [BraveSpace].

See also:

The Pragmatics of "Safe Space" in an Anarchist Hackerspace[edit | edit source]

Since Noisebridge is an anarchist space, this means there are no overlords to enforce good behavior. There are no Arbiters of Social Justice to step in as authority figures to adjudicate conflicts. Hell, we don't even have a Holy Book to refer to. We only have this One Rule:

   Be Excellent to Each Other.

We do have an Anti-Harassment Policy[1], which explains in detail various extrapolations of Being Excellent as they apply to the best practices of interpersonal relations in the context of a hackerspace.

If Noisebridge could ever be declared a "safe space", it would be necessary to answer the entailed question, "a safe space for whom?"

"Safe Space" Itself Means Conflicting Things[edit | edit source]

The concept of "safe space" arose from social work (e.g. shelters for victims of domestic abuse, group therapy for PTSD victims, etc). The idea was to create a room with metaphorically (and sometimes literally) padded walls to enable trauma victims to feel safe in acting out the impacts of their trauma without fear of being further victimized by people who might interpret their abnormal emotional responses very negatively.

Meanwhile, the phrase "safe space" has been picked up for use by historically marginalized identity groups (e.g. queer) for use in describing places "in which a person or category of people can feel confident that they will not be exposed to discrimination, criticism, harassment, or any other emotional or physical harm."

A space in which marginalized identity groups will be able feel as though they will never be exposed to criticism or emotional harm is at odds with the concept of a space in which trauma victims can feel safe to self-express freely without fear of reprisal.

Nonclinical "Safe Spaces" Merely Privilege the Dominant Culture[edit | edit source]

Numerous studies have shown that they predominantly privilege the perspectives of the dominant culture, which -- especially in the Bay Area -- tends to end up being racially white. As a consequence, minority voices become further marginalized[2], as the fear of saying something critical makes the space feel anything but safe for them.

Another definition of a "safe space" found in the wild[3] is the following:

   Safe Spaces are specific areas where bullying isn't tolerated.

Who could argue that "not tolerating bullying" isn't a good thing? Unfortunately, since the concept of Who's Bullying Whom often comes down to who's observing the behavior, the net effect of attempting to enforce "no bullying" usually just ends up privileging the dominant cultural paradigm yet again.

Cases of obvious physical violence can be adjudicated quickly and easily. Emotional violence, on the other hand -- without a moral center in the form of an appointed community arbitrator or somesuch -- tends to be adjudicated based on whichever community narrative feels more convincing at the time. This opens the door to charismatic narcissists corralling the very notion of "bullying" as applying only to what happens when they or their in-group are criticized, since "protection from criticism" is what many people's notions of safe space revolve around.

Food for Thought On the Notion of Safe Spaces[edit | edit source]