What is a safer space?
Within subcultures and alternative cultures, safer spaces have emerged from the need to create spaces free from patriarchy and political and social oppression. Researchers trace the term back to events organized by feminists and sexual and gender minorities in the mid-1960s in the United States (1). The concept has since been developed to take into account different intersections (of human and identity), in particular people facing racism and racialisation in predominantly white surroundings.
Safe vs. safer
We use the word safer knowing that we can never define our event as completely risk-free for all participants. However, the pursuit of a safe experience for all is at the core of safer event organizing (2). The aim is for each participant to be able to be in a space without the threat of contempt, discrimination or harassment (4).
Accountability & respect
In a safer space, the event organizers take responsibility for difficult situations, assigning specific people the responsibility for dealing with problem situations (3). Conflicts are addressed, not just tolerated (4). In a safer space, everyone, including participants, is expected to behave respectfully with good intentions, to show solidarity in dealing with problem situations and to be considerate towards others.
The pursuit of a safer space is active work (5) and requires the event organizer to continuously evaluate and develop their own activities and to cooperate. At the same time, the work is both an identification of one's own privileges and a critical examination of power structures inside and outside the event space. It is also essential to understand who the space excludes. For example: is the event accessible (6)? In some cases exclusion can also be appropriate and important to provide a safe space for a specific reference group (7).
Myös safer event policy
We have not developed all the policies of our safer state ourselves. We have gathered information and examples of practices from different sources, applying them to the needs of diy event culture. However, some of our ways of working are based on our members’ own experiences and understanding. Sharing experiences, asking for feedback and listening are an integral part of our way of working. The more diversity in the working group, the better.
In Myös safer space
Respect dissenting opinions, experiences and perspectives. Respect everyone's identity. Do not assume anyone's gender, sexual orientation, financial situation, background or state of health. Respect everyone's physical and emotional boundaries. Consider your words. Take responsibility for your behavior and actions. Don’t make physical or verbal threats. Be aware of your prejudice, your privileges, and the space you take. Take care of fellow human beings.
By acting against the rules of the space, we exclude ourselves from the space or event.
What can I do for safer events?
As an event organizer or guest, you can start working in a safer space by considering the following questions:
- What do you do if you find someone being harassed or discriminated against?
- Are there people who can be approached in the case of discrimination and harassment?
- What do you do if you are called in/out for discrimination or harassment?
- What kind of prejudices do you recognize in your own thinking?
- What do physical and mental boundaries, personal space, and consent mean?
- Who has been given the space to perform, act and decide?
- How well have physical, mental or financial constraints been taken into account in the event?
- Is everyone treated with respect?
- Who is responsible for cleaning and taking care of the space / environment?
- Whose needs have been taken into account?
- Does everyone feel good at the event?
- Hanhardt, Christina B. (2013), Safe space: gay neighborhood history and the politics of violence, Moira Kenney (2001), Mapping Gay L.A.
- Ruskeat Tytöt, Turvallisempien tilojen periaatteet, ruskeattytot.fi.
- Museum of Impossible Forms, Safer Spaces Safer People, museumofimpossibleforms.org.
- Yhdenvertaisen kulttuurin puolesta ry (2021), Turvallisemman tilan periaatteet, kulttuuriakaikille.fi.
- Ana Ala-Ruona (2018), Nämä maailmat ovat jo.
- Invalidiliiton Esteettömyyskeskus ESKE (2018), Esteettömän tapahtumat -kriteerit.
- Jasmina Amzil (2017), Turvallisten tilojen pitkä historia, ruskeattytot.fi.
Text: MYÖS/Tuuli Pohjola
Proofreading in English: Rohan Stevenson