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[personal profile] splinteredstar
I think the way we (in fandom, and social justice, and trauma recovery) talk about safe spaces is.... unhelpful.

the ideal, the goal people sometimes talk about, is making a space safe for everyone. where no one will be triggered by anything or feel unsafe. some people want fandom to be that safe space. I don't think it's possible.

well, let me be more exact. everyone should, absolutely, have a safe space. mine is usually, well, here. we cannot be in battle at all times - we cannot live in conflict and strife. no one has the emotional reserves for that.

the problem is in trying to build a /universal/ safe space.

(and art, which fandom falls under, is unavoidably a universal space. i think that interacting and interpreting media is a universal right, as well as putting those pieces out for discussion with others. self expression is a universal right. though I will acknowledge that "freedom of expression" is a heavy, complicated issue that i can't begin to detangle, so I will add a brief caveat: freedom of expression in a way that will not cause immediate and provable harm to others. measurable harm vs measurable good, as usual.)

i feel like I say this in every essay, but it's still true: /people are complicated/. Intersectionality is fractional - infinitely complex overlaps, no matter how close you zoom in. Everyone has different emotional needs and means of meeting them; trauma and abuse recovery is a different process for everyone who goes through it. Each person has a different definition of safety, and a different set of qualifications for being comfortable in a situation.

And - here's the important part - /some of those definitions are mutually exclusive./ Safety in one respect means danger in another; what is safe for one person is not safe for another. Making a space safer for one may make it more dangerous for a different person.

Let's get some examples.

Expressing anger is an important part of many people's emotional health - it is how people deal with racism and sexism and abuse. People /absolutely/ should have a safe space to express anger without being punished for it or told its inappropriate.

On the other hand, I - as most of you know - am a survivor of emotional and religious abuse, and when I'm fragile, I cannot stand to be around anger. It fucks me up and can make me anxious as hell. Even if it's not directed at me, sometimes i need to be in a space where no one is shouting.

Both of those needs are valid. But they're also mutually exclusive.

An abuse survivor needing to express and share what happened to them and a survivor who gets flashbacks at depictions of it; someone who has an emotional support dog and someone who has a phobia of dogs. A survivor of religious abuse and a survivor of religious persecution; an abuse survivor who needs to see abusers kicked in the face and a survivor who needs to see abusers learn how to be better people.

People are /complicated/ and people have different needs and a place can't meet all of them at once. It's not possible. I think trying may do more harm than not.

safe spaces have to be - individual. personalized. we can't say "these are the standards of safety for everyone" - they have to be adjusted for everyone involved in the situation. Individuals /matter/, and individual needs matter. We all have to build our own boundaries, rather than assuming everyone has the same needs and limits.

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