Safe Space or Derailment?
During the London Feminist Film Festival the men in the audience were asked to leave by Julia Long, the author of Anti-Porn, The Resurgence of Anti-Pornography Feminism. Long’s account of what happened is So I’m a Feminist Troublemaker for Requesting Some Women-only Space? and one of her detractors, Marta Owczarek, wrote about her perspective on the incident at How a feminist debate was derailed by asking all men to leave.
I’m a big believer in peership spaces. I fight for them in the kink community, and there is a TON of resistance to them there. I believe strongly that peership spaces, like women’s only space, TNG spaces (events that are for people under 35 usually in the kink world), and queer spaces, have their place in building strong movements and empowering groups of people who lack power in our society.
I believe this because there are benefits to the community as a whole when peership groups can have their own space for awhile, and then come back to the broader movement feeling supported and connected. But they have to come back to a larger movement, a big tent, in order for this to be effective. Peership groups do their best work when they do not create an us-vs-them feeling. TNG groups in the kink community can serve two purposes; one is to demonize older people in the community, and when they do this it’s seriously damaging. The other is to create space to educate younger people and bring them into the larger kinky community in groups where they can feel safer, instead of having to go into the larger community feeling intimidated by being the youngest person in the room filled with people their parents age in a sexualized environment.
Therefore, when deciding if an event or group should be a peership space or a big tent space it’s crucial to consider the REASONS for doing so. If the intention is to educate the general population and to bring more people into the feminist movement (as this film festival seems to be) then it is appropriate for it to be a big tent space – inclusive of a wide variety of feminists (and even non-feminists!) who can all learn something. If it had been intended as a support space for women, it should absolutely be treated as such.
I think it’s crucial for those who create events to think hard about the reasons for making them peership or open events. It sounds like the organizers in this case did what I would have done, and created an open event.
Before this came up I was not familiar with Long but it sounds to me she doesn’t have a good grasp on the reasons for or appropriateness of peership spaces. The feminist movement needs peership spaces, but it also needs events that are open to everyone in order to spread the movement and educate a wider base. This is true of many movements, including kink and skepticism too.
For what it’s worth, I would have left. I would have been annoyed about it, but mostly because I was loosing an opportunity to learn, and that always annoys me.
The featured image is a shot from the movie, Lesbiana, that was being shown/discussed at the time of this incident.