This is a living, evolving document, and is subject to revision.
In response to critiques of “safe space” and “safe(r) space” language & failures of implementation in radical communities, the Dirty Hands Collective is pursuing the formation of “brave(r) space.” Brave(r) Space strive to create nurturing environments where we value accountable interactions while creating support for vulnerability and bravery where everyone can thrive. In pursuit of brave(r) space, we are implementing an anti-oppression policy. We seek to keep perpetrators of sexual/physical assault out of our community and spaces, and support survivors by respecting and supporting any processes of accountability they initiate. We emphasize accountability and use the language of brave(r) space (rather than “safe(r) space”) in recognition that as long as the dominant culture stands, no space can ever be made absolutely safe for everyone, all of the time. Accountability processes, however, are tools, and like any tool, they can be used productively, or they can be misused, abused, and weaponized. This is something we must be equally aware of, and guard against. Primarily, we seek to avoid the pitfalls of “safe(r) space” that lead to little more than an avoidance of any and all possibly triggering subject matter, in favor of the cultivation of a brave(r) space where we feel comfortable being vulnerable with one another, and processing triggers when and if they occur.
Cis and trans womyn have full support of the Dirty Hands Collective to establish spaces for themselves, including spaces that are only for people who are oppressed by sexism, people who are queer, and people who are trans. In solidarity against patriarchal violence, we support the formation of spaces on the terms of those forming them, and encourage a diversity of spaces to serve a diversity of needs. We recognize the need for these spaces because no matter how much we work on our privilege, as recovering hetropatriarchists still in the process of mental and psychological decolonization and recovery, we’re still going to be bringing heteropatriarchy into the space. Dismantling patriarchy is a process, not a product.
The Dirty Hands Collective recognizes that the institutional, economic, political, social and cultural dynamics of hierarchy, power and privilege that define mainstream society also permeate radical communities. These dynamics are expressed in various interlocking systems of oppression (e.g., colonialism, racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, ageism, ableism, speciesism, etc.), which prevent equal access to resources and safety, disrupt healthy communities and movement building, and severely—sometimes irreparably—harm our allies, our friends, our loved ones and ourselves.
We offer a growing number of zines and other texts addressing the need to challenge these systems of oppression. This is a reflection of our understanding that implicit in our desire to stop the domination and exploitation of the Earth is a need to create communities that are free of oppressive social relations. We understand that failing to address oppressive behavior not only weakens our movement by alienating and further victimizing our friends and allies, it also calls into question our commitment to a better world and our qualification as a radical community of resistance.
For these reasons, we have drafted this policy of active opposition to oppressive behavior of all kinds within our group and at our events.
We define oppressive behavior as *any* conduct (typically along lines of institutionalized power and privilege) that demeans, marginalizes, rejects, threatens or harms any living being on the basis of ability, activist experience, age, class/income level, cultural background, education, ethnicity, gender, immigration status, language, nationality, physical appearance, race, religion, self-expression, sexual orientation, species, status as a parent or other such factors. Oppressive behavior comes in a wide variety of forms, from seemingly harmless jokes to threats of violence, from interrupting to verbal abuse, from unwanted touching to rape, from hitting to murder. Some forms are more extreme and irreparable than others, but all are unacceptable under our anti-oppression policy.
This policy aims to:
•affirm and protect the personal autonomy, safety and well-being of all who participate in the group and events;
•empower all group members and participants to challenge oppressive behavior and provide them with skills and resources to do so effectively (including educational materials, response strategies, etc.);
•nurture a strong, safe, healthy, reliable, egalitarian and diverse community;
•make our group more accountable to ourselves as well as the greater community;
•support and promote anti-oppression principles and practices within the group and greater community;
•overcome barriers preventing cooperation and solidarity with oppressed individuals and groups who feel unsafe or unwelcome in the group; and
•combat the troubling legacy of oppression that continues to plague radical communities and our society as a whole.
We acknowledge the limitations of such a policy. Developing an anti-oppression policy is an ongoing process; this policy will undoubtedly need periodic review and revision. Additionally, this policy will not automatically make the group oppression-free, eliminate oppressive organizational structures and personal behaviors, or erase the grievances of previously oppressed and marginalized people. Realistically, our anti-oppression policy is only as strong as our commitment to addressing and confronting oppressive behavior on a regular basis.
Prevention and Education:
The best way to deal with oppressive behavior is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Therefore, we will ensure that all group members and event participants are familiar with this policy, with the understanding that all participants in the group are expected to abide by it. Additionally, we will support individuals who are unfamiliar with the terms and ideas used in this policy by making available more resources (e.g., zines, essays, books, websites and articles) on topics such as: building conflict resolution skills; promoting consent and mental health; dealing with sexual assault, animal abuse and other forms of violence; confronting male/heterosexual/white privilege; and supporting indigenous resistance, decolonization, anti-racist organizing, and border justice.
Toward a Restorative Justice Model:
Every instance of oppressive behavior is unique and thus requires a unique response. Moreover, different types of oppressive behavior demand significantly different reactions (e.g., the strategy for confronting someone who makes an anti-Semitic joke will be different from the strategy for confronting someone who commits a sexual assault). Nevertheless, there are some familiar patterns that often arise when challenging oppression. We believe that anticipating these patterns, avoiding counter-productive reactions and aiming for ideal outcomes will benefit nearly all anti-oppression processes.
(Adapted from the Earth First! Journal’s Anti-Oppression & Safe Space Policy. Thanks!)