I got into an argument with a sexist troll on campus yesterday; this was the first time in months that I felt passionate and certain about my feminism. For months I have been disillusioned by the hurt and pain that I have seen being caused in feminist spaces and it made me question my dedication to feminism.
Lately Feminist Safe spaces have done more to induce my anxiety than provide safety. The conversation yesterday reminded me about feminism is still extremely important and worth saving, however Feminist spaces should make me want to be a feminist not sexist trolls.
I am extremely socially awkward and anxious, online spaces have provided me with safety over the last couple of years. Even though I am becoming more and more disillusioned with online spaces because of how futile and harmful they have often proven to be, I still have hope.
Saving these spaces starts with more people being reflective about the spaces that we create so that we are not replicating the oppressive structures that are so familiar to us.
Most of my engagements in feminist spaces have been in online spaces like Facebook groups and twitter, lately this is where I have seen the most disregards for how we talk to each other. We say words are violent when uttered against us but refuse to admit that our words can also be violent. Too often I see power dynamic in Black radical feminist spaces emulating the toxic power in hyper-masculine environments.
Everyone is defensive and no one listens, this is understandable. These spaces are our public sphere, when someone disagrees with you in public it is only natural to want to defend yourself since everyone is watching and you do not want to be the one who is seen as wrong. It is human nature to go into defense mode in this situation and once we are defensive we often stop listening to what others are saying since our safety is now a priority and we feel threatened. This is why so many online engagements only result in hurt. We need to decide if some conversations should happen via direct messaging (DM) instead of walls and comment sections of public posts, especially when talking to each other.
I don’t know if it is possible to create something that we have never seen; when all we know is oppression and pain I can’t really even begin to imagine how we can create something outside of that. It is easy to get focused on our own pain and hurt and in the process forget to acknowledge that others are also hurting. We have become complicit and Violent towards our friends our engagements in these spaces. We really need to be reflective about how we treat each other as people who continue to experience oppression.
Lately I have been afraid of showing any sort of dissent because of the fear of not wanting to be alienated not by the oppressor but by friends. We really need to examine how we engage with our friends/comrades/fellow activists. We need to ensure that we are not to exerting t violence on those very bodies that we claim to care about. We are treating each other as collateral in our wars with patriarchs and white supremacist.
I can understand why the need to exert power is so important, especially when we often feel powerless and unheard in social movements and privileged people are always protected when they mess up. However we need to distinguish between how we treat oppressors and how treat friends. We cannot expect feminism to survive if we continue to hurt and alienate each other within the movement. We need to ensure that our safe spaces are actually safe and not just called that by name.