User:Battleofalma/What did I do wrong

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“What did I do wrong?”: The challenges of a safe space policy.[edit]

Safe space policies or the Friendly space policies are important to our movement, but can make some people feel judged or persecuted. I think this can be addressed by thinking about how we personally interact with, enforce and understand them.

Personally, I’ve made mistakes at an event before, with a joke after a few drinks not landing and me being totally unaware that I had upset someone as a result until a third party let me know, I apologised, the apology was accepted, everything is OK now and I know the person better as a result.

We all make mistakes, but if we are aware of them we can make amends and learn. Some key things I think are important when thinking about these things are:

  • An FSP is a commitment to inclusivity, not just safety. We should approach it proactively. An FSP should not be seen as law, where you are either “law abiding” or “a criminal”, but something we all interact with. All participants should be encouraging a friendly space, with positive actions such as making introductions or making an effort to meet first time attendees, as well as not being afraid to address actions or language they feel is inappropriate.
  • The enforcement of an FSP has priorities, not one single goal.
Priority 1. The very real, physical and mental safety of participants.
Priority 2. The comfort and the ability to participate in the event.
Priority 3. That those infringing on the FSP understand why and are not unnecessarily stigmatised for it.
Discretion in its enforcement is important, and room for redemption too, but not as important as safety.
  • Priorities for inclusivity can conflict with each other, but don't need to be pitted against each other. Allowances are made for many groups of people to make events more open. But reciprocal behaviour is required by almost everyone.
As an example, an FSP would not tolerate attacks on one’s religion and an inclusive event accommodates those with particular religious requirements to attend. Conversely, if one’s expressed religious beliefs were excluding or negatively affecting another person's sexuality, this would also be infringement of the FSP.
Another example, allowances should be made for neurodivergent attendees. The neurotypical shouldn’t constantly seek eye contact, assume we can hug or touch everyone or assume something like clapping is a good thing for all attendees. But if someone is possibly less able to read social cues, misunderstandings are more likely to occur, and if someone is made uncomfortable by someone else, we also need to take that seriously.
These are some examples and they can all be flipped the other way, but show that inclusivity involves compromises from everyone and an awareness that sometimes “this might not be the place to share this particular view”.
  • The focus should on whether someone has been made to feel excluded or uncomfortable, not on whether the offending behaviour was objectively reasonable or unreasonable. We can all upset people and not know why. But in most cases it's less important to determine whether you were wrong than try to remedy the situation. Most people don't deliberately offend or upset, and so often are defensive of their actions then they do offend or upset.
  • We should have high standards of behaviour, but also forgive failures to meet these standards. None of us are socialised to perfectly interact with everyone, and when social, cultural, and language differences are present it’s easy to offend without even realising it. If we are open about what upsets people and what doesn’t, we get to places of compromise and acceptance much quicker. Naturally there are things that are gross misconduct, are unlawful, and are not forgivable. But these are not the majority of incidents.
  • Personal relationships and friendships can change everything. Naturally, we develop friendships, break down barriers, and familiarity and trust mean that the FSP tends to go out the window if we are with a certain group of people we know well. This is a great thing when it happens, but we should always remember that different standards apply generally. The FSP can actually help develop friendships by building respectful relationships with fewer power dynamics from the outside world.