Safer spaces?

On libcom, Ramona has written an interesting blog entry on ‘Safer spaces, false allegations, and the NYC Anarchist Bookfair’. It concentrates on addressing what she argues is the mistaken fear that the implementation of somesuch policy lends itself to abuse; in the case of the Bookfair, this includes the private dissemination of email (on behalf of the Bookfair’s ‘Safe(r) Space Group’) asking the nominated person not to attend. The alleged problem is that: “By providing anonymity to the person who requested the recipient be asked not to attend the bookfair, this letter paves the way for abuses of power and a slew of false allegations”. As for the policy itself, while problematic in some respects, it reads (to me) like a fairly sensible one on the whole. Somewhat oddly, however, it makes no reference to the issuing of the letters that Ramona writes of and which is also the subject of disco elsewhere on libcom (and no doubt numerous other cyber spaces).

As far as I’m aware, formal policies regarding the creation and maintenance of ‘safe(r) spaces’ at radical events and institutions evolved only in the last decade or two, largely, it seems, in response to feminist or feminist-derived concerns at the fact that men in radical milieus, like those outside of them, also commit rape and sexual assault, and that this and other forms of ‘anti-social’ or discriminatory behaviour (lawful or not) required action. As I see it, the real concern here is not the possibility of false allegations being made by participants in such events or projects, but the use of such structures by elements hostile to radical organising full stop. How this concern can be addressed I’m not sure. That aside, an effective policy requires effective policing: nominated individuals can be un-invited, certainly, but there’s no guarantee that they won’t rock up anyway. There are also some technical issues embodied in the letter, and it raises all-sorts in terms of invested authority…

Blah blah blah.

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2024 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
This entry was posted in Anarchism, Broken Windows, Sex & Sexuality, State / Politics, That's Capitalism! and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Safer spaces?

  1. Liz says:

    But really @ndy, the most interesting thing about the “Kafkaesque” thread is an insight into the roaming pack of awful misogynist fucks that frequently inhabit libcom discussion on gender. Not all libcommers, obviously, but each and every discussion of gender stuff I have read on there is just awful and it is awful because of a core group of anarcho-boys whose every word pretty much justifies any response on behalf of any woman in their vicinity, including direct physical violence if it was possible. But of course what is actually being discussed is a group of women very politely asking a guy not to attend an event. “But where will it stop?!” shriek the men. “The women are OUT OF CONTROL!”

    Of course, libcom is just like the rest of the left in that sense – any concern with “false reporting” is really just cover for the sneaking suspicion amongst men in the left that they probably have done shit to women that they don’t believe to be right but don’t actually have a desire to change because to concede the need to do so would be a distraction from a concept of “class struggle” hegemonic on the left which actively perpetuates the idea that we should wait until after the revolution to take action against, just as one example, gendered violence and sexual assault in our little lefty milieus. It’s identity politics to talk about the things that divide us, such as the propensity of women to die at the hands of their lovers, partners, male family members.

    Those who I have seen attempt safer spaces policies in lefty circles here and those who have attempted to prevent rapists from sharing lefty spaces with those they have assaulted are of course confronted with the problem of the guy who can’t accept that what he did was non-consensual. That is where I would suggest getting more forthright than politely asking people to leave – we should violently and aggressively ask them to leave and maybe be a little more unreasonable than that (dark alleys, crowbars etc, depending on the circumstances, by which I mean some exceptions could possibly be envisaged, but they are pretty theoretical and difficult to render real, kind of like those false allegations). Perpetrators and predators are a much bigger problem than false allegations or perceived power structures made up of lovely guys and gals generally just trying to support rape victims. Invested authority my arse.

    Commie love,


  2. @ndy says:

    Um, OK: I don’t read or participate much in disco on libcom outside of ‘Oceania’ (and even then only rarely), so this would be one of the few threads I’ve paid any real attn to. (In my limited experience, like most online forums, it’s mostly dross, whatever the subject, interspersed w occasional enlightening/reflective/thoughtful commentary.) Re stuff in lefty circles here, I recall one event at which a person was apparently informed not to attend and afaik didn’t. It raised some issues at the time but I dunno if it’s worth discussing here. It was slightly different to the case in NY in the sense that it wasn’t the grp hosting the event that made the decision to exclude. It’s this and other issues I’m referring to when I use the term ‘invested authority’: I chose not to elaborate ’cause I wasn’t convinced it was worth bothering but I’m happy to if you think it would be useful.

  3. Liz says:

    Agreed re: most stuff on libcom. Though I have bothered with a fair few of the gender-related threads and they are spectacularly bad and seem to involve the same crew of anarcho-boys perpetuating something of more significance than just individually being arseholes. It’s not just dross, in other words, but a reflection of a fundamental desire to disappear gender from a discussion of class struggle, to treat it as division. Even with the better people, that desire to disappear whatever the particular controversy is under the mantle of class unity is overwhelming, whether that be by saying that rape happens everywhere not just in anarcho world or that we have to deal with these issues in a way that avoids publicly airing “division”.

    Not sure if discussing that particular event is useful, but was interested in what you meant by invested authority. I really think the issue of this fear of “false reporting” is more worth interrogating though, as I think it points to an investment in forms of class struggle defined through an obsession with unity that manifests as a policing of anything “divisive”- ladies are good at being divisive cos we whinge about unpaid labour, sexual violence and stuff. Additionally, these “issues” (women) are treated as such, illustrations or manifestations of how bad capitalism is as and why we should smash it by all holding hands and marching towards the glorious future, which requires not talking about things that might stop us “building” such a “movement”. That is why I think it is actually worth talking about what it means for women to confront their position as women within the left as within anywhere else, rather than dismissing attempts by women to engage with comrades on this stuff as lefty groups being cultish. More than this, I think identifying what motivates this apparent fear of false reporting is important, as I think it is about something broader than individual anarcho-boys not wanting to be called out for bad behaviour.

    The exciting thing about the gender dynamic/distinction thread running through all of Theorie Communiste’s recent stuff is an engagement with gender that is substantial, that is concerned with understanding a dynamic as opposed to instrumentalising gender discussions as a way to actually shut down the activity of women against their position as women – which is how I would characterise most of the left’s gender politics and gender discussion. Discussing gender to make it invisible.

    In their pamphlet “Comrades, but women”, TC describe pretty well how women’s organising within struggles is always characterised as weakness, division, deviation:

    We don’t know what kind of role or place the groups of women could obtain at the heart of these struggles, but a critique which views their appearance to be a simple sign of recoil and of the division of the movement, just like “nationality” would be understood, is nothing but an echo of the classical programmatic idea.

    We deduce, therefore, that within the gender relation and the situation of women, there is something which objects to the class struggle and which has a very concrete effect: when women fight, whether in the private or public sphere, when they attack the very existence of those spheres which is constituted by their separation into public and private, they must confront their male comrades, insofar as they are men and insofar as they are their comrades. And they (the women) are the men’s comrades, but women.

    Finally, once we have taken all this in, the importance of specifying the particular dynamic of the gender relation is that we will then be able to think how and why the future ex-women – who alone pose by their acts the necessity of the abolition of gender, because of their place in the contradictory relation man/woman – will have to confront the future ex-men in the course of the revolution in order to overcome this division.

    For all that I have said otherwise, I would actually prefer not to confront the future ex-men with a crow bar in a dark alley. I would prefer to overcome the divisions in a real sense. I like the TC crew because they attempt to understand the gender dynamic as a dynamic, not as a settled fact, a by product a badness of capital that is not the main issue. But also cos they say stuff like this:

    The struggles of women (comrades but women) are neither useful nor useless “for the class struggle” — they exist, whether or not they are taken into consideration, and they had better be taken into consideration. It will then depend on their particular historical aggregation to know if their antagonistic entanglement is for each one the sign of the impossibility of its overcoming (programmatism) or the possibility of their common overcoming (i.e. communization).

    Commie love,


  4. @ndy says:


    A few things.

    As a general rule, I think the following is germane:

    “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.”

    In other words: you may well be right in your characterisation of the disco on libcom inre gender and gender-related matters (ie, they reflect “a fundamental desire to disappear gender from a discussion of class struggle, to treat it as division”), but as an anarcho-boy, I don’t think I can do much about it really. What I can do, I think, is simply try and articulate my own view, and attempt to address the response to it in an appropriate manner. In which context: I think there is a sense in which this notion of ‘division’ is correct; I also think this is not necessarily a Bad thing. That is, if the distinction is valid, it should rightly be addressed. How to do this depends partly upon the level of abstraction in which this distinction (and its political consequences) is expressed. So, I’d suggest that the text by TC which you quote does so in a fairly abstract manner; the Bookfair letter far less so.

    With regards the notion of ‘class unity’, a commitment to somesuch notion needn’t mean the disappearance of gender, especially if it proceeds from a prior recognition of the specificity of working class experience, struggle, and so on. Further, ‘class’ has its limitations insofar as analytical validity or utility is concerned, and this fact too does not necessarily imply what some might believe it does.

    With regards Fear of a False Reporting Planet, yeah, maybe: I dunno. I don’t really wanna haveta trawl through the thread in question to arrive at any more substantive conclusion, but (as you’ve presented it) it seems as though there’s at least two dimensions to the question. One is political, the other psychological. As in other contexts, the political or manifest content and its latent (psychological) basis.

    Finally, I’m not exactly sure what you mean by the apparent attempt to “dismiss attempts by women to engage with comrades on this stuff as lefty groups being cultish”.

    On TC, laters.

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