1 Jun 2017

gal-dem’s Bedroom: What’s in a Safe Space? at Where Are We Now?

Kemi Alemoru of gal-dem magazine collective explains ‘safe spaces’ ahead of an afternoon of discussion, music, art, photography and spoken word.

The ethos of the gal-dem team (pictured) and magazine is to carve out spaces for women of colour –a corner of the internet, a page in print or curating an event such as where they feel free to express themselves.

But when we talk about safe spaces – areas, particularly on  university campuses, that are set up to be free from bias, conflict, threat or criticism – the term either inspires an eye roll or even worse, boredom. Safe spaces for a number of reasons have gained a bit of a PR problem over the years.

On campuses, safe spaces have been used for good, creating a forum for open discussion about important and emotive topics for women or minorities. But in order to maintain a safe environment there have been many cases of notable and divisive figures being ‘no platformed’. Or with people with differences in opinions feeling stifled. But you don’t always have to get bogged down in whether ‘no platforming’ is right or wrong, sometimes the focus is on enjoyment and celebration rather than oppression.

Regardless of what you think of the rather PC term, at their essence, safe spaces are environments where people can feel confident that they will not be harassed. That their viewpoints will be listened to. Somewhere where you feel comfortable.

Organisers can’t always guarantee complete safety, or that you will be completely comfortable – there’s no money back guarantee – but the intention is to provide a particular group with a like-minded community.

Many are born out of feeling like a square peg in a round hole in one too many cultural spaces.

Nights that cater to LGBT crowds, societies where the opinions of marginalised people are listened to without being shouted over, communities online or IRL (in real life) that allow people to celebrate each other – these aren’t just valuable they’re important.

gal-dem Bedroom: What’s in a Safe Space? on Friday 2 June at Fruit starts at 3.30pm. It is free to attend and is open to everyone.

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