response to ‘for your safety and security’ by anonymousrefused

I wrote this without a view to publishing it anywhere, and, in the past week or so, hoped to get feedback and encouragement from the author of ‘For Your Safety and Security’ before I potentially did; but in the end I’ve decided to post this here without knowing what the response might be, and to simply hope that the dialogue continues.

‘For your Safety & Security’ is a new piece about not-so-new strife, platformed by Plan C. It heavily identifies safer spaces politics with ‘civility’ and ‘securitization’. Having participated in the workshop and read the piece, I disagree—respectfully—with this aspect of this particular partial repudiation, but what follows is not an attempted takedown of ‘For Your Safety & Security’. Actually, I think that what’s potentially dangerous about FYS&S is that it contains more than one argument. It contains, simultaneously, a feminist and constructive engagement with challenges facing current feminist praxis, sincerely aiming to strengthen that praxis, and also at the same time a great deal of rhetoric or imagery that in effect alleges an oppressive motivation (purging, scapegoating, and tumour excision…) and a bad-faith motivation inherent in accountability processes per se, not just the accountability processes that have been recently initiated. The possible slippage this enables between ‘this is what safer spaces politics must take care to avoid falling into’ and ‘this is what safer spaces politics simplys is’ runs the risk of playing into forces of anti-feminist reaction, on account of the absence of any disclaimer to the effect ‘scapegoating is a travesty of the logic at the heart of the necessary utopian struggle for safer spaces’. So, I’ve been motivated to try and write a genuinely comradely critique, together with an attempt to respond to the stated invitation in FYS&S for an open and less fearful discussion. My constant disclaimer is that I am someone very far from the London-based events that most directly inform the author’s experience of safer spaces politics.

The workshop (bearing the same title) that was given at the Plan C festival Fast Forward in September 2014 was kicked off with a version of the piece and developed into a fruitful discussion. I find the stand-alone blog to have a far less plurivalent, far more straightforwardly anti-safer-spaces effect than the workshop presentation had. Reading the published piece, I still recognise that ‘Anonymous Refused’ offers sincere and thoughtful reflections on shortcomings in our development of revolutionary alternatives to state-issue justice. There is something very rich about its eloquent description of the ‘scarred’ subjective terrain we inhabit. In disputing the claims and conclusions that are extrapolated, the following discussion points will hopefully also contribute to moving past the deadening and “righteous” sides-taking phenomenon, which the piece evokes as so all-encompassing of all speech about safer spaces.

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