Michaeline: Thinking About Safe, Inclusive Spaces

Hands from various backgrounds putting together a jigsaw heart

Image via Wikimedia Commons

I’ve been thinking about making safe, inclusive spaces for everyone. I’m still in the theoretical stage, and I’m not sure if it’s even possible (or desirable) to have a space that’s 100 percent comfortable. A good discussion group does need some friction and I believe a little awkwardness is a good thing. But it’s not good when some people feel awkward or unseen repeatedly, while other people feel very comfortable most of the time. There’s got to be a balance, and there’s got to be a moderate road where everyone feels safe and like there can be a friendly resolution to arguments and discussions. Like we could all get pizza* afterwards, despite our differences in outlook and opinion.

First, what is the problem? Racism has been a huge topic in Romancelandia over the past few weeks with the blow-up in the RWA stemming from systemic racism and (I think) money struggles. But it’s not just about race – as romance writers, we’re very aware of the prejudice against and for gender as well. There’s sexuality (LGBT, polyamory, asexual) inclusion or exclusion. There are body issues, such as able-ism and weight-ists. And then there’s a wide range of issues involving the way the brain works, such as depression, bi-polarism, autism and even simpler things such as extroversion and introversion.

One of the things I came to realize over the past few weeks is that most of us want to be known as nice, and “good” girls or boys or people. We want to swim along in society, helping out others, or at least not hurting people, and not getting hurt. “You’re X-ist!” can be a real slam to one’s self-image – maybe not equal to the first slam of “You’re Other!” that the accuser may have originally felt, but still hurtful.

But saying, “this book is a fucking racist mess” is NOT the same as saying “you are a fucking racist mess.”

I know, I know. Book babies feel like children, and casting shade on one’s books can be very hurtful. But, it’s important to both frame things as “this action is X-ist” and also take the criticism as a critique about an action or behavior, and not as a personal judgement on one’s humanity.

Now, of course, if a pattern starts to manifest of X-ist actions and behaviors, people will probably be thinking, “Oh, Mx. X is an X-ist.” And they might be right. So, maybe the first step is Continue reading