on Safety: versions 1, 2 and 3

A couple of months ago, I posted an entry—”on privilege“— in which I put together a number of different sources, including some online class summaries.That post was the first in a series of entries in which I take material developed for my 20 classes that I taught at the U of Minnesota and organize it into larger themes. This series is an experiment; I’m not sure what I will ultimately do with all of these themes. A series of podcasts? An iBook? Who knows. For now, I’m just interested in archiving as much as I can in one central location: my blog.

For this entry, I want to focus on Safety. In the following three examples, I offer up 3 different versions of “on safety” (see my other post for another experiment with three versions). Each of these versions draws from similar theoretical and practical approaches, but offers up a slightly different approach to what safety is, who gets to claim it, and how it functions differently in different contexts and for different folks. In putting these three different approaches beside each other, I hope to trouble any easy, uncomplicated, “common sense” understandings of safety.

ONE: Safety on social media and in the classroom
from: feminist pedagogies: fall 2010 class summary
theme: Feminist Pedagogy and Facebook: Vulnerability, Privacy, Community
1. Beckenham, Annabel. “Face off online: Pedagogy and engagement in social network sites”
2. Schwartz, Harriet. “Facebook: The New Classroom Commons?
3. WMST-L. “Using Facebook in the Classroom”
4. Boyd, Dana. “MySpace and Facebook: How Racist Language Shapes Social Media (and Why You Should Care”
5. Kishimoto, Kyoto and Mumbi Mwangi. “Critiquing the Rhetoric of “Safety” in Feminist Pedagogy: Women of Color Offering an Account of Ourselves
6. Fisher, Berenice Malka. “Chapter 5: Dangerous Curves: Safety and Self-Disclosure

As instructors, how much access (to our personal lives, to our time) should we give our students? How is this question complicated when we become facebook friends with our students?

How do we negotiate our various selves/roles/identities on facebook? Can it be productive to make our “personal/private” selves visible for those who normally only encounter our “professional/public” selves? What are the benefits of this visibility? The drawbacks?

Does this visibility enable us to be vulnerable to/in the midst of others in potentially productive ways? What are the limits/dangers of this vulnerability?

How do public and private function in a feminist classroom? On facebook? (How) do these spaces complicate and demand a rethinking of the public/private distinction?

What is privacy? Check out this trailer for a longer video on “Choose privacy week

Choose Privacy Week Trailer from 20K Films on Vimeo.

Should/can a feminist classroom be a safe space? Is facebook a safe space?
safety: (from Fisher, 140):

Honest participation in feminist discourse meant bringing as much of yourself as you could to such discussions, drawing on experiences, feelings, and ideas that might promote liberating actions (Fisher, 141).

Is trust important to feeling safe? Or in engaging even when one doesn’t feel safe? Does facebook make us more/less trustworthy?

key words:
“differential vulnerabilities” (Fisher, 150)

Kishimoto and Mwangi:

However, just like Munro, we ‘seek simultaneously to create and disrupt notions of the subject’ (1) and thereby create fluid spaces in which to articulate and make sense of our positionalities in different contextual landscapes (90).

Does facebook allow for these types of negotiations? Is it a fluid space where we can make sense of our various positionalities?

On self-disclosure
Mwangi writes:

Self-disclosure is the element of explaining who I am, where I come from and where I am going, as well as my professional background at the beginning of the course. I often feel obligated to do this to establish my presence in the classroom. It is like letting the students know–“hello, I am here! And I have something to offer!!”–Self-disclosure becomes a way of not only authenticating my presence in the classroom but also talking back to myself acknowledges up front that I am in a position of vulnerability and thereby invokes a reminder to myself that I am braced to do what I need to do (92).

On a false sense of safety
Kishimoto writes:

This false sense of safety implied by surveillance is only creating a controlled and predictable environment that does not challenge the hegemonic system, thereby ignoring our subjective positionalities (94).

On the value of being unsettled (troubled?)
Mwangi and Kishimoto write:

To imagine that learning only occurs in a place of “calm” is to miss the ways in which contradictions, ambiguities, anger, pain, and struggles can be sources of energy to facilitate critical consciousness necessary for individual and social change (98).

note: While looking through past notes for this version 1 of safety, I found an article that I might want to skim in the future: Incongruity and Provisional Safety: Thinking Through Humor

TWO: on feeling safe
from: feminist debates fall 2011 Do you Feel Safe Here?
note: This was posted on our course blog as an open thread. While many students posted comments to this thread in expected ways (safety = no physical threats, “feeling” safe from harm while walking around campus), a few were able to expand our conversation to include a wider range of ways of thinking about safety: whose safety? what safety? where? Check out the comments on the original post.

Today, on my way to my office, I took a picture of this sign on the ground between the Washington bridge and the new Science Education building here at the U of Minnesota:


Here are some questions that this sign prompts for me:
Is the U of M a safe space?
Is our classroom a safe space?
What makes a safe space? Is safety possible?
What does it mean to feel safe? What does safe mean beyond physical safety?
Does the question–do you feel safe?–make you curious (a la Enloe’s feminist curiosity)?
What does safe mean?

On page 100 in Hey, Shorty!, they create a list of what safe/safer means:
no tolerance for harassment/bullying–no matter students’ identities
conducive to learning
emotional safe space
less police presence
freedom of self-expression (wear what you want and walk where you want)
addressing violence head on
respect for students’ identities
competent staff
partnerships between youth, parents, teachers, community members

And, on that same page, they offer two suggestions for how to achieve this:
prevention, especially through education
a bill of rights for students (policy)

Yesterday (oct 5) was National Safe Schools Day. Here are some suggestions from Safe Schools Action Network on how to take action.

THREE: on the PIC, protecting borders and SB1070
from: feminist debates: spring 2010
theme: Protection, but at what cost?
1. Gottschalk, Marie. Excerpt from The Prison and the Gallows
2. Meiners, Erica. “Never Innocent
3. Hoffman, Jessica. “On Prisons, Borders, Safety and Privilege

Have you heard about the Arizona Immigration Bill that was signed by Gov. Janice Brewer on Friday, April 23rd? According to the New York Times,

The law would require the police “when practicable” to detain people they reasonably suspected were in the country without authorization. It would also allow the police to charge immigrants with a state crime for not carrying immigration documents. And it allows residents to sue cities if they believe the law is not being enforced.

Brewer contends that the purpose of this bill is to protect the people of Arizona and secure the border:

There is no higher priority than protecting the citizens of Arizona. We cannot sacrifice our safety to the murderous greed of drug cartels. We cannot stand idly by as drop houses, kidnappings and violence compromise our quality of life. We cannot delay while the destruction happening south of our international border creeps its way north.

In her explanation, Brewer claims that this new law will not result in more racial profiling and that she is committed to training officers on how to properly determine when and if to stop individuals and request their identification (this “proper” way, according to her, must not be based on “the color of their skin”). But, many people think that this bill will allow racial profiling (or even encourage it) and are highly critical of the implications and intent of the call for “safety” and “protection.” In responding to Brewer’s above statement,  the Feminist Texican (who wrote this great post on why we should “stop saying ‘illegal'”)  writes:

In a country where “illegal” is a noun that’s synonymous with “Mexican” (Mexican drug cartels, Mexican border violence, border wall along Mexico,brown people swimming across the river from Mexico, etc.), I find it hard to believe that racial profiling rates against Latin@s aren’t going to rise.  I seriously doubt police are going to start asking white people for their papers at even a fraction of the rate they question brown people.

In an article over at the Arizona Republic, a law professor echoes Feminist Texican’s sentiment, claiming

“That is almost inevitably going to be enforced in a racially
discriminatory way, because how are the police going to have a ‘reasonable suspicion’ that you’re here illegally?” said Paul Bender, a professor of law at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and a principal deputy U.S. solicitor general from 1993 to 1997 under President Bill Clinton. “They’re not going to ask every Anglo that they stop for speeding to show their immigration documents. If they did, we wouldn’t have them and we’d all go to jail. They’re
going to ask the people who look Hispanic. Some of them are not going to have them, and they are going to be arrested.”

[Note: Do you carry proof of citizenship around with you–a driver’s license doesn’t count. Addendum: Or does it? I have found conflicting reports and wonder, what proof do you have to give if you are stopped?] American Progress describes four dangerous economic, social and legal consequences of this law: 1. It legalizes racial profiling, 2. It undercuts the constitution and imbues local police with federal authority, 3. It will harm the state and local economy and 4. It is expensive and takes police away from community policing. For even more on this law, check out Stephen Colbert’s humorous (yet critical) take on the issue:

The Word – No Problemo

What are the implications and consequences of this bill from a feminist perspective? What sorts of questions should feminists ask? What should feminist focus their attention on? How can we link this bill, and its consequences, to the issues we have explored all semester? I can imagine connections to all of the issues–reproductive rights/justice, work, family values, sex wars and the PIC. What connections can you make?

In her article for Gender Across Borders, Erin Rickard discusses how racial profiling makes Latin@ communities afraid of the police and less willing to contact them when domestic violence occurs. What are the consequences of this fear of the police for women? American Immigration Council wonders how
much this bill will cost
and if the people of Arizona can afford it. I wonder, what (types of) programs will be cut in order to pay for this bill? Due to the financial crisis, Arizona has already had to cut children’s health insurance. Will women’s health care (particularly reproductive health) be next? Immigration Blogprof wants us to ask, Why are there so many undocumented workers?, which makes me think of our discussion of La Doméstica and prompts me to ask: what rights do/should undocumented workers have and what rights are they denied with this law? Mark B. Evans over at Tuscan Citizen is curious about what counts as “reasonable suspicion” for pulling a driver over and checking their proof of citizenship? Will those outside of Gayle Rubin’s charmed circle be targeted more? Do their “deviant” behaviors arouse suspicion? Prof Sussuro over at like a whisper outlines the effects of a law like this. Here’s one they mention that seems to be speak directly to the issue of family values: “leaving children on the side of the road to fend for themselves when
parents are arrested.”

A discussion of this bill from feminist perspectives fits nicely with our reading today, On Prisons, Borders, Safety, and Privilege. How is safety and protection functioning in this law, and at whose expense? What are the consequences of trying to ensure safety? Whose safety? Here are a few passages from the text that speak to these issues:

Who is made safe by strengthening a violent law-and-order system? And what does strengthening that system have to do with ending violence (3)?

What is your feminism for? If it is not for disruption and redistribution of power across society (i.e., not just for women [or people] like you), it cannot be so ignorant of, exploitative of, and even counter to the prison-abolition and immigrants’ right movements–not only because marginalized women are involved in and affected by those struggles, but because they are where some of the most significant challenges to power are being made (6).

If feminist is about social change, it is about recognizing that safety in this society is a fantasy afforded only by assimilation to power, and the cost of that fake safety is the safety of those who cannot, or will not, access it. If feminism is about social change, it is about radically challenging prisons and borders of all kinds (7).

What if we crafted a collective feminist response to this issue–one that is not so much based on our own opinions but on the readings, discussions, films, issues that we have discussed this entire semester? What would we want to put in that response?

Maybe one place to start this response is with this statement by Critical Resistance and INCITE! Women of Color against Violence:

We seek to build a movement that not only ends violence, but that creates a society based on radical freedom, mutual accountability, and passionate reciprocity. In this society, safety and security will not be premised on violence or the threat of violence; it will be based on a collective commitment to guaranteeing the survival and care of all peoples (226).

Addendum: I just found this overview of more feminist responses to this issue at feministe.
Addendum 2: As I re-post this entry about Jan Brewer and her unjust practices in the name of protecting “safety,” I have to include one of her most recent appearances in the news. Remarkably, yet again, she engages in unjust practices in the name of protecting her own “safety” (well, and trying to sell more copies of her new book).