As WisCon 42 draws closer, the Concom chairs and Anti-Abuse Team (AAT) would like to reaffirm WisCon’s stance on safer spaces. In short, WisCon supports its safer spaces and our members who use them and will not tolerate any attempt to compromise those spaces.
Why safer spaces?
A truly “safe” space is neither possible, nor is it desirable: even among marginalized people, there is a risk for harm, and what makes one person feel safe may make another person feel unsafe. A safer space acknowledges that the space is by its nature imperfect and constructed while still allowing it to exist as a welcoming place.
The intent of a safer space, then, is not to censor or restrict, but instead to offer marginalized people a supportive place to express themselves among others who share similar experiences. Marginalized people often face outside pressure to conform to a certain persona or expectation from a dominant group—to hold their tongues, to shrink, to take up less space. The day-to-day toll of being marginalized wears people down, and incidents that replicate oppressive power structures can arise even in a more self-aware space like WisCon. Thus, safer spaces offer a place for marginalized people to decompress and socialize away from the gaze of those with power and privilege over them. These safer spaces include rooms designated by WisCon to be safer spaces, such as the Trans/Nonbinary/Genderqueer Safer Space, as well as unofficial, WisCon-adjacent events, such as the POC Dinner.
Safer spaces and WisCon’s feminist/social justice legacy
Any space that purports to be feminist and social justice-oriented must acknowledge the multifaceted nature of people’s experiences and identities: that people of color, trans/nonbinary/genderqueer people, and disabled people, among others, deal with different forms of structural oppression than white, cis, and abled people. Creating a more just society requires that we work to dismantle these forms of oppression. Safer spaces are one way for WisCon to uphold that legacy of working toward equality and accessibility for all people.
Repercussions for attempts to compromise WisCon’s safer spaces
WisCon’s Code of Conduct provides an outline of WisCon’s definition of harassment and the process for reporting an incident. The Safety team enforces the Code of Conduct strictly with regards to safer spaces: any harassment toward people who use or are in these safer spaces, as well as general attempts to compromise these spaces, will be dealt with swiftly and appropriately. These safer spaces are not an incidental part of WisCon but a core piece of its philosophy and practices that will be upheld to the fullest extent possible.
Please be aware that questions about the need for or effectiveness of safer spaces during WisCon should be directed to the Chairs, and not to users of those spaces, or any other WisCon member. WisCon’s membership are not asked or assumed to defend ConCom or SF3 practices on demand. Attempting to argue the merits of safer spaces with a member of a marginalized group will be considered harassing behavior.
Many WisCon attendees who travel from elsewhere in the world, as well as elsewhere in the US, are coming to the midwest, to Madison—a place that they know may be unfriendly or even physically dangerous for them—in order to experience a convention that they believe is worth it. In return, WisCon will do what it can, as individuals and as a community, to make this place, for this weekend, as friendly and safe as possible. That includes giving folks a place where they can relax, catch their breath, and draw strength from each other. A place that they don’t need to defend, as WisCon will do so for them.
The WisCon Chairs and Anti-Abuse Team