A term I actually dislike profoundly. As I read Jack Halberstam’s two blog posts on the subject, bad memories from the 80s and early 90s surface. Writing to Spare Rib (in the only thing they ever published of mine) to note that the supposed anti-censorship faction of the ‘sex wars’ debates were spending a great deal of verbiage and scorn telling those who disagreed with them to shut the fuck up. I was sick of it. the one sided contemptuous monologues and exhortations. The arrogance of silencing others because you think their words are ugly stupid barbs but yours are benign, or the truth, or not, in any case, accountable. But words matter. And in so many respects, are matter. And everybody gets to have their say in a conversation.
So I use the term here, though that wasn’t my intent when I opened my laptop to write. It is because I have a headache. I have for several days. I think it is a sinus headache or a stress headache. But what do I know. It could be much worse. So a warning. What is coming will be traumatic. You won’t want to engage. You’d rather be reading something else. Protect your sensibilities.
From my current vantage point, i have no patience for the trigger theory. A mechanistic absurdity. A pathetic whine. I also want to say, grow up, your desire for safety doesn’t trump others lives who don’t have that. Your pain is not the only pain. Your desire to be cushioned against ideas, knowledge, hard questions — why don’t you think about how selfish that can be, how against the spirit of democracy, how undermining of any meaningful education.
So here is a trigger warning for you who feel that way. I have ugly and unpleasant thoughts today about your claims. I don’t really care, today, about your safe space as against people like me. You might want to switch this off. Protect yourself. Some devastations can’t be pretended away, unless you turn your head forcefully. Lock yourself away, but do so by imprisoning others. What if your space was achieved by switching off and marginalising the lives of others.
Trigger warning. I am angry today. Because i woke up at 4am like I do every night, choking. I was dreaming something I don’t remember. Then choking and aspirating my own saliva. Now I’m sat on this air cushion that feels like concrete against my bones, feeling exhausted. Pain in my hands, which are degenerating further and at pace. Pain all over. All the time. I’m angry. I’m aggrieved. Find somebody I can sue for safe space why don’t you.
Yes, I am addressing a straw ‘you’ here. i don’t care.
[from letter to R]
Glad you’re working out best visit dates with G. Will be good to see you and J.
The driving out of conversation in the wake of factionalism is disturbing, though I think probably ascribes to all social movements and many kinds of social interactional relashionship. I noted this in my blog about the question, but reading JH’s two pieces on trigger warnings recalled a number of quite unpleasant memories for me from the late 80s and early 90s during the infertility debates and the so called ‘sex war’ debates. A lot of obtuse nastiness and decisive resistance to listening and dealing with views people didn’t like. It was alienating and depressing. I have some of the same resistances myself of course. I feel disquieted and alienated by the language of cis as it seems to negate everything I fought against VIS a VIS gender politics my whole life, this resolution into an unpleasant binary that makes no sense to me at all. I feel frustrated at the idea that talking about female reproductive organs is intrinsically ‘trans phobic’. And the whole TERF wars thing seems as straw as it gets to me. Both seem worse than absurd to me. Like talking about ambulatory bodies is intrinsically a repudiation of bodies like mine. That makes no sense to me either. At times I encounter such positions, I feel just as resistant. I feel that about trump voters. I know they have their reasons and are not an undifferentiated mass. But I am not sure I care. So I don’t mean to impugn this impulse in others when I have that in me as well.
In my best moments, I believe in conversation. But it’s hard to keep to that sometimes, isn’t it. And so, my own stridencies emerge too.
Anyway, you make a number of compelling points…
[from an email I wrote conversation with J]
…It’s true what you say about how anger gets mis-placed onto what is convenient and available. I don’t have a lot of patience for it. And I suspect having longer memories of internecine conflicts and gratuitous nastiness from earlier moments of activism makes me more inclined to frustration with the whole safe space appropriation. Safe space was supposed to create an opening for speech otherwise marginalised or proscribed, not to protect us from thought and critique and self reflexivity…