I’ve recently blogged about the emotional necessity of exclusive space for marginalized communities. Now, I want to take up that thread again and talk about why and how the need for exclusive space is not the same for people with power and privilege.
(For the tl;dr version, you can check out this Twitter thread.)
I recently came across this tweet from Trump and Majestic Marisol’s pithy response:
And I got to thinking about all the times that folks full of power and privilege have bemoaned the few safe spaces reserved for people lacking in that power and privilege. It’s almost a guarantee that the minute an LGBTQ person calls for safe space away from heteronormativity or a disabled person calls for safe space away from ableism, etc., someone from the privileged group is going to cry foul. You know, “reverse discrimination” and other mythical phenomena like that.
It always comes down to the same silly question: Why is it you can have this space without me and I can’t have space without you? Aren’t you just being racist, heterophobic, disable-ist, sexist, etc.?
The answer to this question is, of course, no.
As I mentioned in my last post on exclusive spaces, those spaces for marginalized communities is a matter of survival. It’s about physical, emotional, and mental safety. It’s about having a place to be, without fear of reprisal that could result in lasting harm. It’s about coping with a world that begrudges your right to be alive.
That is not the case for people with power and privilege when they set up their exclusive spaces.For those with power and privilege, these spaces are about far more than survival. They are about ruling.
When the Trumps of the world gather in exclusivity, when they pool all that power and privilege into one exclusive space, they end up with real, quantifiable and qualifiable advantage over everyone else in society.
EXCLUSIVE SPACE + POWER/PRIVILEGE = EXCLUSIVE ADVANTAGE
Exclusive space for whites, men, the cisgendered, the heterosexual, the able-bodied, etc. results in sites of power where decisions are made and business conducted that reach far beyond the location of that space. Stuff goes down in those exclusive spaces that affect all of us: business deals finalized, societies reformed, political alliances cemented. The problem with the KKK or all-white, all-male country clubs, or anything else like it, is not that those sites are exclusive. The problem isn’t even necessarily that those spaces are bigoted or rooted in hate. The problem is that those spaces are exclusive, bigoted, and exist as sites of power over the entirety of society. Long-lasting and far-reaching societal actions begin and end in those exclusive sites of power.
That kind of power and privilege simply does not exist in exclusive spaces for the marginalized. So to make the comparison between white-only spaces and POC-only spaces, between cis-only spaces and trans-only spaces, between middle- and upper-class-only spaces and poor-only spaces is to make a false comparison.
When it comes to exclusive spaces, context is everything.