The organizing committee of g16: We must mobilize better for safe spaces
From the organizing committee of the g16 conference, we would like to thank Jin Haritaworn for their story about, and important reflections on, safety and security in relation to the events at the g16 conference in Linköping by the end of November. Their text, published by Feministiskt perspektiv December 4 (as well as in a version of the text that was read in the closing part of g16), describes a situation in which Jin Haritaworn and others were harassed.
The evening program at the Kårhuset Kollektivet in Linköping was open to the public, and the theme was the threats and hatred people of color in Sweden are faced with. As organizers, we had discussed security issues concerning this evening. Right-wing interests to intervene gender, trans*, queer, crip and other critical meetings and groups are unfortunately nothing new. In relation to the political situation in Sweden, Europe and the world today, it is urgent and absolutely essential that these threats are taken seriously.
A number of preventive security measures were taken for the conference in general, and for the open evening in particular. Unfortunately our concerns were confirmed during the evening when a visitor behaved in a threatening manner, and some conference participants acted to attract attention to the event. This led to the security guards intervening, which resulted in a situation where two of our conference participants were dismissed from the premises. We, the organizers, did neither perceive, nor take action for the situation. This is by all means unacceptable.
We as organizers, the Swedish Secretariat for Gender Research at Gothenburg University and Gender Studies, Linköping University, are in complete agreement with Jin Haritaworn that the situation that occurred points to a great need for a more general discussion about security in feminist spaces, and about what security means: who needs to be protected and from whom is protection needed?
The fact that academia is white, cis-normative, hetero-patriarchal, abelist and middle class- normative has long been questioned by researchers who have pioneered critical perspectives, and this also applies to the field of gender research.
It is time for researchers in the field to take responsibility for, and make visible, our own structures of exclusion, discriminatory practices and racist traditions. What processes and structures exclude people who challenge normative conceptions? How can gender scholars, and groups outside academia, develop gender studies and feminist movements and make spaces in which all voices are heard on equal terms?
At g16, we did not succeed in this, despite aiming for inclusion and accessibility. As the organizing committee we take responsibility for that and will do everything we can to turn the situation into a learning opportunity within academia and beyond.
We see an urgent need to find strategies and methods to be able to jointly offer secure and open spaces to exchange thoughts. Feminist and gender research are of great interest and importance for a wide range of audiences and should be available also the gerenal public. As organizers we will follow up through a continued dialogue with organizations within and outside academia about these matters.
Malena Gustavson, organizing committee g16, The Unit of Gender Studies
Silje Lundgren, organizing committee g16, The Unit of Gender Studies
Maja Lundqvist, organizing committee g16, Swedish Secretariat for Gender Research
Björn Pernrud, organizing committee, g16, The Unit of Gender Studies
Kajsa Widegren, organizing committee g16, Swedish Secretariat for Gender Research