Safer Spaces Agreement
for Leeds Radical Herbalism Gathering 2018
Leeds Radical Herbalism Gathering is intended to be a space where we prioritise each others’ safety and harmful behaviour is not tolerated. No space can be completely free from oppression, but we can work towards a safer space by being clear on what’s expected from everyone here and challenging unacceptable behaviour.
In attending LRHG you agree not to use oppressive language or behaviour and to respond with respect if challenged about any of the following:
racism – transphobia – classism – Islamophobia – ableism – fatphobia – homophobia – sexism – violence – harassment
If you break this agreement organisers will talk about this with you. If you continue you may be asked to leave.
Please approach an organiser or workshop leader if you would like help to deal with any situation – or you can report any concerns to us by emailing email@example.com
Unsafe “alternative” spaces
Too often, the world of herbalism and other ‘alternative’ spaces can have the same exclusions and oppressions as mainstream spaces. We hope that the LRHG can make some first steps towards undoing this by being more aware of who has power and who is excluded and trying to reverse these trends. Here are just two ways that oppression in wider society is often brought into ‘radical’ spaces – and some ideas for how we can do better.
This is when a colonizer culture (such as Britain) takes things of social or spiritual importance from a colonized culture (such as India). Cultural appropriation is a big deal because it’s an extension of colonialism: for hundreds of years, western European culture has violently forced cultural assimilation on the people of its colonies – while stigmatising and criminalising Black, minority ethnic and indigenous cultural practices. Everyday cultural appropriation continues this process by stealing from a culture without asking, paying or acknowledging history.
Examples of things which can be considered culturally appropriative and commonly occur in UK ‘alternative spaces’ include white people wearing dreadlocks or bindis, holding sweat lodges and making dream catchers. Many things such as some shamanic practices carried out by white people have been copied without permission from cultures to which they are sacred and and questions should be asked about this.’
Ideas to do better
We don’t wish to target any individuals at the gathering. But we want to raise awareness of cultural appropriation and why it’s harmful, and encourage people to talk about it to start to ‘decolonize’ the world of herbalism.
Read about decolonizing and cultural appropriation. Be mindful of the origins of cultural and spiritual practices you take part in. Research the cultural and spiritual practices that your own ancestors may have done.
Gender essentialism and transphobia
Gender essentialism is the belief that everyone must be either male or female, and each gender has set traits e.g. only women have wombs; men are stronger than women. This contributes to sexism and to transphobia – excluding trans men and women by saying they can’t be ‘real’ men and women. Gender essentialism also impacts nonbinary people who are neither male nor female – as people try to insist that they must be one or the other.
Gender essentialism matters because it’s a popular and harmful framework for understanding gender and it’s rarely challenged, even within many progressive communities. For example a ‘women’s circle’ at a gathering intended to celebrate menstruation – ignoring the fact that some women do not have wombs and some men have periods. This kind of circle excludes trans and nonbinary people.
Ideas to do better
Fighting gender essentialism involves breaking down our own beliefs about gender, and also challenging people who make assumptions about gender. If you want to have a women’s circle, ensure it is inclusive of trans women. If you wish to have a circle to celebrate menstruation – say so, instead of calling it a ‘women’s circle’. Gender comes in many forms. Don’t push your gender expectations onto other people. Ask people’s pronouns and don’t make jokes about this.
All the structural oppressions in society can happen in our ‘radical’ spaces – meaning that people dealing with these things everyday tend to feel unwelcome or unsafe and are pushed out. We all slip up sometimes and none of us are perfect! So in these instances please remember to hold yourself accountable, apologise and learn from these experiences. Let’s all do what we can to ensure LRHG is as safe and as comfortable as possible for everyone.
It is important that we listen to the voices of those who are less privileged than ourselves but we all also have a responsibility to educate ourselves about oppressive structures and the ways in which they affect people’s lives. We cannot expect marginalised people to do the educating. Listed below are some online resources that we’ve found useful:
Really useful article on facilitating safer spaces as a workshop leader.
Loads of articles about cultural appropriation in spiritual and other alternative spaces: Decolonizing Yoga.
http://rachelrice.com/confronting-whiteness Scroll down for the video interviewing herbalist Kirsten Hale
Safer Spaces Agreement for the Trans & Women’s Action Camp that helped us write ours