The Border House Podcast – Episode 6: Safe Spaces

Figures in the colors of the rainbow hold hands.

Figures in the colors of the rainbow hold hands.


At long last, the latest episode of The Border House Podcast! We’re changing up the format to be a monthly release and hopefully tackle more serious and current topics to make each especially worth it. Anna and Kim join me to talk about safe spaces and moderating ideologies, and I think we covered some ground on the topic. Be sure to comment with questions, comments, and suggestions!

About Mattie Brice

Mattie Brice is a game critic, designer, social justice activist, and student at San Francisco State University. She focuses her writing on diversity initiatives in the video game community, often bringing in the perspective of marginalized voices like transgender and multi-racial women to publications like Paste, Kotaku, The Border House, and Pop Matters. Mattie also consults and speaks at gaming related conferences like the Game Developers Conference and IndieCade. Her studies have led her to explore narrative design and plans to push the borders of how we think of the medium. Tweets at @xMattieBrice.
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3 Responses to The Border House Podcast – Episode 6: Safe Spaces

  1. idvo says:

    [Whoa, this comment got longer than I thought it would…]

    I’m very grateful for this blog. Even if it’s impossible to have a completely safe space at all times, it’s at least A LOT safer than most of the gaming blogs/news sites out there. I think part of that is because there’s a supportive community here, so that even if someone’s problematic comments slip through, there are people here who will call them out and there will be a discussion as to why they’re problematic.

    I’m part of other communities that have similar (and sometimes stricter) comment policies, and while offensive and problematic comments do get posted, they are always addressed. There’s also a big emphasis on trigger warnings and the like. I’ve learned a lot not only from making my own mistakes, but from watching others make mistakes. I think that’s the key to having a safe space (or at least a safer space); even though it’s nigh-impossible to prevent any and all problematic things from happening, it’s extremely helpful that there’s a support network in place to minimize the damage when something does happen. Also, there are plenty of lurkers who may never comment, but might learn a thing or two and take that with them to other places.

    I’ve noticed a big shift in the way problematic language is dealt with on more mainstream gaming forums and blogs over the past few years, as well. Even though there’s still a lot of hostility out there, people seem to be more aware of problematic comments and address them when they come up. For example, RPS is one site where I’ve seen this happen, and even though it’s not as in depth as it would be here, people are often called out for being jerks, both by moderators and other community members.

    Your discussion on how people may be more aware of their own prejudices if they’ve faced discrimination themselves reminded me of my feelings on the whole The Internet vs. SOPA matter. I can’t help but wonder if SOPA/PIPA/etc., were some people’s first experience with the US government threatening to take something away from them. When I saw a lot of straight, cis, white men vehemently denounce SOPA as an attack on people’s rights and rally for people to stand against it, I wondered, “Where are you when my rights are being threatened? Or do you only care about what directly impacts you?” I don’t want to hold that attitude, I don’t want to become all bitter and jaded, but it’s overwhelming to be expected to fight against something like SOPA, only to be left alone when an organization like, say, Personhood USA starts spewing out its nonsense. Where are all the allies? I can only hope that more people will be aware of civil rights issues and be willing to support others now that they’ve felt what it’s like to be a target, themselves.

    I think safe spaces are a great place for allies to really start getting into the habit of learning when to be quiet and listen, and when to stand up for other people. Just by lurking and observing discussions I’ve learned so much, and I’m glad that I did. I’ve become better at just being a decent person, and I’m becoming more comfortable with addressing my own and other people’s problematic behavior. Safe spaces are great for this kind of education. Not only do they provide a place for people to go and get away from more hostile environments, they offer a chance for people to learn about and discuss certain issues without having to wade through seas of vile comments. It’s the community support that makes safe spaces vital.

    Thanks for discussing this issue, and I’m looking forward to future podcasts!

    • idvo says:

      Just to clarify: I’m very anti-SOPA/anti-internet censorship and was more than willing to speak out and fight it. I’m just bummed that it seems so many people don’t think they need to challenge something that hurts groups they don’t belong to, because that thing may not directly affect them. I hope that makes more sense.

  2. LucyZephyr says:

    Good discussion, though the intro/outro music still hurts mah ears. 8(

    But, yeah, I’m unequivocally for safe spaces. I know I definitely need them, as a feminist, a lesbian, and someone with a history of abuse especially. There are times I just get so. damn. tired of being outraged and told I’m “too sensitive,” it’s almost worse than the original outrage.

    For example, I’ve been spending time on Reddit even though I really shouldn’t. But, dammit, I like looking at what people make at /r/minecraft and having discussions of combat tactics in Mass Effect. But it is so very much not a safe space, even the subreddits that I think should be safe spaces (/r/girlgamers especially. do *not* go there expecting a safe space, guys, just don’t).

    It’s weird to me because I’m part of Tumblr and fanfic-oriented fandom, and I’ve grown up in that space, where we do sometimes have angry, hateful language, but more often than not it’s fairly close to a safe space for me. The moment I step out of that zone, it’s like being bombarded with hateful, problematic, insensitive crap.

    I get the argument that minority gamers shouldn’t sequester themselves in their own space, that visibility is important to acceptance… but I have friends with triggers who aren’t willing to do that. And I don’t like the implication that it’s their job to come out of their comfort zone to educate others. And that is definitely the sense I get sometimes.

    I have no idea where I’m going with this. The podcast just made me think a lot.

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