I am going to be reading some things, so I won’t be able to see myself. So hopefully, maybe someone can talk at me if you need to interrupt me – my name is Sarah and I am first off just going to do a land acknowledgment: I am currently residing in Guelph, which is Attawandaron territory, and so I’m speaking from that physical location. And we will talk about that in a second. I would like to acknowledge the Attawandaron people as the traditional owners and custodians of the land of the Guelph area, and offer respect to our Haudenosaunee, Anishinaabe and Métis neighbours. We honour and respect their ongoing cultural and spiritual connections to this country. We aim to respect cultural heritage, customs and beliefs of all indigenous people. We also recognize the past and current violence that has taken place on indigenous land against indigenous people. We aim in all aspects of our work to be conscious of, sensitive towards, and fight for change regarding these violences.
So I know that folks are all over the world, right now listening, and in lots of different territories, with lots of different treaties that are impacting those areas and lots of unceded people. There’s lots of colonization taking place in different ways in different communities, and so it’s important that we take time when we are talking about speciesism, and when we are talking about patriarchy and misogyny, to think about how those things are playing in our communities and what they look like in different communities.
So my first question to everyone is how are you connected to the land, where you live? And when I say that I mean where you live currently, are you settler, are you indigenous or indigenous to another territory? So take a second to think about that… And when you think about that, it’s important to start doing that research. So looking into what are the treaties that impact that area? Particularly in Turtle Island, we are all treaty people, whether you are a settler or indigenous we are all impacted by them. Learning about this is important. Learning about how the government is currently breaking them is really important, for doing proper solidarity and allyship. Another thing to think about is your connections to the land where you are from or where you were raised. So that’s the same thing, are you a settler, are you indigenous or indigenous to another territory?
And then being more proactive, who in the area that you currently existing in is doing sovereignty? And can you create a list of the groups of those people in your head? And if you can’t, or not a very long list, then that means you need to do some work to research those things and get more information. Another question also is who in your area is doing settler-accountability work? And once again if you can’t think of a list of groups doing that work, it’s really important in this field and in the work of trying to end misogyny. And trying to talk about how misogyny and patriarchy intersect with specieism, these things are deeply inter-connected with conversations of colonization. And as a settler person it’s part of my responsibly to constantly include these conversations and work constantly in solidarity with indigenous communities.
Particularly when we’re talking about violence against women and patriarchy, we can see the impact in particular on indigenous women: there are over 800 missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada, and obviously these things pretty much go unnoticed. These cries are being ignored and so this should be our priority right now. And when we are talking about connecting speciesism and patriarchy, that is where it is really useful to focus our energy. I know there is going to be some really great speakers talking a lot about that later.
So moving on, let’s talk a little bit about trauma because we are going to be talking about really heavy things today. Just a reminder that trauma, violence and pain happens in lots of different kinds of ways, so we really want people to be aware that the potential issues of animal abuse, racism, colonialism, homophobia, sexual violence, and misogyny are going to be discussed today over the course of the day, as well as images that can be depictions of sexual violence, of misogyny, of objectification of women’s bodies or of other folks’ bodies, and that’s really real so be aware of that and be conscious of that.
We encourage folks to trust their own reactions and feelings and do what we all need to take care of ourselves and each other. This could mean taking a break over certain parts of the day, a breather, going for a walk, having some tea or it could mean you can’t finish with the rest of today’s conference. As long as you are aware of what your needs and boundaries are, that is what is most important. Remember that many of us enter social justice work as survivors and that’s really important to the movement that we recognize that self and community care is really valuable. Audre Lorde states that “caring for myself is not self-indulgent, it is self-preservation. It is an act of political warfare”. I think it’s really important to ground our work, particularly these kinds of conversations, in that knowledge. I really believe that the system of oppression thrives on our denial of our needs, particularly related to self and community care.
So I’ve also been asked to talk about boundaries and ground rules, the most exciting things ever. So these are things that I work with when I talk about creating spaces. When we try to intentionally construct spaces it’s kind of a tricky and bizarre thing, because the notion of trying to create “safe space”, where every one is welcome, does not do us any justice. The folks who usually have the privilege of defining these spaces are not the people who are most in need of it, so let’s instead move towards the idea of building accountable spaces. To build better spaces, we need to be more accountable to each other.
So, some of the ways that this can happen, I know that most folks are on mute and that there will be speakers who are super great, but there will be ways that we can interact on the side on little speaker-type things – of course there is a professional word for it – and then mike at some point will be un-muting people to ask questions. There are lots of ways and moments where we can be more accountable to each other during this time for interaction, and for me some of the ways this can happen is by remembering that we all cause and are all survivors of harm. So that means that coming from a place that we are not attacking each other and remembering that people experience causing harm in lots of different kinds of ways. And remembering also that community and accountability is not about policing the actions of others and also remembering this space is for listening and opening up ourselves to new ideas and not about forcing beliefs onto folks.
And one last thing that is really important, particularly for someone who holds a lot of privilege, that when folks give me feedback on offensive behaviour or comments, it’s our responsibility to listen, to really listen, to apologize and to work to change that. So comments are made, and someone calls someone in or calls someone out, to be really present in listening and responding to that. Something else that I think is really important is leaning into our discomfort, that is really hard work but really valuable in this movement. It is how we are going to move forward. I also think that forgiveness is really radical and so grounding ourselves in that, so forgiving other people and forgiving ourselves as well. And something that I think it’s always really important in spaces is to think about your privilege and how much space you take up, in life and in particular in these conversations and maybe speak up and – I forgot the term for it – but basically be aware that if you typically take up a lot of space maybe spend more time listening this time.
Another thing that is really great is to listen to what you need and if it’s relevant, to ask for it. I think this is not a comprehensive list but somewhere to start. Folks are obviously welcome to use any of those in the future and if you have more things you would like to add in, you can type in a little thing on the side and we can take that into the conversation. Are there other ground rules you would like to see people, or other suggestions? Obviously we are really open to that.
And the final one that I find really, really important, and think we don’t talk about enough in certain communities, is that we live in a police state and the criminalization of dissent is a very real thing. Basically I am saying don’t indict yourself. The things you are saying here are being recorded by people who are really loving and full of care, but those recordings can be used by other people. Don’t say things that potentially can get you in trouble later by the law, unless that is cool with you and that is what you want. But be aware that your words have impact and if they’re being recorded and this can be used to get you in trouble.
I think that’s all I have to say, mike.
Sarah Scanlon is a cis- queer, feminist, anarchist settler. She likes to run workshops that provide tools for folks on making communication and leadership strategies within the revolution stronger and to gain new perspective’s from those attending.