At Growing Room, we’re seriously committed to creating and nurturing spaces that are free from toxicity, harassment and violence. To meet this objective, we’ve put together guidelines of how space will be held by our moderators, volunteers and staff. We want everyone—from readers to audience members—to feel safe, aware of their rights and confident in seeking support.
Aside from all the usual super helpful people at the 2020 festival, you’ll also find our venue managers who are trained in toxicity prevention. They are equipped with the ability to professionally and sensitively intervene.
What is panel toxicity?
At a panel event, there are a variety of different ways that this can manifest. Panel toxicity is occurs when the physical or emotional safety or wellbeing of the panelists, moderators, organizers or audience members has been compromised. Toxicity can sometimes be really difficult to notice, especially for those who experience more privilege, which is why we have invested time in learning the identifiers.
What is a safe(r) space?
Safer spaces are spaces that actively work towards maintaining safety, trust and respect for attendees and participants. These spaces, contrary to some resistant beliefs, are not intended to inhibit ‘freedom of speech’ or curb lively and fruitful dialogue; rather they are the very thing that enables people to speak their own truths. In safe spaces, we tell stories that are enhanced by the ability to speak openly and an audience willing to listen actively.
Safe(r) spaces must always be cognizant of historically informed and colonially perpetuated institutional power and privilege. For example, those who have always held more power and privilege (those who are white, straight, cis, men, for example) tend to, even subconsciously and even in social justice-informed spaces, take up space, interrupt, derail, re-centre and victimize.
Folks who come from marginalized backgrounds (women, people of colour, LGBTQ2s+ people, people with disabilities, poor folks and so on), rarely have opportunities to express themselves freely. As a festival organized by Canada’s oldest feminist literary journal, Growing Room fervently believes in and commits to the active uplifting and celebration of marginalized individuals, particularly women, trans folks and those who are non-binary, genderqueer or Two-Spirit (or identify otherwise outside of the cisnormative gender binary). In safe(r) space, these voices are gracefully held and passionately celebrated, to the best of our ability.
How will you see this in action?
- Active celebration of diverse voices
- Trigger warnings for sensitive content
- Separate spaces if you need to step out and speak to someone
- Trained staff and volunteers
- Compassionate call-ins
- A handy guide (this!)
We are making sure we are as prepared as possible for various forms of toxicity that may occur at a festival event . . . but we’re not perfect. We need the support of attendees in building spaces that are safe. Safe spaces allow for vulnerability, emotion, dialogue and growth—exactly what we strive for at Growing Room. By showing up, you’re agreeing to be part of this journey of responsibility and accountability with us. Thank you!
Jessica Johns, Festival Director
managingeditor [at] roommagazine [dot] com
Cicely Blain, Diversity & Inclusion Consultant
info [at] cicelyblainconsulting [dot] com