A safer space to party

Feminist ideals and safer spaces lead to a better time

Mama Cutsworth DJs a set at the Spaceland 2 music festival as a deluge threatens to flood her equipment. Winnipeg - Sept. 24, 2016.

Photo by Daniel Crump

Safer spaces are gaining popularity at festivals and nightlife events.

“Everyone can feel comfortable at a place like a feminist dance party,” local DJ Mama Cutsworth says.  

The notion of a safer space varies with the circumstances.

“In some cases, it’s a way to take a break from what’s going on,” Hema Krueger Vyas, organizer at Red Tent Winnipeg, explains. “It can also be a response to something that has happened – a place to rest during a crisis.”

The upcoming Sights & Sounds Feminist Dance Party, organized by Women’s Health Clinic (WHC), vows to be a safer space.

“Our volunteers are trained. There will be someone people can go to if they feel unsafe and make sure they get what they need,” Amy Tuckett, communications team leader at WHC, explains.

WHC is a feminist organization, and Tuckett believes their values will apparent through the combination of environment, music and attendees. The event, which takes place on September 23rd, will be DJ’d by Mama Cutsworth.

“I strive to play at dance parties that are inclusive and welcoming, with a diverse range of people,” she says.

“Most music is not feminist, but it depends on the context in which you are playing,” Mama Cutsworth explains. “For me, it has to do with representation and diversity.”

Safer spaces are a community responsibility, she says.

“It’s not up to one person,” Mama Cutsworth says.

Krueger Vyas believes these spaces can also create community.

“(They are) a place for people who have had similar experiences to meet,” she explains.

Tuckett admits that though events are not their expertise at WHC, the organization is always learning. WHC chose a venue that is wheelchair accessible, could incorporate all-gender washrooms and would let them bring their own volunteers.

“The characteristics of the safer space are determined by its community, so it can look different from event to event,” Krueger Vyas says. Red Tent offers a Creating Safer Spaces training program, which organizations can complete within a five-hour session.

Because what makes a space “safe” differs from person to person, no space can be guaranteed to be 100 per cent safe for everyone.

“It’s up to the people who have power,” Mama Cutsworth says. She explains that from bar owners to booking agents, there are a lot of barriers when it comes to changing the way things happen.

Mama Cutsworth believes that everyone should use their privilege as leverage.

“Think of how you can take your advantage and create an opening for those who don’t have that advantage,” she says.

“I try to do it one event at a time. It’s important to be vocal and celebrate having feminist and queer-positive spaces.”

The Sights & Sounds Feminist Dance Party takes place on Sept. 23 at the Pyramid Cabaret. Tickets are $10-$25.

Published in Volume 72, Number 3 of The Uniter (September 21, 2017)

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