25 Feb 2019

Committing to Creating a Safer Community

Content warning: The following article discusses and describes gender-based harassment, and may touch on adjacent subjects such as bigotry and micro-aggressions.

It is the responsibility of every collective to ensure that its members feel safe and comfortable in them. This is even more so the case with activist communities; fighting oppression starts within our communities. Food Not Bombs Japan is committed to creating a safer space for our members. As such, we need to make urgent changes.

This is a living document. To suggest changes, you may choose to create an issue. Alternatively, you could contact us via email. This post resides as a .markdown file in the ~/jekyll/_posts/ directory within the FNBJapan repository.

Case Study

At our February 24 meeting, an attendee exhibited disrespect for FNB Tokyo members and participated in apparent bad faith. After this, the attendee physically contacted an FNB Tokyo member without solicitation. This attendee proceeded to speak to the FNB Tokyo member in a harassing manner. This behavior was ended when another member stepped in to remind the attendee to focus on our meeting.

Our reaction to this behavior was not sufficiently definitive, and we allowed this meeting to become uncomfortable for FNB Tokyo volunteers. Changes must be made so that we are prepared for similar situations in the future.

What Was Done Right

As the behavior occurred, FNB Tokyo members immediately made it clear that it was not acceptable. A FNB Tokyo member was able to quickly and successfully end the behavior. As soon as the meeting was adjourned, we made the decision to ban this attendee from future meetings.

What Was Done Wrong

FNB Tokyo was not appropriately prepared for unacceptable behavior from meeting attendees.

In this situation, this caused:

  • The reaction to this unacceptable behavior to be untimely.

    We were not able to identify inappropriate conduct as it happened. While FNB Tokyo members were made uncomfortable by earlier disruptive behavior from the attendee, we spent far too long believing that he would eventually start participating in good faith. An aversion to conflict allowed unacceptable behavior to persist for a significant portion of the meeting. He was already clearly participating in bad faith, repeatedly going off-topic and cutting off other attendees before engaging in gender-based harassment.

  • The reaction to this unacceptable behavior to lack definitiveness.

    When we decided clear action needed to take place, we lacked a clear plan. In this specific case, a quick-thinking member was able to successfully end the behavior. This should not be counted on.

We need to formulate an articulable plan for preventing, identifying, and shutting down inappropriate conduct.

Addressing Adjacent Issues

We are committed to intersectionality. It is pivotal to the establishment and maintenance of FNB Japan as a radically inclusive community that we actively shut down any display of bigotry or prejudiced based on race, gender, sex, sexuality, ability, socioeconomic status, and religion/creed (or lack thereof).

Moving Forward

These are the coming steps for the Tokyo chapter of Food Not Bombs:

  1. Clearly outline expected and unacceptable behavior at FNB Tokyo events and within FNB Tokyo communities;
  2. Clearly outline consequences of unacceptable and/or non-constructive behavior at FNB Tokyo events and within FNB Tokyo communities;
  3. Regularly reflect upon the inclusivity of FNB Tokyo, and formulating plans to improve.

More materially, this translates into:

  1. The creation of a code of conduct;
  2. Periodically reviewing the inclusivity of FNB Tokyo in our regular meetings.

Addressing Abuse in the Broader Radical Community

Food Not Bombs chapters serves an important role in radical communities; our very goal is the formation of effective, radical networks. To this end, we intend to be transparent and communicative about our ongoing efforts to address abuse, such that our ideas, knowledge, and experience can assist other projects. Further, we may privately engage with other radical communities to ensure that radical spaces are safer spaces.