The dilemma of feminist researchers working on groups less privileged than themselves can be succinctly stated as follows: is it possible—not in theory, but in the actual conditions of the real world today—to write about the oppressed without becoming one of the oppressors?
In an absolute sense, I think not. In addition to the characteristic privileges of race and class, the existential or psychological dilemmas of the split between subject and object on which all research depends (even that of the most intense participant observer) imply that objectification, the utilisation of others for one’s own purposes and the possibility of exploitation, are built into almost all research projects with living human beings.(Patai, 1991, p.139).
Gluck, S. B., & Patai, D. (Eds.). (1991). Women’s words: The feminist practice of oral history. New York: Routledge. (p. 139)
“…feminists imagine that merely engaging in the discourse of feminism protects them from the possibility of exploiting other women, while their routine research practices are and continue to be embedded in a situation of inequality” Daphne Patai
"It is only the oppressed who, by freeing themselves, can free their oppressors."
To intervene in the name of transformation means precisely to disrupt what has become settled knowledge and knowable reality, and to use, as it were, one’s unreality to make an otherwise impossible or illegible claim…. when the unreal lays claim to reality, or enters into its domain, something other than a simple assimilation into prevailing norms can and does take place. The norms themselves can become rattled, display their instability, and become open to resignification (Judith Butler 2004, 27-28).
“To make trouble was, within the reigning discourse of my childhood, something one should never do precisely because that would get one in trouble. The rebellion and its reprimand seemed to be caught up in the same terms, a phenomenon that gave rise to my first critical insight into the subtle ruse of power: the prevailing law threatened one with trouble, even put one in trouble, all to keep one out of trouble. Hence, I concluded that trouble is inevitable and the task, how best to make it, what best way to be in it” (Gender Trouble, Judith Butler xxvii).
While laudable in its efforts to educate both teachers and students about the violent effects of various isms that impact LGBT people, I have always found myself at odds with the very notion that the classroom can or should be a safe place. In my early years of teaching I recall conversations with colleagues who identified as allies and spoke of the ways in which they establish their classrooms as “safe spaces”: places LGBT students could expect to be free from anti-gay bias and homophobia. I was always taken aback by these conversations, in part because I espouse Stuart Hall’s (1996) sense that there are “no guarantees” in either hegemonic or counter-hegemonic struggles for power, and in part because such an approach suggests that the teacher can single-handedly mold the fluid, dynamic nature of a classroom into a safe space for those who might be identified as queer or identified as marginalized in other ways. Heteronormativity is partially constructed through a dichotomous logic, where heterosexuality is considered normal, natural, and inevitable and homosexuality is constructed as its binary opposite: abnormal and perverse. Elsewhere, I have argued that discourses of safe spaces for LGBT students too often reproduce this dichotomy through an inclusion model that focuses on homophobia (Fox 2007). Suggesting that allies give, provide, offer, and secure safe space for LGBT people reinforces the normative authority and power of an ally to be the agent configuring what these spaces might be. While the inclusion model has been an important part of development towards queer studies over the last thirty years, it tends to focus on visibility and countering homophobia and often revolves around how to help LGBT people feel comfortable within existing frameworks rather than disrupting them. The display of safe space signs, however well-intentioned, often operates through a transactional rather than transformative logic that serves protect the social safety (or comfort) of allies, thereby occluding genuine reflection, dialogue, and struggle about what might constitute safety for marginalized peoples.
A great read from:
Fox, Catherine O. (2013). Neither Bitch Nor Mother: Queering Safety in the Classroom. Socialist Studies/Études socialistes, 9(1).