For Black American Womxn, There Are No Safe Spaces, Only Empty Ones
Two years ago on my birthday, Rodrigo Duterte, president of the Philippines, signed the Safe Spaces Act, a framework for penalizing sexual harassment. The Technical Drafting Committee and the Philippine Commission on Women were charged with transforming that loose framework into a specific legislative code.
Five days ago, that code was released.
Written in part by Senator Risa Hontiveros, the code states that:
“gender-based streets and public spaces harassment includes: cursing, wolf-whistling, catcalling, leering and intrusive gazing, taunting, cursing, unwanted invitations, misogynistic, transphobic, homophobic, and sexist slurs, persistent unwanted comments on one’s appearance, and relentless requests for one’s personal details.”
The Safe Spaces Act attaches penalties to what I call ‘any given Tuesday.’ I try to imagine having a law like this in America, and am confronted with the inalienable truth that this type of law would not only fail Black womxn, it would actively endanger us.
Even if I could call the police on a catcaller, I wouldn’t. Calling the police while Black is a game of Russian Roulette as likely to end in my death (or his) as any form of justice.
I think of this law in the hands of white womxn like Amy Cooper and Amber Guyger and Any Given Karen, and see Black mothers crying, votive forgiveness dripping from their lips like poisoned honey.
I see Black girls adultified and sent home from school for wearing clothes that unfairly tempt men to break the law. I see white lipstick femmes calling out for protection from Black studs. I see white men once again empowered to protect the virtue of their whey-faced porcelain dolls.
I read something called the Safe Spaces Act, and all I see is the gaping maw of the grave.
Maybe if I came from somewhere else I could wrap my head around it, but I am Black, and I am American. I am queer and I am a womxn. I am poor and powerless and nuerodivergent. Safety is incompatible with this body.
I began in East Cleveland, Ohio, a city where the violent crime rate is 50% higher than the national…