Agreements

Why such and agreement?

Note: the women*-only, BPOC-only and LGBTQI*-only spaces are self-regulated and can install their own agreements on how they want to organise their spaces.

In order to have a camp where people from different backgrounds can feel welcome we’re suggesting a set of agreements to which everyone at the camp can adhere. These result from the process of “Shape the Camp” in which people of oppressed groups clearly explained what they need in order to feel that this camp is also organised for them.Although this was built through a process involving oppressed groups, we actually believe that these rules are more generally helpful for all of us to feel safer, more serene and liberated from the usual social norms we face in society in general.

There is no police to enforce these rules, but we’re counting on everybody to take responsibility for their own actions. If you see somebody doing something that might make other people feel unsafe, feel free to engage them in a conversation. There’s also an awareness team which will try to make the camp a safer space, with this agreement in mind. For details on how to contact this awareness team and the process they’ll follow, see below.

We see this agreement as part of a bigger learning process of trying to challenge systemic oppressions in activist communities and we believe in the beauty of learning from experience. We don’t pretend to hold any truth about it, so feel free to give us feedback, reflections or further propositions, they will be precious for other events like this one!

It is also possible that some needs appear during the camp and make this agreement evolve, this could most possibly happen through a proposal coming from a committee around a specific question open to all or some participants and validated by the organization of the camp.   

Don’t hesitate to engage on conversations around you about this agreement, especially if you feel questioned, intrigued or annoyed by some of these! Don’t forget that you might also not hold the entire truth, appreciate other points of view and respect the desire of somebody not to discuss about it with you, especially if this person is directly affected by the topic.  

The agreement

Racism, as well as ageism, homophobia, sexism, transphobia, ableism or prejudice (active discrimination) based on ethnicity, nationality, class, gender, gender presentation, language ability, asylum status or religious belief will be challenged

Respect boundaries, aka “Don’t be an asshole”

  • If people express hurt or are offended because of something you said or did, acknowledge their experience. Their feelings are valid, even if you don’t understand or agree. It might not have been your intention to hurt or offend them, but your intentions are less  important than how they’re feeling. Just apologise, it’s not that hard.
  • Ask people’s explicit consent before touching them. It’s their body, not yours. You might think someone’s curly hair looks super bouncy and feel like touching it, or want to hug somebody arriving at the same workshop as you, but unless you got explicit consent first, just don’t touch them.
  • Do not assume a person’s gender. Some people have a different gender expression than their gender identity. Respect everybody’s identities.
  • Ask how someone wants to be addressed. The most commonly used pronouns are: she/her, they/them (die/hen in Dutch, iel in French), he/him, ze/zer (gender neutral). People might also ask you to use different pronouns or no pronouns at all. 
  • Try to use gender-neutral language. For example, there’s no need to refer to a group of people as “guys” or even “guys and girls”. “People” does the job just fine, without reinforcing binary gender structures.
  • Some people do not want to be in pictures. They have their own reasons for not wanting this and don’t owe you an explanation. Always get explicit permission of all people featuring in your pictures (yes, that includes the people in the background you can’t see the face of!)
  • Women*-only, LGBTQI*-only and BPOC-only spaces are, as the names imply reserved to certain groups. If you’re a white person, don’t go into a space for black people and people of colour. If you’re a cis-man, don’t go into a space for women*. If you’re straight and cis, don’t go into a space for LGBTQI* people. Respect people’s desires and needs to have a space of their own.

Alcohol and other drugs

  • The camp  is a alcohol- and drug-free zone with the exception of the bar. We will sell alcohol only during the evening. Please don’t take this alcohol outside the bar. We’ll make sure there is a nice selection of non-alcoholic beverages available at the campsite (at the bar and other locations).
  • If you smoke: ask the people around you if it’s okay if you smoke. Don’t smoke around kids. 

Toilets and showers

  • All toilets are open to all genders. This includes the urinals. Be cool and don’t make any sexist remarks to people who are using them. In general it’s a good rule of thumb to mind your own business while doing your business.
  • For the showers, there will be a specific schedule, please respect it. 

Papers

  • Not everybody present at the camp might have the right documents to legally stay in Belgium.  As camp organisers we’ll never ask for anyone to present any kind of formal identification.

Care spaces

  • Don’t feel forced to participate in the programme if you don’t have the energy for it. There will be care and relax spaces at the camp, both in the caucus spaces and in the spaces open to all.

Self-organization

  • The camp is self-organized. This means it can only work if everyone pitches in and helps out where necessary. Please contribute according to your capacities to make sure everybody can get their needs met. Especially if you’re in a more dominant position in society at large, we’d ask you to reflect on how much you’re actively contributing to making this camp a nice place for everyone.
  • This also goes for the financing: we count on everyone’s free contribution to make the camp possible. If you can afford it, please pay extra to make it possible for people who cannot afford it to attend the camp.

Non-human animals

  • Camps are not the best place for our non-human animal friends. Please leave them at home if possible. If you have no alternative, please take responsibility for your friend. Please respect and note that people at the camp may be scared of them, or talk to you about its behaviour. Of course, if the animal you brought shits on the camp site – please take care of this! 
  • We ask you to always keep your dog on a leash, especially in the community spaces. We know that it can be a difficult situation for many dogs and their companions, but from experience of other camps it’s desirable, since the camp site can be a very cramped space and in addition to people who are afraid of dogs there are many children on the site.

Nudity

  • We ask all adults at the camp to wear their T-shirts (or other top) at the camp. This isn’t because we feel nudity as such is to be shunned, but to stimulate a debate on the privilege of going topless (mostly for conventionally attractive cis-men) and because of a concern to create a safer space for people who might’ve suffered sexual aggressions for whom seeing a naked body might trigger bad memories and experiences.

Awareness Policy

There will be an Awareness team on the camp, active during the day, composed by a team present at the awareness space and by a team wandering around the land. 

Each of those 2 teams can be called by a person who was assaulted or another person to address a situation of anaggression or an oppressive attitude. 

The mission of the Awareness team is : 

  • To offer support to a person who was assaulted. This can include : to listen to them, to invite them in a quiet and safe place, to offer physical presence, to look for psychological and/or medical support, to help them to leave the camp. 
  • To address the situation of the aggression, including the responsability of the author. This can include : to protect the person from another aggression, to talk to the aggressor, to keep them away from some spaces in the camp or even to make them leave the camp.
  • If there’s a need to discuss about a restriction of their presence on the camp or about their exclusion, the team refers to a “safe community circle”  who will gather ASAP  and will be legitimate to take those decisions and make them applied. The “safe community circle” is a circle composed by people members of the awareness team, who are designated at the beginning of the camp and who will be ready to gather ASAP and take decisions about an agressor if needed. The composition of this circle must represent as most as possible the diversity of people present on the camp to ensure a good comprehension of what it’s lived by the people involved in this agression, regarding domination issues. It will be autonomous to take decisions regarding an agressor, including forbiding them to get close to the victim or excluding them from the camp

Alcohol and other drugs policy

Within our alcohol and other drugs policy we strive to reconcile different needs. On the one hand we want the camp to be a safer place for people who have had bad experiences with alcohol and don’t want to be confronted with it or who are sober and don’t want to be tempted to relapse. On the other hand we also don’t want to exclude people with dependencies or who just enjoy an alcoholic beverage.

In order to achieve this goal the whole camp will be a drug free zone, with the exception of the bar. 

  • We decided to have the bar at a different location than the ‘party’ zone, so people who don’t want to be confronted with alcohol can also enjoy the party. Please respect this decision and don’t bring alcohol outside of the bar.
  • The sale of alcohol will stop at midnight
  • One other exception to the drug-free policy is for smoking. Please bring a portable ashtray with you if you smoke and ask the people around you if it’s okay if you smoke. Don’t smoke if you’re around kids.

We will provide a range of different non-alcoholic beverages, so people who don’t want to consume alcohol are not just limited to a choice of water and orange juice.

We don’t exclude people from events or places based on the level of alcohol in their blood, but the general agreement for the camp is still applicable, even if you’re drunk. Alcohol is not an excuse to behave like an asshole. Don’t drink so much that you’re no longer in charge of your own actions. Respect people’s boundaries at all times.

Someone called me out. How do I react?

Thanks to lukayo for the text.

Centre yourself: you’re not being attacked. You’re a good person. This is about your behaviour and stopping harm to others.

Listen:  Don’t interrupt or think of ways to defend yourself. Focus on learning what was harmful and being empathetic/compassionate.

Acknowledge/apologize: Instead of explaining why you did it, acknowledge what happened and apologize, if needed or requested, for the harm you caused.

(Inquire): (If they consent and have the time and resources: ask what you could have done instead and how to make amends for what happened.)

Moving forward: “The best apology is changed behaviour”. If they gave you reasonable recommendations and amends, do them. Don’t do the harm again. Use this experience to help others too.

How is a naked torso related to privileges and solidarity?

Thanks to Klimakamp im Rheinland for the text.

We hope for the camp to be a place where we confront our privileges and governing mechanisms and try out and experiment with alternatives. But also here we must recognize our limits, and in particular the boundaries of others, especially since we are living together for a limited time in a relatively limited space. This means that the climate camp is not a living utopia, but a way to get there. When it’s really warm, many people take off their T-shirts. However, this is a privilege and can be very uncomfortable for other people. The issue about privileges is that they are largely invisible to those who have them. Many are not aware that the image of male* naked torsos is socially normalized whereas a female* naked upper body takes on a sexualized form in a public space. The point is not only about the t-shirt itself, but it’s about the fact that we live in a society that is shaped by patriarchy. Part of the patriarchy is that bodies of women*, trans* and inter* are often socially objectified and sexualized, which is why they cannot just take off their shirt. Especially if the body does not meet conventional beauty and gender norms, nudity is a social taboo. People who are affected by sexism and still choose to walk around topless, are evaluated and rebuked through people gazing at them, comments, and other transgressions. This sexualization and tabooing is also legally established: According to the law at least the nipples of women* have to be covered, otherwise it is “indecent” and represents a misdemeanor.We live in a society in which sexual violence is not an isolated phenomenon, but a social reality. Every 3rd to 4th woman* and every 7th to 8th man* has experienced sexual violence in childhood. 98% of this violence is caused by men. That is why a male* naked upper body can trigger memories of experiences of violence and be very unpleasant and stressful. In direct confrontation with this, for many people it’s not easy at all to speak and/or act as they’d wish.

Of course, it can be an act of emancipation when people that are suppressed by patriarchy or current beauty or gender norms show themselves with a naked torso. It can be liberating to oppose the social norms and images and to win a new approach to nudity. To reach this stage that everyone feels free is a utopia and we are part of a process to get there. But many people can not just simply take of their shirt and would not be free just by this act, because that involves a lot more. It is therefore important to us that people themselves can decide when and if they are to meet naked people.

Even if we fight for a different, “better” world, we are socialized in this society with its heteronormative ideals of beauty and its sexualized culture of violence. That‘s why we have the wish that people keep their tops on during the camp and we sweat together. We understand the act of wearing a top as an act of solidarity, to support those people who are not able or not willing to walk around topless. We would appreciate if all people would join in as allies to collective liberation. Children are not meant by this proposal – every child (or their reference person) shall decide for themselves how it wants to run around. We would like to see learning processes being stimulated by the “T-shirt-debate” in all of us – and especially in cis*-men. Feel free to talk to other people, or to ask if you don‘t understand the subject matter or you are irritated by it. (But please also understand that the person you are talking to at that point may not have the energy or mind to explain things, as talking about sexism can be very exhausting for the affected person.) Feel encouraged to approach people who do not wear a T-shirt. When talking to each other we hope for interactions to be shaped by mutual respect and understanding. The “T-shirt-debate” may initiate the process of dealing with one’s own privileges with more awareness. We are hoping for lively exchange about privileges (and how one could deal with them) to be happening on the climate camp (and afterwards) in many conversations and small groups. It can be very enriching to get to know other perspectives and to learn from each other. We explicitly invite people to be part of exchange groups to reflect on their own privileges (and to help in forming such spaces for exchange, e.g. on critical masculinity in the open space format).