When I started doing BJJ, I lucked out in finding jiujitsuforums.com. It’s literally the only forum I know where a “Hot Girls in BJJ” thread was immediately shot down by a man saying “I strongly dislike the idea of this thread. Females in our sport have a hard enough time without being further sexualized by the male practitioners.” and the next 5-6 comments agreed with it. What makes JJF so different is that it is heavily moderated, and that moderation is supported and appreciated by the community. Jack kills trolls with the ban hammer, he warns people to knock it off when they start getting rude to one another, and insists people talk to one another like they’re on the mats. It’s a refuge online.

Sites Don’t HAVE to be Negative

A while back I read a great article called “If Your Website is Full of Assholes, It’s Your Fault.”

Why are people so cynical about conversation on the web? Because a company like Google thinks it’s okay to sell video ads on YouTube above conversations that are filled with vile, anonymous comments. Because almost every great newspaper in America believes that it’s more important to get a few more page views on their website than to encourage meaningful discourse about current events within their community, even if many of those page views will be off-putting to the good people who are offended by the content of the comments. And because lots of publishers think that any conversation is good if it boosts traffic stats.

My current frustration are sites that appear to be minority spaces claiming to support women in BJJ that then publish and support sexist, misogynistic articles and comments. The editor then claims that everyone has a right to be heard, and that it’s better to have “the good, the bad, and the ugly” so that people know what’s out there. And then to have said site refuse to remove a personal attack against me because I didn’t adequately explain how it negatively affected me or my training. Again, this is from a site whose tagline is “supporting women in BJJ.” Lovely.

I don’t want or need to know what every knucklehead with a keyboard thinks. I want to meet women and allies who practice jiu jitsu. I want to discuss issues and topics with like-minded people in a positive manner, and challenge some of my thinking through thoughtful discourse. I want community.

Every voice doesn’t matter–only the voices that move your idea forward, that make it better, that make you better, that make it more likely you will ship work that benefits your tribe. – Seth Godin

And what I realized: this space is exactly that. This space is no longer “A Language Teacher’s Take on Jiu Jitsu.” It’s not my space with my ideas. It has evolved organically into a community, and more specifically, a discussion-based community that is a safe, minority space. I’d like to define what that means.

What is a Safe Space?

A place where [people] can relax and be fully self-expressed, without fear of being made to feel uncomfortable, unwelcome, or unsafe on account of biological sex, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, cultural background, age, or physical or mental ability; a place where the rules guard each person’s self-respect and dignity and strongly encourage everyone to respect others. —Advocates for Youth

At jiujiubjj.com women, gender, and orientation minorities can comment without fear of having their motives/appearance/goals/values questioned, being called names, or having vitriol spewed at you. I don’t tolerate rudeness, nor do I allow transphobic, homophobic, bi-phobic, sexist comments. I expect people to behave as they would were they to join me and friends for a cup of coffee or tea. We’re all individual human beings and it’s frustrating to have attacks leveled at you. Disagreement is fine, but name calling, disparaging comments, and rudeness are notPlease behave better than my kindergarteners – they don’t know any better.

Why are Safe Spaces Moderated?

There are hundreds of websites where you can read all the good, bad and ugly comments you want – it’s pretty much every website you go to. In them, good comments are like diamonds in a field of cow patties – rare, and you have to wade through lots of shit to find them. Safe spaces moderate out the bad and the ugly, leaving the good. In them, bad comments are like finding a rock in your rice – rare and unwelcome. Because while those diamonds may be FREAKING AMAZING, you’ve still had to wade through crap to get to it, and I don’t think it’s worth it.

Which anomaly would you rather have: a lone amazing comment, or a lone negative comment?

It’s a good thing to require that folks contributing to your site uphold your community’s standards. It’s a good thing to have a site that allows for positive, helpful comments. That’s why I moderate for tone and for harmful attitudes. This is not a space where you can say whatever you want, however you want to, and whenever you want to. This is a space designed to be positive, helpful, and encouraging.

To that end, moderation needs to come from within as well as from without. I do this on my end – the first time someone comments, they are put into the moderation queue. After they’ve been approved, all comments are auto-approved. From time to time, I’ve had to moderate published comments because they did not adhere to my comment guidelines. I’m very thankful that at points when people did cross the line, members of this community defended that space by saying “This is not cool here.” And that’s important. As members of the community, I hereby deputize you as Moderators. This is your space, too, and I hope you will help it stay friendly.

What is a Minority Space?

[A] “minority space” is a space created by minority groups, for minority groups. It may allow privileged groups to listen to or participate in discussion, and it may not. It differs from a “privileged space” in that its exclusionary nature is not designed to uphold established power structures (as with gentlemen’s clubs and the like), but rather to provide a safe environment for minority groups to discuss issues that are not able to get airtime in “default” spaces due to those spaces being primarily focused on so-called “real” issues which too often amount to issues that the privileged group cares about. – A Deeper Look at Minority Spaces

This site is a safe place for women, orientation, and gender minorities, and allies are WELCOME! I try to clearly identify minority topics, through labels and titles. Men who are allies are welcomed and valued in our discussion. In fact, two of my favorite people who comment on this site are men: Charles Smith, and Can Sonmez. However, in articles titled “Women and BJJ”, men are expected to behave as polite guests, remembering that they are not the authority, and that it’s not their topic. It means being sensitive to things being discussed. It means you have a cool opportunity to learn.

If you are in a privileged group, check your privilege before commenting on a minority topic. If your goal is to be an ally – to encourage, show solidarity, support, or share more examples, EXCELLENT! Be sensitive to ensure you’re not shutting down conversations of those with different experiences than you, that you’re not defending the status quo, that you’re not discouraging folks from discussing their experiences.

It is SAFE to comment here

Sites that require thick skin cannot expect vulnerability. It’s hurtful to post about feelings of shame, then go to a forum and find people rudely criticizing it. (True story). I value and cherish vulnerability, which is why moderation is important.

That is what I am proudest at having created – a place where minorities in this sport can comment without fear or defensiveness. I know that because people tell me. I know that because we have an active community that participates in discussion, and that is RARE in the blogosphere. In short, you guys are awesome and you make this a space I’m so happy to visit and maintain.

Jiu Jiu’s Question: I have a favor to ask. Please comment as to your thoughts/reactions to your experience on jiujiubjj.com. I’d like testimonials I can share. I’d like other “Women Empowered” sites to know that safe spaces are appreciated and valued. How amazing would it be if sites realized how much better their spaces could be if they stopped allowing and protecting negative/sexist/misogynistic/disparaging/rude comments and articles on their sites.

Thank you again for making jiujiubjj.com what it is. I think you’ll really like what the next year holds in store for us – I have some awesome plans.