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The Safety Pin Movement Comes To America

With protests going on across the country as a result of the presidential election, one movement is using a simple symbol to show support for anyone who is fearful of what is to come. By fastening a safety pin to their clothing, people are declaring themselves allies and “safe places” to show that they stand in solidarity with marginalized groups. The Safety Pin movement, which started in the U.S. a few days ago, is actually adopted from a similar protest that followed the Brexit vote in June, when the U.K. decided to leave the European Union. Many began wearing safety pins both to protest the vote and to subtly announce themselves as allies to those minorities who felt threatened by the result, especially recent immigrants.


The “safety pin” symbol was inspired by the 2014 #illridewithyou movement in Sydney, Australia where people offered to sit next to Muslims who felt threatened on their commutes. “The symbol is small but the message is huge: We are with you. Stand up for all hate, and come together as citizens for a bigger, brighter future that hopefully, one day, won’t need secret messages of hope.”

One of the screenwriters of the upcoming Rogue One: A Star Wars Story tweeted his own take on the safety pin:

However, this movement has been getting mixed reviews since some people feel that just fastening a pin onto yourself is selling out and that someone cannot self-appoint themselves an ally without putting in the work. The movement has already gotten its share of skeptics with many arguing that safety pins merely give so-called “allies” a way to broadcast that they’re “one of the good ones.”


The Huffington Post published an article titled “Dear White People, Your Safety Pins Are Embarrassing”, followed by a subhead reading, “We don’t get to make ourselves feel better by putting on safety pins and self-designating ourselves as allies.”

Here are a few quotes from the article:

  • “Seriously? This is a thing now? Wear a safety pin to show “you’re an ally?” So immigrants, people of color, LGBTQ people, and others who were targeted and persecuted and (further) marginalized by the Trump Campaign will know they’re ‘safe’ with you?”
  • “I know, I know, you’re uncomfortable. You feel guilty. You think people are going to suspect you of being a racist, and you want some way to assuage that guilt and reassure your neighbors that you’re one of the good ones. But you know what? You don’t get to do that.”
  • “If you really need some way to show your support, if you just can’t bear to sit in your discomfort for even a little bit longer, here’s my suggestion: Instead of doing the thing white people invented to make ourselves feel better, follow the example of the people from the marginalized communities you want to support.”

Also, a quote from @MorganJerkins: “We don’t need you to wear a #safetypin. We need you to do the work and educate yourself and your loved ones on white supremacy.”

 

When I first saw picture of this movement popping up on my Instagram, I was excited. It reminded me of The Black Dot Campaign for domestic abuse victims. The goal is for the black dot to serve as a message that a victim is in need of services to help them escape the abuse. I thought that with safety pins, people would be able to know who they can go to. But I can completely understand the flip side; safety pins are nothing but an accessory unless there are actions being taken.

 

When I asked my fellow collegiettes what they thought about The Safety Pin movement, this is what they had to say:

Isha Modi: I personally think that the safety pin movement is great. It allows people who might be in fear or need to talk to someone know that there are individuals out there who are there for them. The movement helps spread support and love in a time where people desperately need it. I do think, however, that if you are going to wear a safety pin, you need to accept everything that that means, and do the role justice

Molly Crafts: I love the safety pin movement!! I do however understand some people wear the safety pin without fully committing to what that means and that causes controversy.

Katherine Eastman: I think it’s a great idea and will hopefully mean that public spaces will have more and more people actively responding to racism/sexism/homophobia/ableism (and less bystanders), but if someone is going to commit to being an ally/watchdog for marginalized people in their daily lives by displaying the safety pin, they should know how to respond to certain situations when they witness discrimination or harassment. There are right and wrong ways of trying to support someone, plus the situations of LGBTQ folks, Muslims, people of color, people with disabilities, and women are all unique and an ally should have a basic understanding of the obstacles/dangers that they all face to effectively respond.


 

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