Why I’m not wearing a safety pin

Even though I think the intent behind the safety pin is good, after some consideration, I’ve opted not to wear one. Here’s why…

The first question I ask when things like this become popularized is how marginalized communities feel about it. Do they appreciate it? Do they feel it’s misguided?

I read blogs and articles stating the pros and cons of the safety pin. Ultimately, I was persuaded by the cons for two big reasons:

  1. Someone made the point that visible, wearable symbols can be easily usurped by those intending harm. It’s a good point.
  2. Several people of color wrote about the association with white feminism, and white people’s willingness to do something like wear a safety pin or share memes, but not actually get involved and be vocal. In other words, white people are often willing to be passively supportive, but not actively/assertively supportive. A disability rights activist said something similar about able-bodied people.

Because I’m white and seemingly able-bodied, I don’t want to be associated with white feminism or any sort of passive support. Enough people of color wrote about feeling frustrated by gestures like the safety pin that I felt it best not to do it.

Instead of wearing a safety pin, I spoke directly to people in my life who belong to marginalized groups who are fearful of the incoming presidential administration. I expressed my support to them directly, and had conversations about things that I am willing and able to do to support them. I’ve also simply listened to them when they’re feeling frustrated or sad or fearful.

That’s just step one. I’ve also joined a few groups that have popped up locally and online to begin to feel out how I might make a difference. Some will likely fizzle out, so I’m trying a few things to see what’ll stick, and keeping my options open.

The other thing I’m doing is thinking about how I can leverage my particular skill set for the greater good. In fact, it’s something my graduate program challenges us to do anyway, but it’s even more imperative now.

However, just to give another perspective on this, I will say that I did read a few people of color and a few LGBTQIA people who were all for the safety pin, as their perspective was that even passive support is better than nothing, and visual symbols let people know where you stand.

Also, severalĀ of my white classmates are wearing the safety pin, and with a really good reason: My program courses intersect with the courses for various education programs, so I have classes with a lot of teachers. Two of my classmates, both white women, were talking about how they teach elementary school, and their classrooms are very mixed. In one case, the teacher has more students of color than white students; for the other, it’s an even mix. In both cases, they wanted to make sure their young students understand that their teacher supports them and that the classroom is a safe space. Each one talked to the students about why she was wearing a safety pin, and let them know that she’s there for them. In that case, I think it’s a positive thing. I think it’s great that these women recognized that their students were hurt and confused, and did what they could to let them know that they are loved, they are supported, and that they matter.

Honestly, whether you wear the safety pin or not, what’s really important is what we do, not what we wear. Safety pins and Facebook memes and bumper stickers are not enough. We need to start acting, and those of us who have privilege need to start amplifying the voices of those who don’t.


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