The safety pin movement. I believe in this sign of solidarity and unification currently sweeping the United States. I believe in it so much that I created a tee shirt. How very hipster of me. To many it may seem that I am riding on the coattails of this popular, somewhat trendy, anti- Trump movement with the release of a safety pin design top, captioned “You are Safe.” I believe in this movement for the following reasons, and I have, in fact, already been living my life in accordance with the principles it represents thus far. I write this blog post because I do think that many can relate.
Safety pins have been adorned by fashion trendsetters in the past, particularly in the late seventies by those in the punk music arena. Though, admittedly, the placement of a safety pin on your clothing in the present day has a much deeper meaning. Many of you have probably heard of the safety pin movement already.
It means, in the simplest terms, “You are Safe. I stand with you.” A person who displays the pin is essentially telling a person who has the potential to have their basic human civil rights violated by simply stepping out into public, i.e. a member of a legally "protected class," that they are not alone. It is meant as a symbol of solidarity, a sign of unification.
In accordance with United States federal anti-discrimination law (there are several, with the most famous being the Civil Rights Act of 1964), a protected class is defined as a characteristic of a person which cannot legally be targeted for discrimination. Here is a list of such characteristics that are “protected” - Click Here.
I am a white female. Although I am technically a member of a federally defined protected class, I fully recognize that I am privileged. I have tried to use my privilege to better my community. I stand behind the safety pin movement because I have walked this walk for the better part of my life already (see below). What I like about an outward symbol is the accountability factor and the opportunity to educate others.
Many have argued, why is it necessary to cloth yourself with a clasped piece of metal to show solidarity? It isn’t. It's just one way to express a sense of safety, without having to speak. Symbols have been used throughout history to connote solidarity. Of course, if you are just wearing the pin just to wear it, then you aren't really a part of the movement, are you?
Others have noted, as I hinted above, that people can wear pins all they like, but their actions do not match their intention. Well, then this movement isn’t about them. Inactively wearing a pin doesn't transform you into a progressive person. It doesn't even qualify you as an activist. Certainly the word “poser” was invented for a reason.
Still more people have opined that people accomplish nothing by wearing safety pins and to wear one is an insult, because it isn’t enough. I agree, to some extent with that last statement.
Hear me say this - wearing a safety pin is not enough. If you are wearing one to feel trendy, you are completely missing the point. If you wear one now, but tomorrow when you see a LGBT youth being harassed in a convenience store and you stand to the side and do nothing - you might as well take it off and see yourself for who you really are - guilty. If you feel that wearing a safety pin in unnecessary and kindness should be quite obvious, then don’t wear one. You do not have to participate in this movement. But, do not assume that those who chose to participate are somehow lesser in their merit than you.
What I am trying to say is that the movement isn't actually about a safety pin at all. It's about what it stands for. It is quite nice to have a symbol to unify people in an extremely hateful period in our history. It is quite nice to try and bring awareness to the overwhelming outpour of hatred and violence, and to try and combat it with kindness and a sense of safety for all who feel threatened.
So why join in on this safety pin movement? Didn't I just say that the safety pin is unnecessary?
Well, for starters, not everyone acknowledges that there is a problem. When people see something that they cannot explain, they start asking questions. If safety pins are adorned by many, the unaware onlooker will start to wonder why. Action is needed to combat the underlying issues, but discussion about the problem can fuel action.
Second, when you wear a safety pin, you acknowledge the movement and start conversation, to hopefully educate. To educate, is to empower.
Finally, the show of compassion, solidarity, desire to help, is comforting to some. Yes, I fully acknowledge that some people who fall into those above defined protected categories do not appreciate the safety pin and, yes, some even find it insulting. I want to point out that not everyone feels this way.
The safety pin is for those who take comfort in knowing that others will join their fight. I have and I will. We are talking about basic human rights, here.
So, what is the root of the problem and what action is needed.
People in this country are feeling frightened. It’s a frightening time for people who fall into a protected class - i.e. people of color, LGBTQ people, women, immigrants, those with disabilities, etc. It is our duty to protect one another from those who set out to violate basic human rights. It is our duty to speak up when others are harassed, discriminated against, and treated poorly. In my opinion, there should be no other option other than to become involved and defend.
Do not allow this pervasive hatred to pierce our country (or our world) any longer. Discuss why inaction is just as harmful. Teach others the way. Show those who are afraid that you are present, willing, and able to help.
Finally, I want to add that, on a personal level, I have worked for many years as an employment discrimination attorney, devoting my legal career to helping those less fortunate than I. It was incredibly fulfilling work. I was able to witness firsthand the impact that one individual can have on another human being’s life. This notion, that one person CAN make a difference, is something that I hope to impart on all of you. But, I also hope to instill this conviction into my children’s mindset. Believe that you CAN be the change necessary to impact your world.
I hope that many will view this new product as a means to spark conversation, and address issues that are pertinent to our society right now.
I pledge to donate 25% of all proceeds from the sale of this design to the New York Legal Assistance Group, a not for profit that makes an immediate and last impact on the lives of low-income individuals in the following areas, among others: Employment Discrimination, LGBTQ Law, Immigrant Protection, Tenant’s Rights, Special Education, etc.