I really really don’t like public displays of passive activism. I didn’t even do the Ice Bucket Challenge! But #SafetyPin is different.
It’s different because it’s inclusive. Anti-racism and anti-xenophobia movements are needed right now, as hate crimes have increased since the EU referendum. But there are other groups of people who deal with these kinds of attacks. Transgender people regularly experience harassment. The mass shooting at Pulse was a brutal reminder of some people’s views towards gay people. You don’t have to spend much time on Twitter or in a male-dominated environment to witness sexism. The safety pin can stand for all of these. And it needn’t detract from the anti-racist message – that’s the beauty of #SafetyPin, it’s intersectional.
It’s different because it goes beyond a timid form of solidarity and sends a practical message. It makes the statement that “you are safe with me”. That’s a commitment. A commitment to act should action be necessary – ideally with words but if necessary with fists. On a more fundamental level it lets people know that they can talk to you, that they can ask you for help and you won’t think they’re a weirdo.
It’s different because it’s just a safety pin. I don’t need to go on Etsy to buy one. I don’t need to post a selfie for my social kudos to count. This – combined with the literal meaning of the safety pin – makes it more difficult for other groups to hijack it as a symbol.
Well this is what it means to me anyway. I appreciate that other people may not feel the same, and that’s fine. It sort of doesn’t matter. What matters is that I can wear it as a reminder to myself – more than to anyone else – of how I intend to behave. I’m a straight, white, English-born cis male. I don’t know what it’s like to be subjected to abuse, but I know what it’s like to feel safe. And I know it shouldn’t be a privilege. Wearing a safety pin isn’t the solution, but it reminds me to become it.
And now, for your listening pleasure…
Photo credit: Haragayato (CC-BY-SA-3.0)