Safety Pins and Paper Clips against Racism
November 10, 2016 7:18 PM   Subscribe

After Brexit, Tolerant Britons Adopted a Simple Symbol of Solidarity.
In response to the open environment of hatred, people across the U.K. are now wearing safety pins — and tweeting pictures of themselves wearing them — in an act of solidarity with immigrants.
Via Jason Kottke posted by SansPoint (153 comments total) 56 users marked this as a favorite
 
Turns out I have a whole container of safety pins just lying around. One's now pinned to the strap of my daily carry bag (because I couldn't get it on my leather jacket.)
posted by SansPoint at 7:19 PM on November 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


This is a good idea. I hope it catches fire. I'm in.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 7:27 PM on November 10, 2016 [11 favorites]


Let's roll.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:44 PM on November 10, 2016 [7 favorites]


It's something, anyway.

Are people in vulnerable communities aware of the gesture and what it means?
posted by tobascodagama at 7:53 PM on November 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


I have like a billion safety pins because I am a crafter.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:05 PM on November 10, 2016 [4 favorites]


But yeah, right now is anyone in America going to know what that means?

(though if anyone else read Don't Care High as a kid, it would mean you support former student body president Mike Otis...)
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:06 PM on November 10, 2016 [8 favorites]


It's not perfect and will be abused, but it is a start.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:19 PM on November 10, 2016 [8 favorites]


Are people in vulnerable communities aware of the gesture and what it means?

Post it on your Facebooks and Twitters and Instagrams and Whatevrs, and perhaps they will be.
posted by Etrigan at 8:29 PM on November 10, 2016 [6 favorites]


Safety pins are all over Facebook as of this evening.
posted by blob at 8:43 PM on November 10, 2016


Have any of you actually seen them in the real world?
posted by nat at 9:07 PM on November 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


Do you mean in the U.K. or the US? Because if it's the latter, this article was written a whopping nine hours ago.
posted by Itaxpica at 9:26 PM on November 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


Did it about 8 hours ago.
posted by gucci mane at 9:41 PM on November 10, 2016 [1 favorite]


There's no safety pin emoji, but I suggest the 📎 emoji as an online indicator that you're tolerant and safe to talk to.
posted by miyabo at 10:12 PM on November 10, 2016 [3 favorites]


Are the people at risk being told to look for this? I haven't seen that anywhere. Is there advertising or some info drop for the at risk people or is this just a way for privileged people to feel better about themselves. It sounds like a great idea, but the folks who need it need to know it exits.
posted by Belle O'Cosity at 10:49 PM on November 10, 2016 [4 favorites]


Have any of you actually seen them in the real world?

I live in England. Never seen it, never heard of it. Maybe it's a London thing.
posted by Emma May Smith at 11:26 PM on November 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


This went around in the U.K. just after the brexit referendum (I live near Liverpool). Several friends changed their Facebook profile pictures but I never saw anyone wearing one. At least, I haven't yet. I hope it won't be needed but the way things are going it can't hurt to spread the word just in case.
posted by hazyjane at 11:29 PM on November 10, 2016


Nope, I'm in London. Not something I saw. Though maybe I just assumed they were punks.
I see the appeal though. I wonder if you can get nice pink or even rainbow safety pins.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 11:31 PM on November 10, 2016 [2 favorites]


Ditto. I live in London, never seen or heard about it. Doesn't mean it's a bad idea but hey, I thought we didn't like fake news any more...
posted by adrianhon at 11:53 PM on November 10, 2016


I live in the north of England and I've seen it! Admittedly only on a friend's lapel - and I had no idea why she had one. I thought she was going to pull out some impromptu sewing.

I'd wear one if I knew the people who needed it knew what it meant. This is the first time I've seen discussion about in since I talked to that friend.
posted by Rissa at 12:23 AM on November 11, 2016


I don't often agree with Eva Wiseman but in this case I do, as gestures go this is pretty marginal.
posted by biffa at 12:54 AM on November 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


(East Midlands, UK) I wear one daily since Brexit, and so does my wife. Seen a few around.
posted by Morfil Ffyrnig at 12:55 AM on November 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


Midlands of England. Saw it quite a bit after the referendum and then it kind of tailed off. I don't know if it had a positive impact but I do hope so.
posted by altolinguistic at 1:08 AM on November 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


My gut tells me this is related to the general wave of populism seen on both sides of the pond. My city has just sent me my eligibility papers to vote in the next local election and by corollary, be eligible to stand for election. I am not a citizen of the country in which my city has accepted me as a taxpayer. I feel included.
posted by infini at 1:32 AM on November 11, 2016 [6 favorites]


I'm in London and haven't seen any, think this might just be an Internet thing. Any real life lone pins are more likely to belong to detached poppies!
posted by JonB at 1:41 AM on November 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm in London. I heard about the safety pin idea very soon after the referendum, where it was presented as a way of identifying yourself to vulnerable individuals as an ally, rather than as a more general symbol of solidarity. I wore one for a few days, but got increasingly concerned that I didn't have a solid plan for dealing with a confrontation with someone yelling abuse, and I might well make the situation worse for the person being abused. I now think that a confrontation would probably not be helpful for the person, and my plan is to try to engage them in a normal conversation that ignores the yelling, so they're not left feeling alone or as if they're being treated by both sides as a symbol rather than a human being. I haven't witnessed any abuse so haven't tried this yet or seen how anyone else has coped, but I decided to stop wearing the safety pin as I thought it was claiming a level of competence as an activist that I don't have. Maybe that's less important than being willing to be counted in the general sense, and definitely I should seek out some training in dealing with that sort of situation - so I might end up wearing it again. However, I have never noticed anyone else wearing one.
posted by kelper at 1:53 AM on November 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


I live in England. Never seen it, never heard of it. Maybe it's a London thing.

It was a media thing for about five minutes post-Brexit referendum.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:57 AM on November 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


I live in London. I've had a safety pin on my backpack that I've just transferred to my winter coat. It's not widespread but it is a real thing. Dishoom for instance had a big bowl full of free safety pins by the door with some blurb about what it represents. Regardless of popularity, it's a great idea - yes it's the minimum gesture of solidarity and we should all do more, but also super easy, so why not just do it?
posted by iivix at 3:23 AM on November 11, 2016 [6 favorites]


I hope this spreads in the US as well, frankly. Speaking as one who is vulnerable on some axes and could be an ally on others.
posted by seyirci at 3:51 AM on November 11, 2016 [6 favorites]


Is it possible (in the UK) that it was more of a thing *outside* of London? Just from the comments here.

(I'm an American but I don't live there, so I have no idea if this will be just a Facebook/media thing).
posted by nat at 3:58 AM on November 11, 2016


My family are all wearing one today. Haven't seen any others, but it was indeed all over Facebook yesterday.
posted by Rock Steady at 4:18 AM on November 11, 2016


This is nice and all, but how about a Good Night White Pride logo instead?
posted by sixohsix at 4:28 AM on November 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'm in London and briefly wore one, but then changed my coat and didn't transfer it. I'm not sure how much traction it has got, but I like it as an idea.
posted by fizban at 4:51 AM on November 11, 2016


Seen them in Bradford. Assumed it was once a poppy that was lost.

As of today I have one on my coat.
posted by vbfg at 5:28 AM on November 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


This is nice and all, but how about a Good Night White Pride logo instead?

One of the reservations I have with this sort of messaging is that certain anti-racist logos look an awful lot like super-racist logos if the viewer isn't specifically familiar with them. I don't think it's productive for anti-racist allies to wear patches that say "white pride" and depict people getting kicked, whatever the intent. We don't need this to devolve into street violence, we just want to let vulnerable people know that we're willing to stand up for them.
posted by Strange Interlude at 6:00 AM on November 11, 2016 [39 favorites]


Done and done. One on my jacket, one on my shirt. I suspect I'll be doing this for four years.

I got a crapload of safety pins at home. I'm going to fill a container to carry around with me, so I can give them to folks who ask.

But I also want to act, not just tie a yellow ribbon. I'm working out what to do. I told my daughter that, if I got wind someone was being treated poorly in Trump's name, I would stand up. Beyond that, I'm figuring out what I can do. A lot of donations will be involved. I'll become more likely to attend rallies.

I'm collecting links of suggestions, and working up a list. If anyone has other good links or suggestions, let me know.

Change your words into truths and then change that truth into love
posted by MrGuilt at 6:04 AM on November 11, 2016 [14 favorites]


I said this in the election thread, but I just ordered a crap ton of love trumps hate buttons to hand out to my friends and anyone that wants one for exactly this purpose.

Maybe I should put a safety pin somewhere too.
posted by mayonnaises at 6:12 AM on November 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


My wife just ordered a giant safety pin to hang on our house next to the rainbow flag.
Our house is next to a park entrance that gets lots of traffic, some of it pretty regressive. My house can be a haven.
posted by Seamus at 6:50 AM on November 11, 2016 [6 favorites]


I love the idea but thought it was a planted story by "social engineers," like some kind of propaganda or something... Thanks to everyone from the U.K. inadvertently confirming my suspicions by weighing in with their experiences of this "non-phenomenon." I have no doubt the idea was floated in the media after Brexit and I saw the Slate article yesterday about it. FYI this is what social engineering looks like. It's not always effective, but there ya go.

That said, I wish there was a real symbol I could wear to show everyone how I felt without saying anything. Or maybe a day of support to celebrate. Something.
posted by jbenben at 6:54 AM on November 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


I wore one post-Brexit. All of my colleagues are immigrants and sometimes the gestures matter. I didn't see too many in Glasgow, but I did see a few. It's like new cars: you start to notice them when you have one yourself.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 6:56 AM on November 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


That said, I wish there was a real symbol I could wear to show everyone how I felt without saying anything.

I don't know if this is really an organic thing or not, but I do know that you can go on Google and ask, "what does a safety pin mean", and this is what you find. It may or may not get much traction, but it's something, and it's sufficiently real that people have some hope of being able to figure out what it means.
posted by Sequence at 7:06 AM on November 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


NEWSFLASH: All adopted symbols are social engineering. If it catches on, it catches on.
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:14 AM on November 11, 2016 [33 favorites]


I teach on a college campus, in an area that is very much so representative of what you might think of as middle america Trump country (not super diverse, but becoming more so daily, an older population of which many are uncomfortable with the changing demographics, and a manufacturing town that has seen most of its jobs leave the area in the past decade). I haven't seen any outright attacks or incidents yet, but I know that it was already difficult to be different around here for many people before the election.

So I'm wearing one. I figure, my students are pretty active on social media, they might already know what it is. On the other hand, they are also pretty comfortable with me, and if they don't know, at least one student in the class will probably ask, and then I get to explain it. My students are mostly first-generation students, and they often feel on their own. If I can be more visible as a safe resource for them for ANY reason, it's a win. Even if on a grand, national scale, it is a pretty minor gesture.

I also think the Eva Wiseman article makes the mistake of assuming people wearing pins feel that their work stops there. I agree that would be pretty ridiculous, but I have hope that is not the case.
posted by TheFantasticNumberFour at 7:24 AM on November 11, 2016 [7 favorites]


love trumps hate buttons

I am not wearing any incarnation of that word on my person (but I'm not suggesting that you shouldn't if you find it helpful and inspiring). People are already going to have to hear and see it way too goddamn much in the next four years. Lovely sentiment or not, it's basically just giving the "brand" more free publicity.
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:26 AM on November 11, 2016 [15 favorites]


No one is forcing anyone to wear this if they don't want. I don't see the use of coming in here and going "ugh that is not a real thing" when it's started circulating in the US only a day or so ago. It's a nice idea for those who want to participate.
posted by sallybrown at 7:55 AM on November 11, 2016 [10 favorites]


Pantsuit Nation safety pins.

For extra visibility, I think I might buy a giant-ass oversized kilt pin, or one fancy enough to wear as corporate jewelry on my coat.

Some people could also DIY their own version of this, if you want to be specifically LGBT welcoming.
posted by joyceanmachine at 8:21 AM on November 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


In the 80s we wore safety pins threaded with beads on our Keds. I might fancy up my pin similarly
posted by emjaybee at 8:33 AM on November 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


I work on a campus with a large number of foriegn students. We're planning on putting up flyers to clarify what the pins mean, just to be sure.
posted by korej at 8:37 AM on November 11, 2016 [6 favorites]


Important but this happened in the UK about 6 months ago after the Brexit vote. Keep up USA!
posted by terrancemiles at 8:40 AM on November 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


As an immigrant, I feel this may be something worthwhile for the majority community to think about.

I moved to the US more than 20 years ago and became a citizen just in time to vote for BO in 2008. To think that within 8 years I now feel very vulnerable, scared and unwanted.

I live in a very diverse city and till today I felt like a foreigner but never really out of place. Thursday was the first time, while walking on the streets I actually felt vulnerable for being a foreigner.

This election was driven by an anti immigrant feeling. That was what Trump began his campaign on. That is what separated him from the rest of the field of 16. His promise to build a wall and deport all the undocumented was what gave his campaign the early focus. That is what made 53 percent of White Women vote for a obviously sexist, misogynist candidate. That is what gave him about 30 percent support from Latinos. (I have heard that Cubans and Puertoricans especially do not like the undocumented, but I may be wrong.) He also got more African American support than Romney. Sure racism was a part of it, but xenophobia was a bigger aspect of this election. Brexit redux.

You all can brainstorm about how to do it, but it will be nice to see a white person on the street and not wonder if that person hates me. You may think I am being overdramatic, but this is how I feel now. Very very scared. I have not heard anyone tell me "go back to your country" yet in more than 20 years here. But I expect this to happen very soon.
posted by indianbadger1 at 8:43 AM on November 11, 2016 [45 favorites]


Yet another reason to break out the old punk regalia.
posted by chortly at 8:44 AM on November 11, 2016 [6 favorites]


...got increasingly concerned that I didn't have a solid plan for dealing with a confrontation with someone yelling abuse.

I'm reasonably intimidating looking white guy so I feel like stepping into situations like this is something that I need to be ready to do. But I'm also kind of at a loss as to the best way to de-escalate those kinds of situations. I'm...hesitantly prepared for to defend myself and others from violence with violence and to put myself in harms way.

Obviously, I'd like to avoid violence if at all possible. Does anyone have any advice and/or resources they could point me too?
posted by VTX at 8:59 AM on November 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


Southern UK - was definitely something I was aware of, participated in and saw around a bit for a few weeks post-brexit. Bought large pin specifically, and I think it's still in the car. May well get it out again now I've been reminded.

Definitely a nice idea when you suddenly discover half your local population aren't quite what you thought, and your local urban centres have a sudden crop of anti immigrant graffiti.
posted by PeteTheHair at 9:04 AM on November 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


I accidentally wore a purple T-shirt a week or so after the Brexit vote. (It was from a hack day) and all day I very much felt that a lot of non-white people were very much avoiding me, giving me a suspicious look and crossing the road, and near the end of the day a very drunk guy spinning me a tale about how "A remainer" had just punched him.
I was very confused until I realised that they were assuming that my purple T-shirt was a UKIP shirt.

I threw away my t-shirt.
Anyway, point is, just seeing a symbol changes how people feel and how they act.
This is an easy symbol to wear and no one is making money off it. I plan to wear one now I've heard of it.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 9:14 AM on November 11, 2016 [8 favorites]


The more I think about it, the more I like this idea. God knows I'm not an activist and probably never will be, but as indianbadger1 pointed out, I want people to know they don't have to be afraid of me.

And also, I apologize for saying this, but right now I can't take "love trumps hate" because literally, thanks to Trump, hate trumped love, and I'm just not feeling like it does right now.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:23 AM on November 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


Though uh, whoever is charging $60 for a 3 inch pin on Etsy is out of their minds.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:27 AM on November 11, 2016 [4 favorites]


Lots of Facebook friends from all over the USA are posting pics of the safety pins they are wearing.

I know I would forget to put one on every day and/or I am constantly putting on various sweaters (because cold offices, shops, everywheres) so I stuck one on my necklace and am going to add them to all my usual necklaces.
posted by CoffeeHikeNapWine at 9:28 AM on November 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


I have a part-time job in the children’s department of a bookstore where a big part of my role is hospitality: greeting people, doing storytime, etc. I’ve been debating whether to wear a pin. I have a lot of Latinx and Muslim customers-- as well as Latinx family members-- and I know people are finding this terribly hard on a personal level. I also have a lot of customers who have indicated they were voting for Trump. My feelings about that are hard to describe, inasmuch as this is an area where one can assume a lot of those people have all the advantages already and are not disenfranchised former middle class, or anything like that. But I sort of feel as if I am the host in this particular workspace, and making anyone feel criticized is questionable. I wonder if I might make a better point just being cordial as ever to all the kids and treat the adults even-handedly. Hmm, maybe I should make this an Ask.
posted by BibiRose at 9:30 AM on November 11, 2016


I was just coming in to post about this.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 9:42 AM on November 11, 2016


I'm reasonably intimidating looking white guy so I feel like stepping into situations like this is something that I need to be ready to do. But I'm also kind of at a loss as to the best way to de-escalate those kinds of situations.

Keep your focus on making the person under attack feel (and be) safe. So when you approach the situation, go to the person being attacked, not the attacker. Sit or walk with the person being attacked, strike up a conversation, guide them away from the situation if possible. Ignore the attacker. Focus on the person under attack and respect their wishes.

Here is a great illustration outlining these steps.
posted by sallybrown at 9:53 AM on November 11, 2016 [26 favorites]


If you are a person with the privilege to consider symbolic solidarity right now, please also plan to actively use your voice and speak up for vulnerable populations. Don't let wearing a safety pin be your only gesture.
posted by ChuraChura at 10:07 AM on November 11, 2016 [31 favorites]


Never heard of it, never seen one as far as I know. I don't recognise the the open environment of hatred either, though a tiny number of racists were certainly emboldened for a while.
posted by StephenB at 10:09 AM on November 11, 2016


How lucky for you.
posted by tobascodagama at 10:15 AM on November 11, 2016 [40 favorites]


I am not wearing any incarnation of that word on my person

I certainly hear and have mixed feelings about myself on this as well, but I can't think of any other messaging or token that will be as visible and requires no prior knowledge to understand the meaning of; I'm not just pro-love, I'm anti-trump's "america".
posted by mayonnaises at 10:40 AM on November 11, 2016 [2 favorites]


I feel like paperclips are a more solid choice cause they don't put holes in your clothes.
posted by ethansr at 11:00 AM on November 11, 2016


My clothes already have holes, so no big deal.
posted by Strange Interlude at 11:03 AM on November 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


Sacramento here.
This morning I spoke with some midtown business owners about expanding safe spaces in midtown.
There will be a meeting called to discuss creating a window icon (work in progress), a set of principles, and a policy for participating midtown bars, shops and restaurants to make vulnerable groups of all kinds know they can go out in midtown and be safe and protected from harassment. This will include signage and training for staff so that customers will know that if they are being harassed for any reason, whether its disability, sexuality, gender, race, etc they can notify the staff and the instigators will be asked to leave.
We can't control what happens everywhere in the world but we can fight to keep midtown a place of tolerance and inclusion.
posted by Senor Cardgage at 11:07 AM on November 11, 2016 [29 favorites]


I wore a safety pin in Bristol post brexit and have one on now.

No, it's not very much trouble, or very effective in protecting people. But it's a small good thing that anyone can do to make other people feel better, like saying thank you.

As an immigrant to the UK, brexit made me feel like half of the white people I saw did not want me there. I am a white Jewish American, I was not prepared for feeling like I did. When I saw someone else who had one on, I felt better.

I think I saw the safety pin idea on Facebook first. There's also a group called Worrying Signs where people post incidents of racial or xenophobic abuse. Right now, people can look at a bus full of white people and not know which half of the bus hates them.

For those unaware of the open environment of hate, let me google that for you: google search.
posted by mgrrl at 11:12 AM on November 11, 2016 [7 favorites]


Senor Cardgage, I love that logo! I look forward to seeing it around.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:41 AM on November 11, 2016 [3 favorites]


It also has (pleasant, for me) associations with my days as a slightly scruffy suburban punk teenager. The people I knew in that subculture were some of the most caring, welcoming people I've ever known, so it fits with the more current connotation as well.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:25 PM on November 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


London: I heard about the safety pin right after the referendum; it took a few days to filter into my workplace. Mine is still on my jacket.
posted by Pallas Athena at 12:58 PM on November 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


Just in case, maybe start wearing a paperclip instead.
posted by cynicalidealist at 1:13 PM on November 11, 2016


I was already prepared for this, because I always keep a safety pin somewhere on my person in the event of an unexpected pants-splitting incident. And yes, I have a very good reason for being prepared.
posted by sonascope at 2:14 PM on November 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


biffa, I guess I understand where she was going but that Eva Wiseman article is the opposite of useful.
A safety pin. I can imagine more pathetic ways of showing solidarity, but not many, and most include whispering under one’s breath in a broad wind... I mean, I get it. I’m not a monster. It’s a sweet gesture. I get that it feels important to clarify your position as one of the goodies.
I don't think it's pathetic. For one thing, it's a small thing all of us who did not vote for this disaster can use to identify ourselves to others. I think that matters. Some people don't feel comfortable doing anything at all, but maybe they will feel like they are making a difference in even the smallest way.

I bought two bags of large paperclips at a sewing store and printed out several copies of the first 5 pages of this article from Vox. I am going to give these out at my Weight Watchers meeting and at my life drawing session this weekend. Don't do it if you don't want. But don't be an asshole and insult people who are trying to do even the smallest things on the side of good. Obviously it isn't going to solve major problems, and those who can do more, should do more. But I do believe every little bit of kindness helps, and that all signs of goodness are welcome.
posted by Glinn at 3:18 PM on November 11, 2016 [10 favorites]


I like it. I mean, it might not be a big important gesture, but it might give a person a good idea of a safe person to sit down next to on a bus or a train, among other things.

I think the important thing is that if you do wear the pin, you have to be willing to be more than just there, and stand up and say something when you see people acting in a bigoted way. If marginalized people who know what it means see pin-wearers standing around doing nothing, it will diminish their opinion of the sign as anything meaningful.
posted by that girl at 3:25 PM on November 11, 2016 [11 favorites]


Just yesterday I noticed a guy near my office in SoHo who was quite fashionably dressed and had a safety pin on as an earring. I had kind of assumed it was another cyclic influx of "punk" into fashion aesthetics, but it didn't exactly fit his outfit so I suppose it was this.
posted by whir at 3:31 PM on November 11, 2016


I don't often agree with Eva Wiseman but in this case I do, as gestures go this is pretty marginal.

"Solidarity is easy; outrage is hard?"

That seems totally backward - but I think I mean something more serious by "solidarity" than she does and thus don't really disagree so much.
posted by atoxyl at 4:07 PM on November 11, 2016 [1 favorite]


The red ribbons of act up had a huge effect on AIDS awareness. The safety pins seem like a great way to reclaim public spaces and start conversations. Count me in.
posted by kaibutsu at 5:21 PM on November 11, 2016 [11 favorites]


So, here's my report on the first day of wearing a pin:

(a) I had an appointment with my shrink (who has had exactly the kind of fun week you think she had), who had heard about the pin thing last night as well. She said she wished she'd put one on today and at some point a client asked her if she had any, but that was so she could pin up her pants. I gave her one to wear and a few extra if she needed them.

(b) I got together with a friend of mine... who I forgot was one of those "there's no difference between the two of them" people, and she was all, "Why are people so upset? What's the point of protesting? It's not going to do anything. We can't do anything, we just have to put up with it, probably nothing's going to change anyway." I don't think she gets it. However, my mind was so fucking blown that I...just couldn't even start with this. She's a PoC, she will find out the hard way unfortunately, and I had several more hours to spend with her and I just could not deal with this. So we mostly stayed off that topic. However, at one point during the night, she asked what was that on my shirt?" "It's a pin," I said, and immediately changed the subject.

So, there you go.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:47 PM on November 11, 2016 [8 favorites]


I put one on my winter hat a few hours ago. I can understand why people are cynical about the gesture—it does seem broadly similar to slacktivism—but I'm happy to take that criticism if it helps someone else find safety or comfort.
posted by danb at 11:46 PM on November 11, 2016 [5 favorites]


I've got plastic coated paper clips in four colors; yellow, red, blue & green. I think I'll start wearing all four in a row. Maybe hang them with a safety pin?
posted by X4ster at 7:40 AM on November 12, 2016


I can understand why people are cynical about the gesture—it does seem broadly similar to slacktivism.

I guess that makes sense in some settings, but for those of us who are part of academic communities, most colleges and universities in the US include stuff like this as part of their core institutional values:
Diversity: By providing a campus which is supportive, safe, and welcoming, X embraces a diversity of ideas, beliefs, and cultures.

Ethical Community: X recognizes the inherent dignity of each member of the University community and treats everyone with respect. Our actions are guided by fairness, honesty, and integrity.
So for me and my coworkers and our students, this is an affirmation of our professional and personal commitment to uphold and apply those values on and around campus, and a reminder to ourselves and others that we need to walk that walk every day, especially in troubled times like these. Actively being a safe person for my students and colleagues and community in general and encouraging others to do that as well is literally part of my job description.
posted by FelliniBlank at 8:16 AM on November 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


A lot of children's book authors and illustrators are creating things and tagging them with #kidlitsafetypins. It's pretty great.
posted by box at 9:21 AM on November 12, 2016 [4 favorites]


I'm saddened that there is already such vocal backlash against this small, unobtrusive gesture. The marginalized need to know they have allies and who they are. The safety pin can easily be ignored. But some people are still being dicks about it. And they know that they are safe to do so.
posted by Cookiebastard at 11:04 AM on November 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


I dunno how useful it is given it's apparently being coopted by white supremacists.
posted by juv3nal at 1:03 PM on November 12, 2016 [3 favorites]


I honestly don't get the people attacking this idea. One of the ways that bullying thrives is that people assume that those around them support it. Since most people are wimps, this is generally a good assumption. However, I think someone who wants to yell the n-word at someone (as has happened to a friend of mine) will be less likely to do so in a crowd of people who are wearing visible symbols of support for minorities.

The most obvious example of the power of this is when everyone in Denmark put on a Jewish star.

Maybe the safety pin isn't the best symbol or isn't the one that will catch on. But it's really absurd to say "oh just because you've done a small thing, therefore you won't do a bigger one so you shouldn't do anything small / simply symbolic" In fact, there's a bunch of data that suggests that if you do a small thing for a cause, you are much more likely to do a larger one, too.

Symbols matter. The reason there are all these hate attacks now is that Trump empowered people to believe that it's OK to do this. The more that they see evidence that it is still not OK, the better. And the more people see people standing up, the more likely they are to do it themselves.
posted by Maias at 1:17 PM on November 12, 2016 [11 favorites]


One suggestion I've seen on my Twitter TL is to use specific symbols instead. BLM patches, Trans/Pride flags, etc. They're both more immediately understandable and less likely to be co-opted. It's just a shame that there's no equivalently universal symbols for immigrant or Muslim solidarity, but you could always wear the safety pin with the other stuff.
posted by tobascodagama at 2:35 PM on November 12, 2016 [6 favorites]


Y'all are bubbled. A lot of marginalized people I am in contact with are deriding this gesture. It gives you the warm and fuzzy feeling of having done something without needing to do anything.

You want to fight white supremacy? Call out that crap. Have a proper argument with your uncle when he brings it up on Thanksgiving. You probably won't convince him of anything, but maybe when your nephew or niece sees your rationality vs. his stuck racism it will have an effect.

You want to have an effect? Donate. Time, money, something.

How about just listening?

Also, 4chan already knows about the safety pin and plan on using it against the targets. It's almost too easy.
posted by jonnay at 6:09 PM on November 12, 2016 [12 favorites]


What if we did the safety pin AND something else?!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:36 PM on November 12, 2016 [14 favorites]


I have a friend here in Sacramento who has been wearing a pin since she heard about it, and was hugged and thanked by a POC in tears in a cafe yesterday... I'm sure a lot of people don't know about it, but it means something to some people at least.
posted by logic vs love at 7:00 PM on November 12, 2016 [9 favorites]


It's the glee with which some people dismiss these things that really gets to me.
posted by Etrigan at 7:21 PM on November 12, 2016 [27 favorites]




Dear White People, your safety pins are embarrassing.

The (white) author of that article manages to miss the point spectacularly.

The pins - at least as they were originally conceived for use in the UK post-Brexit weren't intended to be a substitute for other forms of activism or a way for people to feel better about themselves. They served a very specific purpose. To wit - helping people in dangerous situations to make better decisions regarding personal safety.

I've definitely been in situations where I had to make a split-second call on who to approach for assistance with regard to serious street harassment and it is fucking awful not knowing whether the people you're fleeing towards are going to join forces with your harasser or do the decent thing and provide support. Even if that support is something as small as allowing you to vanish inside a crowd or just making eye contact so that you know your situation has been noticed and that there's somebody there who can, at the very least, give a description to the cops - even if they're not able to intervene more directly.

Anything which provides a measure of comfort and security in those circumstances is a good thing. Unfortunately the efficacy of such symbols is tied to widespread awareness and uptake, both of which are hampered by smug articles like this one.
posted by the latin mouse at 6:49 AM on November 13, 2016 [12 favorites]


Y'all are bubbled. A lot of marginalized people I am in contact with are deriding this gesture. It gives you the warm and fuzzy feeling of having done something without needing to do anything.

Exactly. And the author of the linked article may be white, but he's just echoing things I've read from all the black folks I follow on Twitter.

Their main point: white people are not known for showing up. They cannot trust a white person wearing a safety pin because there's a long, long history of white allies talking a good game but then failing to act when action is needed. They see the safety pin as just an extension of this history.
posted by tobascodagama at 7:34 AM on November 13, 2016 [7 favorites]


So here is a challenge to all of you safety pinners. You want to make this thing worthwhile? Only wear a safety pin when you can tell a good story about how you earned it.

Think about it, the onus is on us to step in and stop something.

Do you expect someone in the middle of being harassed to find your safety pin on your lapel?
posted by jonnay at 8:33 AM on November 13, 2016


That said, I wish there was a real symbol I could wear to show everyone how I felt without saying anything.
There is. It's a safety pin.


Only wear a safety pin when you can tell a good story about how you earned it.

Should I do the same with the seat belt in my car?
posted by Brachinus at 8:47 AM on November 13, 2016 [7 favorites]


You want to make this thing worthwhile? Only wear a safety pin when you can tell a good story about how you earned it.

What kind of a "good story" is your barrier to entry here? Because in my experience as both a victim and a bystander it actually doesn't take much at all. Certainly nothing that would add up to a good story. There's this really insidious idea that the only way people can combat this kind of aggression is by responding in kind, but I don't want somebody who is going to beat up my aggressor. Most of the time all I need is somebody who will let me stand close enough to them that I can fake like I am a part of their group to make myself less of an easy target. Somebody who will let me come over and ask for the time or directions to a place I already know damn well how to locate, because if I'm engaged in a conversation with a member of a more privileged group, it can be enough to make the aggressor lose interest.

People can make a real difference to marginalised people in dangerous situations without having a "good story". Trust me.
posted by the latin mouse at 8:50 AM on November 13, 2016 [10 favorites]


Only wear a safety pin when you can tell a good story about how you earned it.

"Once upon a time, there was a troll living under Concern Bridge..."
posted by Etrigan at 8:55 AM on November 13, 2016 [16 favorites]


Only wear a safety pin when you can tell a good story about how you earned it.

I don't think it's meant to be some sort of "purple heart" of anti-racism / anti-sexism that proclaims that you're a hero, or that you're fully trained in martial arts or hand to hand combat or that you saved a village or something. It's a signal that people can sit by you safely on public transport (you won't harass or attack them), that they can come speak to you / your group if something scary is going on for them, and you won't act like they are a threat because they approached you, or side with their abusers.

There have been times in my life when I've gone to strangers to say "can you just talk with me for a few minutes, because this guy is being super creepy and won't leave me alone," and I just had to size up the people I approached to try to get a sense of if they would understand and help me out. Some small signal certainly wouldn't have gone awry there.

If the point is to ferret out people who might possibly not be 100% perfect at being allies or don't measure up to some purity level of "good enough" or "done enough" and browbeat them out of wearing a safety pin, well okay, I guess that's one way to look at it. But if the point is to share some visible clue that you are an approachable, sympathetic person and someone being abused or bullied doesn't have to be alone in a threatening situation, then here's one way that's been suggested. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by taz at 9:30 AM on November 13, 2016 [7 favorites]


>You all can brainstorm about how to do it, but it will be nice to see a white person on the street and not wonder if that person hates me. You may think I am being overdramatic, but this is how I feel now. Very very scared. I have not heard anyone tell me "go back to your country" yet in more than 20 years here. But I expect this to happen very soon.

Please forgive my honky whining.

I'm feeling the same way, from the other side. How do I reassure the POC I encounter outside of my friends and family (my husband - and thus my sons - are of Syrian descent) that I'm not one of those horrible Trumpians? The sadness and fear is palpable. The tiniest interactions seem so...fraught. A young Black woman bumped into me at the movies the other night. The look on her face broke my heart. She looked terrified. I apologized to her. "Whoopsie! I'm so sorry, sometimes my ass doesn't know how to keep to itself. Are you OK?" She still looked so worried.

No one should have to feel fearful that they're going to be harassed or assaulted. It's wrong and it's bullshit, and I'm angry that people feel like they can't trust anyone any more. Fucking Cheetoface. Ugh.

So, while the safety pin may not be much, I will wear one anyway in the hopes that people are at least not terrified of my fat, lily-white self.
posted by MissySedai at 10:07 AM on November 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


Ugh. I was wrong about my hair-brained idea of "only wearing it if you have a good story to tell". I shoulda shut my yap on that one.

But I am not concern trolling. You wanna wear a saefty pin? Have at er. But it seems like an empty gesture. I am asking you to actually step up. The safety pin is the beginning, not the end.

Don't think that just because you're wearing a safety pin you're "doing something".

https://twitter.com/Delo_Taylor/status/797231745083080705
https://twitter.com/Hood_Biologist/status/797550045709135872

And for some perspective, the twitter search: "safety pin white people". Just read. Look at the avatar and read.
posted by jonnay at 10:33 AM on November 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Okay, so what if people wearing safety pins don't think they're "doing something," but only want to signal they're safe for people needing someone to hang with them in a scary situation or that if they are looking for a safe place to just sit down, it's okay to sit by them? Is there any signal that's okay for this?
posted by taz at 10:53 AM on November 13, 2016 [8 favorites]


The safety pin is the beginning, not the end.

"Concern Bridge was made of straw."
posted by Etrigan at 10:59 AM on November 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


Maias: The most obvious example of the power of this is when everyone in Denmark put on a Jewish star.

Snopes disagrees with you on both the facts and the interpretation of that story.
Although this legend may not be true in its specifics, it was certainly true enough in spirit. The rescue of several thousand Danish Jews was accomplished through the efforts of "thousands of policemen, government officials, physicians, and persons of all walks of life." The efforts to save Danish Jews may not have had the flair of the "yellow star" legend, and they may not have required quite so many citizens to visibly oppose an occupying army, but those who were rescued undoubtedly preferred substance to style.
The story of everyone wearing a yellow star apparently comes from a newspaper cartoon.
posted by d. z. wang at 11:09 AM on November 13, 2016 [1 favorite]




Okay, so what if people wearing safety pins don't think they're "doing something," but only want to signal they're safe for people needing someone to hang with them in a scary situation or that if they are looking for a safe place to just sit down, it's okay to sit by them? Is there any signal that's okay for this?

Um...an additional safety pin?
posted by VTX at 2:44 PM on November 13, 2016


OK, I'm not going to wear a pin if it's actually going to make things worse or harder for people or piss them off during an already stressful, fearful time. I'm not sure why there's an assumption that someone wearing a visible symbol of X is only doing that and hasn't also been doing active work on X, but maybe that's a safe assumption and this is one of the (many) cases where the best thing white people can do is shut up and be less visible.

One of my students did come to me and another prof for help with an ugly harassment situation earlier this semester (after like weeks of not telling their roommate or family or R.A. for fear of worrying them or looking weak), and it kills me to think that now that a whole bunch of Michiganders of my demographic just voted a hate-monger into the White House, other students probably no longer feel safe approaching us.
posted by FelliniBlank at 5:24 PM on November 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Is there any signal that's okay for this?

I think I'm just going to put a "Clinton for President" pin on my backpack. I _think_ no one can object to that or find it offensive from the Left and it still accomplishes what I think is important to achieve, making assholes about to start trouble realize that they don't have as much support as they think they do.

That is literally all I want to accomplish with this gesture!!! Trump's victory has emboldened some truly awful people who are now acting out in public in ways they were afraid to before Election Day. I just want to push back against their new found confidence. I just want that when some asshole on the train or in a bar or wherever is thinking about starting trouble and he looks around to read the room, he's loses his certainty and then his nerve. My whole hope in doing this is just to help make public spaces safer than they are right now, to prevent someone from getting assaulted or shouted at or even just made to have a shitty day.

Even before the whole safety pin thing broke I ordered some pins from Etsy (Black Lives Matter, Rainbow, and one with that goofy Coexist logo [so corny I thought I would _die_]). Now I've ordered a Clinton for President one as well. I'm just going to wear that one by itself, for now, unless some other approach becomes acceptable in the future. I also realize this won't work for non-Clinton supporters.
posted by great_radio at 5:35 PM on November 13, 2016 [1 favorite]




"OK, I'm not going to wear a pin if it's actually going to make things worse or harder for people or piss them off during an already stressful, fearful time."
"If the point is to ferret out people who might possibly not be 100% perfect at being allies or don't measure up to some purity level of "good enough" or "done enough" and browbeat them out of wearing a safety pin, well okay,"


Fine. You have convinced me. I'm just a shitty person for liking the idea of indicating safety, and I was wrong to think I could. I also can't beat up large racist white guys should they decide to pick on a PoC, so therefore I am not a good enough advocate in the first place. I will not wear a pin. Message received. Thanks for educating me.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:23 PM on November 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


My observations:
1). People who were going out and buying safety pins/swag.... that $ could probably be more effective in allyship if it went to the ACLU or something

2). As interactions in some of the articles posted, and in this thread, and in the politics thread indicate, there appears to me to be a really troubling pattern of many POC expressing discomfort/frustration with the safety pin... and lots of white people either telling them they're wrong or going into white fragility and talking about how hurt they are now because people don't like their idea. That is an unfortunately really exhausted pattern at this point, and after everything else that's gone on this week is a really disheartening demonstration that white allies still aren't listening about not making this about THEM.
posted by TwoStride at 8:33 PM on November 13, 2016 [14 favorites]


I feel like there's a lot of white fragility in some of the defensive reactions I'm seeing. Like, if the safety pin gesture is actually useful, its usefulness is not predicated on an online referendum, so mentally FIAMO. If it's effective in in the way people imagine it is, it literally doesn't matter what anyone here thinks or says. On the other hand, if there are legitimate reasons for the criticisms, maybe consider them I guess?
posted by zokni at 9:10 PM on November 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


I mean, I think the idea that a successful act of solidarity is one that engenders no criticism from anyone and only garners acclaim from all corners is exactly what some people are saying they distrust about "ally"ship.
posted by zokni at 9:28 PM on November 13, 2016 [4 favorites]


Leaving aside the propensity for a neutral, wordless symbol to be coopted (lets say that's alarmism and never happens), it has the effect of highlighting when someone has a pin but doesn't intervene, or, conversely, how many people aren't wearing a pin, either of which would be discouraging in the best of cases.
posted by juv3nal at 9:34 PM on November 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


I've been thinking of the safety pin in terms of commitment: If you put it on, you need to be prepared to deliver.

& not just in the sense of willingness. I know a lot of people who are willing, but may get themselves into trouble if they have to deal with what one woman on Twitter referred to as "literal nazis": I.e., people who will fuck you up for your courage. ("Skill up," she advised.)

And then of course there's the fact that those symbols can and probably will be be co-opted by people who will fuck you up for your courage.
posted by lodurr at 7:15 AM on November 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


I dunno how useful it is given it's apparently being coopted by white supremacists.

How does this make any sense? This seems like me wearing a swastika with the plan of diluting the Nazi messaging.

The backlash to this, oh boy. This is the very mechanism that stops liberal momentum. And the good liberals just can't stop themselves.

There is constant discussion of how to bring more people in, populist ideas, etc. But every single idea that starts to catch on is shot down mercilessly. "You're idea is bad, you're bad for liking it, you're not doing enough!" Half the country didn't even vote, but when some people want to take a small symbolic move of solidarity it's mocked and derided. No one is ever doing enough. Not like the really compassionate people who really care, more than you.
posted by bongo_x at 11:59 AM on November 14, 2016 [10 favorites]


I'm going to wear a safety pin. I'm going to do other things also. If someone ask why I'm wearing a safety pin, I'll tell'em. Eventually the gesture may seem pointless or a may forget to do it.

But in the meantime I'm putting on safety pin, realizing it's not cure all, but simply a small gesture.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:10 PM on November 14, 2016 [6 favorites]


I'm not going to wear a safety pin, because

a) I don't have a history of successfully standing up for myself, and experience tells me that if I intervene on someone else's behalf I'll only make the situation worse. Nobody's going to want the inadequate "defense" I have to offer. I've known people who successfully offered themselves to be beaten in someone else's place, and I guess that's an option for me if it comes to that, but I'm not going to advertise it with a safety pin, because not only can I not guarantee my own courage, but

b) enough people have indicated that they find the gesture disgusting and despise those who make it, for already well described reasons, that I'd have to be crazy to do something so evidently offensive. I also don't forcibly drag old ladies across the road.
posted by tel3path at 12:51 PM on November 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


"I dunno how useful it is given it's apparently being coopted by white supremacists."

"How does this make any sense? This seems like me wearing a swastika with the plan of diluting the Nazi messaging."

More like Nazis coopting the Red Cross, I think. You wear a symbol that says "come to me for safety" and when the fox hears the rabbit scream, the rabbit just comes a running to him.
posted by tel3path at 1:05 PM on November 14, 2016


I see this being more of a symbolic thing than the case that someone is going to the victim of Nazi crime and run to another Nazi for help. I'm sure that could happen, lots of things could happen.

The idea of an inclusive popular liberal movement is always hampered by the idea that it's more important to have the approval of a small faction, actually of everyone. Every single person must agree that something is without flaw for it to move forward. The average person hears these discussions and thinks "I have no idea what those people are trying to say".

People love to mock the "well, actually" but that is the major part of liberal discussion.
posted by bongo_x at 1:35 PM on November 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


that it's more important to have the approval of a small faction,

Except that in this case it seems like a pretty large faction of the people you're supposed to be supporting saying they don't want it, so here the "well, actually" is "well actually, POC, I don't care about your opinion here because I'm so enamored with my idea."

See also: The now-thriving Etsy market for safety pin earrings that cost like $40.
posted by TwoStride at 3:21 PM on November 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


Why is it I should care about the price of safety pin earrings on Etsy, and how is a factor?
posted by bongo_x at 4:51 PM on November 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Because it's already being promoted as trendy fashion rather than any actual statement of activism (I saw two different links by white women hawking these on my social media feeds today). The safety pin allows some people to feel better about themselves... but is making many of the people it's intended to represent feel worse. And when called on this white women in particular, from what I've observed, just keep quadrupling down on how they like this thing so there.
posted by TwoStride at 4:57 PM on November 14, 2016 [2 favorites]


When I was considering doing this I also considered that a plain safety pin might be hard to see so I might look for an embellished brooch that would stand out, so if someone got in bother they could see it easily.

It's moot for me now, but I wouldn't project shallow "fashion" motives onto people automatically.
posted by tel3path at 5:47 PM on November 14, 2016


People of color are not a monolithic voice on this, and as a woman I would prefer to see a sea of safety pins around me. This piece articulates well why I am going to continue to wear mine:
I hear the critique. I saw the article because two WOCs posted it. I know they resonated with it because of long experience with lip service and/or betrayal by white feminists. I hear that.
Nevertheless, I cannot support slamming the safety pin idea, and here’s why:
And besides being a public declaration of my commitment to intervene and engage that I cannot hide from as long as I'm wearing it, I feel it serves as a visible reminder that what is going on is not normal, and that we cannot allow this hate to be normalized.
posted by antinomia at 5:00 AM on November 15, 2016 [8 favorites]


I'm wearing one as a sort of challenge to myself. If I am wearing one and I see a situation where I should intervene, I hope that having this visual signifier will help me to live up to my commitment to ally-ship, which to be honest, I haven't always done in the past. It really is the least I can do, but it is not the least I will do, if a conflict arises. I am hearing the people that view it as useless and discouraging, and I am also hearing the people who are relieved by it and appreciate it. I know it is not going to be welcomed by all the people it is intended to benefit, but as zokni mentions above, I feel like owning that knowledge is part of the burden of my privilege.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:04 AM on November 15, 2016 [5 favorites]


I don't put much stock in allyship for various reasons, but part of it is in many cases allies have no skin in the game (literally).

To be honest, if shit happens, I probably won't notice whether anyone's wearing a pin or not; at other times, it's a safety pin and I'm kinda all ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ about it because I get that it's supposed to signal a certain virtue, but it's a small subtle one and it's weird to have to look for a small symbol that's easily missed.

My thought? If you're gonna wear it, wear it like a hairshirt. Don't expect anyone else to notice it, don't expect it to give you cookies. It should be uncomfortable. It should be a constant, irritating and maybe painful reminder to actually do good, rather than just end at the pin.
posted by qcubed at 9:22 AM on November 15, 2016 [9 favorites]


I'm confused about safety pin pushback and calling it "slacktivism." Why presume someone is only wearing a pin and will do nothing more? Why can't we assume positive intent... that people are making themselves visible targets and allies so that they can empathize and assist?

I have no idea if that that person I see wearing a pin will jump to action if needed. Maybe they won't know themselves what they will do until a situation arises. Hey, wanting to help can be complicated! But I'm all for people ramping up their awareness and helpfulness in stages without pushing them back to the sidelines for "doing it wrong."

Sure, feel free to challenge safety pin people to do more. "Do more" is a lot more energizing and uniting than, "You're doing it wrong." Sure, raise their awareness of privilege, in a way that encourages them to keep moving forward.

And if you find pins too precious and pretentious and useless and condescending, and you are out of evens, let someone else with a few fucks and civility left to offer be that bridge. Roll your eyes and move on.

Just like there's no one white view, there's no one POC view on pins. These aren't monolithic groups and there are no designated spokespeople.

This is challenging stuff. Assume positive intent. Build relationships. Quit getting wrapped around the pin, maybe?
posted by clever sheep at 2:46 PM on November 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


When people have talked to me about wearing a safety pin, I've been trying to push them to also take a de-escalation technique class and encouraged them that they were on the right track, but that there might be a little more work to do. Honestly, the best thing that could come out of this would be safety pin classes and workshops - combining how to successfully de-escalate conflict, some basic social justice and racism 101, how to talk to others about racism, and networking with groups that might need volunteers.

People like the safety pin as a symbol? Cool. Let's not keep it as just a symbol - let's make it something more.
posted by dinty_moore at 2:51 PM on November 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


Why can't we assume positive intent... that people are making themselves visible targets and allies so that they can empathize and assist?

I mean, if you want to, you can? Nobody's stopping you. I don't feel like I really need or want to extend that much credit to anyone who's decided to wear a pin that's easily missed. Someone wearing a safety pin isn't gonna call as much attention to themselves as someone wearing a hijab, someone having brown skin, or two dudes holding hands. I get the intent, believe me, I do, but I feel like until proven otherwise, it means as much as a colored ribbon tied around something depending on the time of year.

I see that and I think, Thanks for your support, wish I could use your good wishes for something. I see the yellow ribbons and think, Glad you support the troops, wish we'd fix and fund the VA.

What it boils down to is I've been burned enough times by people with good intent, that I assumed good faith. I'm seeing white people get all angry and fragile at the very mild concerns about the pin, where really the only comment is, "Please don't let it end there," and somehow that becomes a question of demonizing those wearing it, of not wanting their help, and...

I mean, why should I assume positive intent when that's the reaction I get suggesting that the pin is good but how about something more? Why should I assume they have my back when my asking them to maybe think a little more about "allyship" gets them all huffy and threatening to quit?
posted by qcubed at 2:56 PM on November 15, 2016 [6 favorites]


I'm not actually wearing a safety pin, but I also realized by favorite hoodie has a giant safety pin printed on the front, so I figured I'd consider that I'd compromise and just keep on wearing a hoodie and try to do things that have a meaningful impact in the meantime.
posted by dinty_moore at 2:58 PM on November 15, 2016


I think the safety pin has been widely embraced because many people (myself included) are desperate to know which of their fellow citizens voted for Trump. Talking with friends, we're all wondering if people we work with/are related to/call friends voted essentially to roll back civil rights. If you're wearing a safety pin then I at least have an inkling that you probably don't think that my relationship is disgusting or that sexual assault is funny.

My girlfriend is a disabled, non-gender-conforming woman who has noticed a big uptick in homophobic encounters. She stands to lose a lot more than I do with this election, not only in terms of fear of hate crimes but also fears of whether she'll be able to afford healthcare. If she's walking into a women's bathroom and sees someone with a safety pin, I don't know if that means that woman accepts that masculinity is not just for men and will let her pass by them without making a huge scene. I don't know if the person wearing the safety pin will intervene if someone tries to kick her out of the restroom or spit on her or worse. I guess for me it is comforting to see a safety pin on people because then I have a sense that it's a safe person to TALK to, but for people who are up against the kind of hatred Trump continues to empower and whip up, I don't think it means shit.

I've gone back and forth about wearing it. We live in a liberal city on the West coast, but nowhere is safe from the bigots. If I wear it, it's me signaling to people: I didn't vote against you, I want to be an ally, but like everyone notes, people like me probably aren't prepared to signal I will physically put myself in harm's way for you. I like to think that I would, but I also live a life largely shaped by severe social anxiety and fear in general. But I also really desperately want to feel that not everyone is against me, and seeing people wearing safety pins has made my anxiety lessen.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 3:02 PM on November 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


I guess what I'm trying to say is: I still don't know what to feel about the safety pin. As a white cis-woman who can pass for straight some of the time, the safety pin is nothing more than a signal to me that someone might share my politics. For people with skin in the game like my partner, the safety pin means "we probably share the same political affiliation but don't count on me to put myself in danger just because you are", so I guess...I'm not going to wear one and instead will focus on stepping up in more concrete ways, but I don't see why other people shouldn't knock themselves out and wear one.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 3:08 PM on November 15, 2016


I think it's valuable for people to signify that they're opposed to hatred, even if they don't do anything substantial to oppose it. For one thing, we tend to become more like the persona we portray. For another, it acts as a signal to others that hatred is unacceptable. That doesn't mean that this symbol should be adopted in the face of opposition by marginalised groups, just that "empty" symbols are not necessarily valueless.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:21 PM on November 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


I think it's valuable for people to signify that they're opposed to hatred, even if they don't do anything substantial to oppose it. For one thing, we tend to become more like the persona we portray. For another, it acts as a signal to others that hatred is unacceptable.

I think this is where it sorta falls apart for me. Okay, so if some aren't gonna do anything substantial to oppose hate, outside of the pin, what does that mean to someone like me? Should I keep thinking the pin means something, that pinwearers stand in actual solidarity and will fight on my behalf if, say, someone wants to go Negan on me and turn me into the next Vincent Chin when the jobs don't come back? Or should I assume that they're just trying their best but the most I can expect is maybe they'll let me sit near them with my gay boyfriend if we're not too faggy about it?

If it's both, then why should I hope for the former at all instead of expecting the latter? Doesn't that defeat the purpose of it?

If it's just a symbol to signal to other white people that you don't support hate, then call it that. Don't say that it's in solidarity with the marginalized. If it's aspirational, then call it that, that it's a reminder to do better, but don't pretend it's to protect the weak.

Wearing it is fine, but stop demanding the downtrodden to thank you for deigning to wear it. Stop threatening to quit your allyship when the Queer question it.
posted by qcubed at 3:51 PM on November 15, 2016 [13 favorites]


Oh yeah, I have no realistic expectation that anyone would step in to fight on my behalf ever. But you know how bullies often look around for approval? I think they want that approval, or at least assurance that their oppression will be cost-free, and maybe they'd be less likely to express their hatred if they regularly saw people expressing their opposition to it.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:08 PM on November 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


Sure, but I also don't know how much that really helps either. So many people already think that to be a bigot you have to go around dropping slurs like Johnny Appleseed dropped orchards. So maybe the pin stops that.

And then you have the problem of all the covert, stealthy bigotry, the micro aggressions that are so difficult to convince other people exists. The pin won't stop someone asking who the man of the relationship is. It won't stop the question of where I'm really from.

It won't stop the dog whistles about wanting to be in a "safe neighborhood".

The pin isn't a bad idea, but I think I really just want us to be honest about for whom the pin is really for.
posted by qcubed at 4:26 PM on November 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


Stop threatening to quit your allyship when the Queer question it.

My only little point is that not everyone challenged by a different viewpoint on this are threatening to quit being an ally. I know that I'm trying to listen.
posted by agregoli at 4:30 PM on November 15, 2016


(And thank you very much, qcubed, for your perspective. I think some of my friends need to hear what you've said here.)
posted by agregoli at 4:32 PM on November 15, 2016


I get that many people wearing the pins are not the kind of people who will flounce off because those they're expressing solidarity with are not grateful enough for the protection, but I think it's important for people to be able to express frustrations with people who are doing that without needing to be reassured that you're not being called out personally.

I'm not trying to call you out, agregoli, or imply that you're doing that, but qcubed's frustration didn't read to me like a blanket statement about everyone wearing a pin. If the criticism doesn't apply to someone, then they can keep being a great ally. And if it does, they still don't need to defend themselves or be defended by someone else, they just need to be a better ally or stop talking about being one.
posted by the thorn bushes have roses at 4:41 PM on November 15, 2016 [3 favorites]


Yipes, maybe I *am* doing that. Shutting up now.
posted by agregoli at 4:50 PM on November 15, 2016


Instead of a safety pin, how about a button that says I will do my best to fuck up any bigot who messes with you?
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 9:58 PM on November 15, 2016 [2 favorites]


I mean, button, pin, it's the same thing, if you want it to really mean "You're safe with me," you'd better be ready to back that up?
posted by qcubed at 9:08 AM on November 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


The Game Theory of Safety and Safety Pins:
Let’s look at this through the lens of game theory. Game theory should really be called interactive choice theory, because that’s what it studies: what emerges from how your choices interact with other persons’ choices. How does the choice to wear a safety pin affect the choices made by oppressed people and their oppressors?… From a moral standpoint, oppression of your fellow human being is Profoundly Uncool and standing up for them is Good And Right… but how does your choice of wearing a safety pin change things? That’s a question we can explore without delving into morality.
posted by Lexica at 12:33 PM on November 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'm just wondering- what about if I wear an Amnesty International pin? They're known here for supporting migrants, refugees, and the GLBTQI community.
posted by daybeforetheday at 12:06 AM on November 17, 2016


That makes a lot more sense to me than the other pins mentioned? At least with that one you're really only saying overtly that you support a certain organization, and from there one can easily deduce your likely political leanings.

It does not suggest that you are some sort of safe zone creating solidarity unicorn that will fuck others up for being evil. Which is the source of a lot of my discomfort with just the safety pin.
posted by qcubed at 7:48 AM on November 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


Report from ~Progressivey Northwest Land~ here, but there's an ongoing kerfuffle within my group of friends regarding these things.

A "cool, punk rock, progressive" small restaurant several of my friends work at recently had a staff meeting. At the meeting, the owners vouluntold everyone who works there that they should wear the pins. They had a big spiel about how great they were and how it really represents the values of the place.

Which is great and all... but there's been increasing and ongoing issues with misogyny, transmisogyny, ignoring reports of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior by male employees, and just a wall of stuff that's basically most of what the pins are in theory against. Once this got called out a BUNCH of people had stories. And they had just been sitting on and not responding to this stuff for months, but safety pins? Omg we're so progressive and safe and inclusive!

So yea, just one random anecdote, but it's not the first i've heard of some local small place being all about the pins while not tending to their own house or even making sure they represent the values they want to project. Even if there's good here, or people who feel safer when they see them, there's definite fuckery and performative allyship going on here.

I'll also note that a few of the people i've seen publicly be all about this and posting pictures to be like "you should too!" are white dudes who either have histories of doing clueless to openly racist stuff(like writing "black beans matter" on a container of black beans at work in public view because it's so hilarious), have been called out as sexual predators in the past, etc.

What i guess i'm saying is, i have trouble coming up with the concept of a "i'm ok! i'm safe!" flag that won't get picked up both by people who want to present that for social capital but wouldn't take action when it counts, and more importantly by wolves who want a sheep suit. And shit, it's been a week and i've already seen more than one wolf, and a couple metawolves telling other people "wear these to make me/the things that represent me look good".

My mom said something to the effect of "trust is something given, not stated". I think that's pretty apt.
posted by emptythought at 1:50 PM on November 17, 2016 [3 favorites]




Tyler Ford: vogue advises you put your money where your mouth is by spending $1000s at barneys to make a quiet statement. or, you know, you could DONATE

The jewelry companies have noticed a new trend, so you can now buy precious metal jewel-encrusted safety pins to show off your activist cred. :-/

So, um... yeah, that backlash is justified. I wear a pin, and my family wears pins, in the hopes that local people of color will not be *more* anxious when they see us, but we don't expect them to automatically trust that Random White Person is actually going to provide any kind of safety they'd find useful.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 3:36 PM on November 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


I continue to think that the safety pin is a great way to identify someone who wants to help.

Maybe it's someone who just realized how terrible things really are and this is a first step. Yes, a safety pin is just about the smallest gesture anyone could make (save for hashtag activism or checking in to a location via Facebook,) so why not take that opportunity to engage them positively. Most of the discussions I've seen are about how safety pins are lazy and embarrassing and are really mean spirited.

I don't think it helps anyone involved to shame people who want to help just because they're doing it in a manner not necessarily approved of.
posted by Flotsam Rosewater at 5:06 PM on November 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


Most of the time, you're going to better off being pleasant and polite and like, actively offering them a seat, help whatever thing someone needs help with or whatever other minor thing this is supposed to signify your willingness to do.

I wear the pin to remind myself to be a little extra aware and be a little more active about standing up when I can. If someone else sees it, knows what it is relieved or just like, checks one person of their mental list of potential threats or whatever, great, but actions count, symbols are nice. Do both.
posted by VTX at 5:33 PM on November 17, 2016


Conversely, I don't think it's helpful to dismiss the very valid concerns other PoC have brought up as to the value of said pins.

Look, I get that people want to help. But just because you want to signify that you aren't one of the haters doesn't mean that you deserve a cookie, let alone a parade, from minorities.

It makes you a decent fucking human being with a decent baseline for your behavior.

Congratulations! You see someone like me as human as you!
posted by qcubed at 5:39 PM on November 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


I hear you but like, most of the time the most it could possibly do is signify that "hey, if the way I look makes you worry that I'm not a decent human being, don't worry, I totally am."

The concern that people have about turning to someone in a serious time of need is totally valid. I try to be pretty active about offering things that are just normal, decent human being things because I'm aware that I'm kind of a big guy and my face is kind of grump in it's natural state. So I'm worried that people will be afraid to ask for things that they usually would or sometimes just assume.

It's like a sign that says, "I know I kind of look like a dick and you don't need that today but I'm actually decent person so of course you don't need to ask if you can sit next to me on the bus." And also stuff like taking someone's picture or helping lift that heavy thing or hold a door. I'm happy to do all of those things, maybe this safety pin thing gets widespread enough that people are more comfortable asking me for help with these kinds of things.

If someone's being harassed or something, I'm smart enough to know that for all that I absolutely believe that I would step up and intervene, I won't ever really know if I will until it happens, safety pin or no.
posted by VTX at 4:16 PM on November 21, 2016 [4 favorites]


If someone's being harassed or something, I'm smart enough to know that for all that I absolutely believe that I would step up and intervene, I won't ever really know if I will until it happens, safety pin or no.

I think that's a good point. I would say the same for myself except I'm a short girl and thus my odds of being able to defend myself, much less anyone else, aren't great. I took self-defense class three times, but is that going to pay off? I can't guarantee that I can be your defender, but at least I could say that you're fine sitting by me on the bus, I won't harass you. But I won't (see above). And safety pins haven't caught on at all where I live so I guess it doesn't matter anyway.
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:44 PM on November 21, 2016


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