Safety Pins and Allyship

Since the election of Donald Trump in the United States, we have taken a note from Brexit and wearing safety pins. If you have been living under a rock and not heard about this, the thought is that a wearing a safety pin is supposed to show that you are approachable for people of marginalized identities. I have been asked a lot about my opinion on this safety pin movement and my opinion is pretty complex.

 

When I first heard about the safety pin movement, I was stoked. In my eyes, it was a way for allies to label themselves as such in a small way that gave marginalized identities the opportunity to feel safe. It was a statement of, “I do not agree with the hate being spread in this country and I will come to your aid if you need it. You can feel safe with me.”

And while I still feel like this small gesture to make such a big statement is great, I have quickly seen it go downhill.

The first thing we need to talk about when beginning to talk about wearing safety pins, is why you are wearing it and what allyship really is.

Allyship isn’t an identity and wearing a safety pin won’t suddenly make you a good ally to marginalized identities. In reality, allyship is messy. It’s about learning and listening to minorities, coming to the aid of them when they need it, it’s about calling out your racist aunt, fighting for the rights of those people. It is getting in the trenches and actually doing work to help.

If you are wearing a safety pin so that it looks like you are a nice person who cares about people; don’t.

If you are wearing it to look good because your friends are wearing one; don’t.

But if you are wearing it because you are willing to go to the bathroom with a trans person, stand up for a Muslim, fight racism when it stares you in the face, and you are genuinely going to be a safe place for us; then by all means wear your safety pin with pride.

However, understand that just because you wear a safety pin doesn’t mean marginalized identities will feel safe around you or even recognize you as an ally. You have to understand that our guards are up. Too many times have people told us they were there to help us when they really weren’t.

If you aren’t willing to get uncomfortable, to call out the racism of the people in your daily lives, to point out the homophobia, and to stand by us when we fight for our rights; you aren’t an ally.

And if you aren’t really here to help us, don’t waste our time. So many people are wearing it because of white guilt. But when they see someone being harassed, they aren’t willing to step up and speak up.

Next thing I want to touch is that you are all so unprepared. I have seen it so much, with or without your safety pin; you are unprepared to deal with any situation where someone may be getting harassed.

This article wonderfully explains what you should do to be prepared.

Last thing I want to say is that your allyship should be a day to day lifestyle for you. With out without a safety pin, you should be willing to go to bat for us.

If you aren’t willing to be a safe place for us daily, don’t offer to be one when you feel like it.

While seeing people in my own area wearing safety pins has made me feel a little safer, I don’t think safety pins are for everyone. It is a statement that needs to be made by someone truly willing to help, and I have seen so many people who aren’t willing to get down and dirty wearing it, that I feel it’s losing meaning fast.

However, I will still wear my safety pin. And I will always try be a safe place. Can you make that same pledge?

2 thoughts on “Safety Pins and Allyship

  1. Thanks for this. The safety pin is more than just a political statement or a feel good. Really standing up and confronting abuse and defending people can be difficult, even dangerous. If someone is going to wear it they need to be ready to act and take risks, and accept that they may face skepticism. BTW, I tried to comment on Monday and was blocked as “suspected Bot” – no clue why.

    1. I’m sorry! I will see what I can do about that. I am so very thankful that you took the time to comment again though!

      You could not be more right; it is not meant to be a political statement or a feel good.

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