In response to the election of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States, safety pins have been popping up all over many social media profiles as a symbol of solidarity to those whom a Trump administration would bring possibly irreparable harm. While solidarity is nice and warm hearted, it’s not truly helping any of the marginalized communities who will be negatively impacted by not only a Trump presidency, but also by those who support Trump.
The use of safety pins as a symbolic gesture is thanks to a movie; In an article on Timeline, Stephanie Buck writes:
“In a 1941 British war film titled One of Our Aircraft Is Missing, resistors were depicted wearing safety pins under their collars or hems, flashing them to other trusted underground confederates. The implicit message: “Keep together. Keep your mouth shut.” In reality, the Dutch may have never used safety pins. But the Norwegians most definitely had their own version of the symbology. In autumn 1940, students at Oslo University began wearing paperclips on their lapels or as bracelets to signify unity, as a clip binds papers together. ”
In the context of that time, this symbolic gesture makes sense, but we’re almost in 2017 and that tiny gesture is half-assing it, to be frank. I get the desire that someone has to use their voice to help amplify the voices of the unheard, but if you are a straight/white/able person who happens to belong to an accepted religion, your safety pin can be seen as nothing but a reminder that you aren’t affected, that you can express any guilt that may exist by saying “Look, I care, I’m wearing a safety pin.”
Your safety pin isn’t helping the Muslim woman who got her hijab ripped off by a white guy in a Make America Great Again shirt. You’re not helping gay, black or disabled people who get assaulted and harassed. You’re not helping women who need to keep access to health programs through the local Planned Parenthood.
This year, I decided that instead of exchanging Christmas gifts with my friends, I asked if they could make a donation to a charity of my choosing: That is being an ally. Ally is an action word and yes, sometimes that means you have to open your wallet, volunteer, or protest. I can’t trust you just because you want me to: You need to show me why I can. You need to have those uncomfortable talks with your friends that say racist/sexist/ableist/anti-semitic things in regular conversation that you usually ignore; talk to your parents and relatives at Thanksgiving who insist they aren’t racist, they just have a “preference” or like “tradition.” Most of all, you need to own your privilege in this, and you need to own how you contributed to the structure of what’s happening as a result of Trump winning.
If you voted for him, you need to own that you represent what he represents: You voted for a bigot and even if you thought he was a better choice because of Clinton’s email, that means that his bigotry was fine with you and that’s your character! Your fake Etsy safety pin is nice and I’m sure it makes you feel good, but if you rationalized why someone’s bigotry didn’t matter or–worse still–just didn’t vote at all, your symbolism and your safety pin are a joke.