American Culture

I wore a safety pin on my shirt today

Wearing a safety pin is a mark of “I will protect you with my own body if necessary.” Wearing one is a responsibility, not a symbol of solidarity.

Not merely with or beside you, but for you.

Not merely with or beside you, but for you.

I wore a safety pin on my shirt today.

I thought long and deep about whether that was a good idea or not.

Wearing a safety pin on my shirt means that I’m self-identifying as a safe person – someone whom anyone can approach, for any reason, and expect help, without question or judgement. It means that, if I see bullying or bigotry or abuse, I’m obligating myself to step in if asked, to get involved on behalf of the victim or victims.

But it also means that I have to give anyone I’m with fair notice that I might have to put our plans on hold to help a stranger. And it means that I might get threatened or even seriously injured in the process of assisting someone who needed help.

Wearing a safety pin on my clothing is not something I do lightly. And there will be days when I’m simply not mentally or physically able to meet the responsibility of wearing a safety pin. On those days, under those circumstances, I’ll leave the safety pin at home, and I won’t feel guilty or ashamed for doing so. Wearing a safety pin that says I’ll help only to fail in that responsibility is worse than not wearing the safety pin in the first place.

I am a straight, cis, white male in my 40s. There is no way for a marginalized person to know that I’m going to support them, as opposed to people who wear safety pins as a form of “slacktivism.” So I will not be offended if my help is rejected.

Nor will I be offended by critics who attack me for wearing a safety pin. Instead I will listen and learn, and if at some point wearing a safety pin becomes worse than useless, then I will take it off permanently.

I have no illusions that wearing a safety pin on my clothing is sufficient. It isn’t. It can’t be.

But every person has to start somewhere. And I chose to start with a safety pin on my shirt today.

And I’ll wear one on my shirt again tomorrow.

Links to familiarize yourself with the safety pin “movement”

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