On Safety Pins

I know. It’s been a week. And what you absolutely wanted to talk more about right now was safety pins. Right? Well don’t worry, I’ve got your back.

So here’s the thing about safety pins:

Safety pins are small. They’re hard to spot. They’re unobtrusive. Their very nature is to try to quietly hold things together that have come apart so that nobody notices what’s gone wrong. They don’t take center stage – they hide in hems and sleeves and under buttons. They make believe that everything is okay. And when it comes to clothing, that absolutely makes sense. But as a metaphor? Safety pins are not a revolution. They are not a resistance. They are part of the reason we are where we are right now.

When I think safety pins, I think of every time someone lets a racist or sexist or homophobic joke go because they don’t want to start a fight, every time they let hateful or dismissive terminology slip by them like they don’t hear it, like they don’t know what it means. I think of every time people wait until they are alone to say that things aren’t okay, because they don’t want to expose the rips and tears in the fabric of our polite society in public.

When I think of safety pins, I think of every time someone is more upset by the accusation that they have caused injury to another person than by the fact that they actually hurt someone. I think of every time someone cares more about the way they look to others than what they do to others, of the desire to be presentable no matter how much actual damage has been done. I think of the way that when safety pins pop open, we shove them back closed again so they they won’t hurt us. So they can’t hurt us.

When I think of safety pins, I wonder who exactly it is they are supposed to be keeping safe.

So here’s what I want. I want all those safety pins to be attached to something real. If your safety pin is being used to speak out, to pin your beliefs to your clothing for the world to see, I’m all for it. Write Black Lives Matter on a piece of fabric and safety pin that to your chest. Write Love is Love. Write Being Harassed by Hate? I’ve Got Your Back. Write whatever you want, honestly. But write something. Tell me what that safety pin means to you. Because otherwise, all it means to me is another way of pretending that everything is going to be okay.

So use your safety pin. Use it to speak out about what you believe. And if that scares you, if you’d rather just have a safety pin, quiet and small and safe, helping you pretend that things are going to magically be alright, then please, please – don’t have a safety pin at all.



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