COLUMN: Of safety pins and social activism

Wearing the pin is meant as a sign of solidarity with those who have been marginalized.

When American mechanic Walter Hunt patented the safety pin in 1849, he could not have foreseen a day when his invention would be used to make a political statement.

Throughout most of its history, the safety pin has been used to fasten cloth diapers, to hold a kilt together, to attach a race bib to a runner’s jersey or to make a temporary clothing repair in an emergency.

But in the days following the 2016 American presidential election, people around the world have started wearing a safety pin on their clothing as a political statement.

Wearing the pin is meant as a sign of solidarity with those who have been marginalized gays and lesbians, minorities,refugees and others.

The same gesture was used in the days following the Brexit vote in the United Kingdom earlier this year, when people there began wearing the pins for the same reason.

Wearing a safety pin a way of stating, “I am not a bigot,” or, put in more positive terms, “I am a safe person.”

It’s a small, simple, symbolic gesture and a way for people to indicate they are compassionate, accepting and tolerant of others. It’s meant to indicate that someone in need of support can approach the wearer of the pin.

Making this statement requires little effort.

Anyone can purchase a safety pin for a few cents and pin it to a lapel, sweater, jacket or cap.

Finding and wearing a safety pin takes about the same amount of effort as adding one’s name to a petition or putting a bumper sticker on the back of a vehicle.

While the intent of such gestures may be good, the safety pin symbol could quickly become meaningless.

The reason: There’s no screening procedure in place. Those wearing the pins do not need to register with an official agency or undergo a police check.

All that’s needed is a willingness to wear the pin.

Stores selling safety pins do not ask customers whether they hold racist, sexist, homophobic or other bigoted views.

It’s possible that some people wearing a safety pin on their clothing are not compassionate or tolerant. There’s no way toknow for sure.

And, by the same token, someone who is not wearing a safety pin might be willing to assist a marginalized person in need.

Action is more important than words or symbols, and action takes effort.

It takes a level of commitment to befriend someone who is new to this country.

It takes effort to demonstrate kindness in a tangible way to someone who is gay or lesbian or a member of a visible minority.

It takes time and energy to cultivate a friendship with someone who has been bullied or with someone who has been treated like an outsider.

It is not always easy to call out someone’s racist, sexist or xenophobic comments, and doing so may cost a few friendships.

There’s nothing wrong with wearing a safety pin as a sign of solidarity with those who are marginalized if that gesture is accompanied by action.

Perhaps, if nothing else, such a gesture will remind the wearer of a commitment to give support when it is needed.

If this is accomplished, the safety pin will have served an important purpose.

John Arendt is the editor of the Summerland Review.


Just Posted

Hwy. 97 reopened after Trout Creek collision

No details on injuries or cause yet

Foreigner feeling like the first time after 40

Foreigner doesn’t miss a beat after 40 years

Update: Police expand search in North Okanagan-Shuswap

Examination continues in Silver Creek, while another search happens between Salmon Arm and Enderby

Octoberfest is the toast of the town

Eighth annual night of fun, music and brews

Five decades of volunteering

Even though she is approaching 70, Merle kindred continues to volunteer around the world

VIDEO: Sears liquidation sales continue across B.C.

Sales are expected to continue into the New Year

WATCH: 10,000 signatures gained to stop ‘no pets’ rental policy

Pets OK BC said about 1,700 animals were surrendered to the BC SPCA last year due to housing issues

Who is Curtis Sagmoen?

The Observer reveals what we know about the man attached to the Silver Creek property where human remains were found

VIDEO: Oprah Winfrey and a celebrities attend ‘B.C. Miracle Concert’

Fundraiser featured Foster, Steven Tyler, The Tenors, Matteo Bocelli, Laura Bretan, Carly Rae Jepsen

Human remains found at Silver Creek property

RCMP have been searching the property in the 2200 block of Salmon River Road for the past three days

New B.C. acute care centre opens for young patients, expectant mothers

Facility aims to make B.C. Children’s Hospital visits more comfortable

Search ramps up for B.C. woman after dog, car found near Ashcroft

Jenny Lynn Larocque’s vehicle and dog were found in Venables Valley, but there is no sign of her

Raven story shines light at Children’s Showcase

Season opener of the Children’s Showcase in Penticton

Okanagan Taste: Snacks and what to pair with them

Your guide to for the go-to snacks and beverage pairings for sports season

Most Read