Posted December 7, 2016
After the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union in late June, citizens began to wear safety pins to show solidarity as a population. The “safety pin movement” has since migrated its way across the pond and found a new home and new meaning in the U.S.
Americans across the country are sporting the simple safety pin as a sign of solidarity after the tornado that was the 2016 presidential election. The movement has appeared on the campus of UW-River Falls as well.
The campus bookstore sold all of the safety pins it had at one point, according to UWRF English and Women’s Studies Professor Greta Gaard. Gaard said the bookstore hasn’t sold this many safety pins in five years. Although the safety pins began to appear after Donald J. Trump was elected, Gaard said she thinks the movement is less about the president-elect, than it is about equality.
“It’s not necessarily a reactive protest to Donald Trump, but rather it’s a statement that we will continue to do the work,” in terms of gaining complete equality, said Gaard.
By wearing a safety pin, a person shows they are a “safe zone” to be around. The pins aim to raise awareness about equality for everyone. Wearing the safety pin says “I will be a safe person who will interrupt racism, who will stand up for you,” according to Gaard.
However, the movement has come with some issues. An article on the Huffington Post’s website by writer and artist Christopher Keelty pointed out if people don’t take any steps past wearing pins, it doesn’t do much. Gaard understands it is only a symbol and the work doesn’t stop there.
“The important part of the safety pin is not wearing the pin, it’s taking action. The pin is a promise, but you need to deliver,” said Gaard.
The safety pin is also being seen as a political message in the Shawnee Mission School District located in the Kansas City, Kansas, area. According to television station KMBC, Shawnee Superintendent Jim Hinson “sent a letter to district staff last week, saying the pins could be seen as political speech.” Hinson banned teachers from wearing safety pins.
UWRF Psychology Professor Cyndi Kernahan said it is important to clear up any confusion about how racism and discrimination work.
“It’s more about what are the psychological processes and the biases that we all carry around, and understanding what those are and the truth of what those are,” said Kernahan.
Although there haven’t any organized protests at UWRF since the presidential election, Kernahan said there are other ways to bring the safety pin movement and equality issues to the forefront.
“I just wish there was more discussion of it. I wish there was more awareness,” said Kernahan. “It’s hard to put it on students, because students have a particular purpose. They have classes to go to… I wish that we had more structured opportunities for people to learn.”