Social Question

Dutchess_III's avatar

Is wearing a safety pin a real thing?

Asked by Dutchess_III (42474points) November 12th, 2016

On FB someone told me that wearing a safety pin on your person somewhere indicates that you’re a “safe place” for those who might be persecuted because of their religion or color or nationality. I’m all for it, but is it a real “thing?”

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54 Answers

Mariah's avatar

I think it’s a thing if we make it a thing. All that’s required to make it work is for lots of people to wear them and lots of people to know what it means.

zenvelo's avatar

Yes, it is real, it started in Great Britain in response to the Brexit vote.

Sneki95's avatar

Yes, but it looks like some bullshit campaign people do to prove how “compassionate” and “good Samarithans” they are on social media.

janbb's avatar

Yes it is. I’m wearing one and have given some out and we are going to give them out at my church. The more people who know about it and do it, the more it will get recognized and may actually help someone.

BellaB's avatar

Ít’s been a thing for a while. I’ve been wearing one for about five or six months. I’ve been approached as a safe person twice on public transit since.

The other piece is that it reminds me to step up and say something when I see stupid racist/sexist abuse starting. I’ve been getting mouthier with age – the safety pin has pushed the dial a bit more.

si3tech's avatar


janbb's avatar

@BellaB It’s just been growing here since Tuesday .

cazzie's avatar

It’s a real thing. I’m wearing one these days. With refugees settling in my area I think it’s important. Also, I’ve been disrespected by strangers for no other reason than speaking English, so I think it’s important.

BellaB's avatar

I’ve noticed that things can be a bit more stressful/nasty when there are really big conventions in town. Conventioneers seem to think they get a free ride on being assholes because they’re away from home. Nope, not when there are safety pin wearers around.

Jeruba's avatar

What bothers me about this is the possibility that some people will assume that if you don’t join in this display, you don’t agree with the sentiment. That creates a kind of implicit social pressure that I am constitutionally wired to resist.

@BellaB: “I’ve been approached as a safe person twice”
Can you tell us what that means? What actually happened?

janbb's avatar

@Jeruba It’s not so much a sentiment as a sign to people who may be being harassed or bullied that you will help them. Of course they have to know and be able to see the code but it is a place to start. I don’t think people will think less of you for not wearing one since obviously the majority of people won’t be. It is also a reminder to oneself to be vigilant.

It is simplistic but it’s some action to take. A friend I have talked to about it said that many young adults are already aware of the symbol and what it means.

Seek's avatar

^ There’s a buzzkill at every party. A Black Lives Matter sign doesn’t help the trans kid on the bus. A safety pin might tell her who is safe to sit next to.

janbb's avatar

@Seek Yes, thinking it over, the safety pin is not just about race, it’s about helping any bullied or harassed person. That writer doesn’t get to call the shot. So I do think it’s worth wearing although it’s also going around that white supremacists are starting to wear them. I’ll have to ignore that too.

As a friend said, this has been being used as a symbol of being an ally for some time now.

Jeruba's avatar

I’m thinking that a better thing to wear might be a smile.

But that could just be another wrong thing to do. There are probably more of those than I can think of.

janbb's avatar

Well, I do think the main thing is to be extra aware of looking out for people who might be hurting or being hurt and stepping in as feasible if you see harassment going on. That’s the main point of the whole campaign. And if the ycome for me, I hope there’s someone left.

LornaLove's avatar

@janbb That article seems to be one or some people’s opinion. I’d wear it more to signify that I hate everything the Government stands for. Just a personal opinion.

janbb's avatar

@LornaLove But also that you are willing to assist minorities and i’ll wear it for both those reasons.

johnpowell's avatar

I don’t think of it as some sort of “I will save you” thing but more of the equality stickers. Just a way to say that “I am on your side”.

janbb's avatar

@johnpowell well, it’s meant to show that you are a safe person or ally who is willing to help.

CWOTUS's avatar

I’m with @Jeruba on this: just smiling and speaking pleasantly to people in ways that won’t be mistaken for sarcasm or something that it’s not.

I was shopping earlier today, and I picked up a lemon (among other things) at a place that doesn’t sell “produce”, as a rule. So the clerk didn’t know how to ring it up and had to call her trainer to help her find it in the book, etc. I pointed to a sticker that was on the lemon and asked her if this would help, but it wouldn’t. She had everything else in the order rung up except that darn lemon, but finally between the two of them they figured it out, she entered the code, totaled the receipt and turned to me, to say, “Forty-eight dollars and twenty-four cents.”

“For a LEMON?!” I asked her, mock-aghast.

She started to blanch and go all fish-mouthed with “Bu … bu … bu …,” until she saw that I was smiling. She got the joke. She and her trainer and I all had a nice chuckle, and I exited the store. (Well, after I paid for the items, that is.)

I try to make safe spaces wherever I go.

Judi's avatar

So I was wearing a safety pin yesterday. The veterans were selling their poppies at the grocery store and I took them money. The guys were friendly enough but the guy handing out the poppies kept avoiding me and handing them out to other people who WEREN’T giving them money and I was. I even said, “Aren’t you going to give me one?” Eventually I just picked one up off the table.
I’m not easially offended and actually am pretty dense sometimes. :-(
It wasn’t until I got home and thought about it that I realized he probably didn’t want to give me one because of my safety pin.

BellaB's avatar

@Jeruba, in both cases it was on the subway. One was a young woman who was felt she was being creeped on by someone sitting next to her. She greeted me as if she knew me – one of those “oh hi!” things and came to stand by me – told me quietly the man next to her was making her nervous. We chatted a bit – then the man next to me gave her his seat and stood between us and the creeper guy. We got thumbs up from a couple of people – the creeper glared at me – but got off the subway at the next stop.

The other was a young woman/girl with a head covering who was being teased by a group of young boys – that one I noticed and sort of waved at her – she came over, told me they were from her school and had been bugging her outside of school since she started wearing a head covering. The boys just shut up.


While my safety pin is visible, I don’t know if that’s why they came over or if I looked like a cranky lady ready to tell someone to f off. I do know that I don’t usually get approached like that.

dappled_leaves's avatar

As far as I’m concerned, if it helps at least one person, it’s worthwhile. I don’t understand why people who would otherwise be allies need to be so grumpy about it. No one is pressuring anyone to wear them. Help in whatever ways you are comfortable with, and let others do the same.

Jeruba's avatar

When people get divided by “Us and Them” thinking, is the right answer more Us and Them? Isn’t that what “allies” implies?—alignment? entrenchment in opposing sides? tribalism? That’s how we got where we are now, isn’t it?

Seek's avatar

Have you never felt completely alone and frightened in a crowd?

I mean, if you haven’t I’m happy for you. But if you have, you might be able to imagine how it would feel to have a quick visual cue that someone – whoever – might be on your side and open to being approached.

It’s literally the opposite of an aggressive symbol.

janbb's avatar

An ally is someone who is supportive of someone or a cause; in this case, it means you will try to help someone who is being victimized. It’s pretty non-confrontational to wear a safety pin on your coat.

Do it, don’t do it, @Jeruba but I’m not quite sure what you’re quibbling about. When I was explaining it to a friend, she said yes, it’s sort of like safe houses during the Holocaust.

It can be seen as a meaningless gesture unless one is prepared to back it up with action, of course but it certainly is not an aggressive act.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

I’ve never heard of the safety pin signal before. I might start wearing one after reading this thread. I’m on the fence.

On one hand, it smacks of Walter Mitty-ism, as if one is wearing a super-hero costume, ready to leap in to defend Liberty and Justice.

On the other hand, as a middle-aged middle-class white guy, people often assume I am on the wrong side. I would be happy to let people know I’m on their team.

Riding public transportation a lot, I have intervened a few times to prevent fights, usually by simply walking over and getting in between belligerents, as if I am oblivious to the confrontation. It works.

Dutchess_III's avatar

^^^ Nice! It’s amazing how well the clueless act defuses things.

CWOTUS's avatar

For those who may be considering the symbolism and act of wearing the pin in this way, you should probably know that it may involve more than smiling and making nice with a pleasant-looking person who also seems nice.

Mariah's avatar

^ This is so tough for me right now. I’m about as physically weak at the moment as a human can be and still be alive, and I’m only a little stronger than that when I’m healthy. So, no, I can’t back up my intent with action (of the physical kind) but most issues I’ve seen on public transportation can be de-escalated and I’m willing to try that. But it would be terrifying and really, really bad if someone threw a punch at me right now. I guess I will use my discretion about when to act. If it’s a young male, maybe I’ll leave it to the other healthy young males. If it’s an old woman, I’ll step in.

janbb's avatar

@Mariah. Exactly right. Of course you have to use your judgment. As Bella and Jay said, sometimes just talking to the harassed person can help. But don’t endanger yourself in your condition.

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

Mariah, no worries, you can do what is reasonable, which might be nothing.

Also, little situations arise more than brawls. I’ve become more vocal about prejudice in recent years, where I would have let it slide in the past.

For example, I have friends and co-workers who talked mockingly about gay people, and I’ll let them know it’s offensive. “You talk about people like they’re alien creatures. My brother is gay. He’s just a guy. His husband manages a hardware store.”

Call_Me_Jay's avatar

@CWOTUS That article is excellent and very helpful, thank you.

It’s natural to want to put down the bad guy, but making them go away is a much smarter strategy.

BellaB's avatar

I was talking to someone yesterday about taking our late dog, Miss Cleo , to bootcamp to deal with her fear aggression. By the end of camp, she’d learned that simply breaking the gaze/stare of an aggressive dog could stop a physical attack.

What happened in the two examples I gave above is similar. Breaking the gaze/interaction between the creeper/bullies and the victims was enough to prevent things from escalating. It won’t always work like that – but it does work often enough that I’m going to keep on with the pin/pins so people know I will try to be their safe place.

Mariah's avatar

Yes, I think the only intelligent length I can go to right now is to speak to the victim and maybe get between them and the aggressor. I will also make sure to alert healthier people to what’s going on. I haven’t even been on public transportation yet since the surgery.

Lonelyheart807's avatar

Personally, I found that article insulting. I am white, and did NOT vote for Trump.

dappled_leaves's avatar

@Jeruba ” Isn’t that what “allies” implies?—alignment? entrenchment in opposing sides? tribalism?”

No. It only means having a sense of empathy. There’s not more to it than that.

Seek's avatar

I found my rubber, rainbow Pride bracelet – thought I had lost it a long time ago. Put 5 or 6 safety pins on it. It’s a bit big on me, but I actually don’t find it uncomfortable to wear. Maybe it’s because it has a point.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

I see this as a statement against all bullying and I think it is a good idea at a time when bullies of all sorts feel licensed to act by the election of one of the greatest bullies of them all. It is definitely an US vs.THEM proposition in my book.

History has shown that if thugs aren’t actively resisted, they only become increasingly bold and malicious. The safety pin is a sign of resistance and a signal that this behavior will not be tolerated. Offering oneself as a safe port for victims of bullying is a noble thing in a world desperately lacking in noble acts.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

THIS is what I’m talking about.

Coloma's avatar

Wow…I guess I’m out of the loop as this is the 1st I have heard of this after inquiring @Espiritus_Corvus this morning as to the nature of his new avatar. I am all for this, maybe I will go and buy a giant, colorful, diaper pin so it is visible on my my Marlboro womans vest. haha
I live in a diverse area, everything from hippie liberals to hardcore religious conservatives to redneck cowboy types to wealthy city slicker immigrants. Pick your prick. lol

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, I have a problem. I’m pretty sure at this new office at least two of the “big bosses” (that I know of) voted for Trump, and at least one of the office staff, all three of whom I interact with daily. So…..I guess I have to decide what’s important, getting a job or standing up for what I believe is right….. .....

Seek's avatar

I don’t intend to be a good German. Move forward. Damn the horses.

Seek's avatar

I had an awesome history teacher in high school. He was active in protests during Vietnam and stuff.

Anyway, during the unit on WWII, we talked a lot about what the average German citizen might have gone through, how they might have felt and the choices they might have made.

A good German might sit on the sidelines, passively allowing injustice to happen in order to save their families. They weren’t hurting the Jews and Gypsies themselves, but they weren’t going out of their way to help, either.

So, if I were them, would I be a good German?

I hope not.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Oh, ok. Yeah, I know what you’re talking about. For a minute I thought it was in response to my post just above, where I said I hesitated to wear a safety pin in a work atmosphere that is quite trumpy.

Seek's avatar

It was… Maybe not a great response.

It was my way of saying “fuck the Trump supporters, wear what you want.”

Dutchess_III's avatar

Well, but it would be a useless protest in that environment. It could cost me everything and gain no one anything. But by getting hired on, I could conceivably end up with more power, even if only slightly.

I do wear one on my own time.

BellaB's avatar

Do you expect someone in your office to actually attack someone else? are there Muslims in your workspace? POC who might be in danger? women who might be harassed?


I don’t perceive the safety pin as a symbolic gesture. I wear it when I am going out in public, planning to be in situations where someone else needs to know who the nearest support/safety person is. Now, I live in a very mixed neighbourhood, in what is one of the world’s most culturally mixed cities – and we’ve had some rough incidents on public transit lately – so I do expect to step up more than I have so far.

If I was having a physically or emotionally difficult day, I probably wouldn’t put on the pin as I wouldn’t be able to do anything helpful.

Seek's avatar

I live in Tampa, FL. The heavy metal scene here is notoriously accepting of all walks of life.

If I actually felt threatened out in public and my hubby wasn’t available, I would find the first person wearing a metal tee and go to them for support. I have no qualms about doing so and no fear they would not provide it.

I think the safety pin is a lot like that. If I can be a symbol of a “safe space” because I’m wearing a pin, awesome. If nothing else, I’m a witness. If nothing else, I’m one person who will say “this is not okay.”

And most of the time, that is enough. Not all of the time, but most of the time. What else can you do?

Dutchess_III's avatar

Exactly, @BellaB. No, I don’t expect someone in my office to actually attack anyone. As far as sexual harassment…that’s why we have an HR department. Why on earth would they come to me, a temp at this point, rather than to HR, unless I was a witness? So what would I accomplish by wearing a safety pin on my office dress, which, at this point, proclaims, “I WILL PROTECT YOU!”..... Ok. Protect you from whom? My bosses? My coworkers?
Plus it has the added suggestion that I protest Trump’s election, which, from what I’m gathering, is who several of my bosses and co-workers voted for. So I would accomplish nothing by wearing it in that environment except, possibly, cost me my tenuous possibility of becoming a permanent employee.

Plus it’s a fad. It’ll be gone in 3 or 4 months.

Again, for as long as I think it will actually serve a purpose, I’ll wear one on my own time. But still…I live in a small, Midwestern town. I don’t have to deal with a myriad of different types of people and there is no such thing as “public transport” here.

There are a couple of businesses owned by immigrants from India, and I’ve asked them if they’ve gotten any grief since the election. They said, “No.”
I said, “Good.”
Would I step up if I was witness to any bullshit grief being dished out to them. Hell yes I would.

olivier5's avatar

First time i heard of this. Sounded like a gimmick at first but reading through the thread I grew a lot of respect for the initiative. Thanks to @Dutchess_III for the info and to @CWOTUS for a great article. @BellaB, you’re my hero.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

Strange coincidence.

A couple of days ago I saw the 1942 film One of Our Aircraft is Missing, which is about a downed RAF bomber crew being smuggled out of the Nazi occupied Netherlands. At 33:39 into the film, a group of children identify themselves to the crew as being connected to the underground by showing safety pins hidden under their cloaks.

It seems the safety pin has been a signal for safety for quite awhile.

Complete Film Here. (Public Domain)

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