Before You Diss the Safety Pins…


So Christopher Keelty posted an essay disparaging safety pins. To be fair he makes a few good points, however, it came off as extremely condescending and he showed a lack of understanding about the people behind the safety pin movement and their reasons for getting involved. He also completely seemed to forget that this was also a loss for white women that he disparaged in his article.

For one thing, he admonishes white people for wearing them, and forgets that for a lot of white women, Hillary Clinton’s loss is extremely personal and painful. For the first time in US history women thought we were going to have a female president. As a second generation, life long feminist I was geared up to watch the glass ceiling fall. This was supposed to be a game changer and revolutionary and progressive.

Hillary Clinton was going to care about women’s issues such as paid family leave and she was going to help families affected by disability like mine, among many other things. She was going to smash the patriarchy. I was so excited about the thought of my children knowing nothing but presidency under a black man followed by presidency under a woman.

I can’t describe how devastating election night and the following morning was. I was merely thankful that my autistic son can’t grasp these concepts yet and my daughter, who I was so excited for, is too young to understand. I didn’t have to explain to her how the most qualified person in history to run for the presidency lost to the most unqualified person to run, ever.

While the message I got that night was a painful, “you are NOT equal” from my country,. my daughter was spared learning that. As far as she knows right now the sky is the limit. But I am very aware of the fact that I can’t shield her from reality for much longer.

I am devastated over how two white men cried “rigged system” (Bernie is just as guilty as Trump is) while the woman, who the system really was stacked against (last I checked, she was up one million votes in the popular vote), had to gracefully concede. I feel despair when I think about how a woman who had to spend her life breaking barriers was not allowed to call out a system that worked against her at every turn and was unable to call out the system as biased, while white men who benefited from the system cried discrimination.

I feel sick when I read reports of men telling women that “the cunt got put in her place.” I feel sick when I read stories of increasing harassment. I feel sick when I think about how Trump bragged about sexual assault and about the allegations against him. I feel sick when I think about the presidency being occupied by a man who thinks of women as sex objects and not complex human beings.

I worry what messages my son will get about how to view and treat women. And I worry that my daughter will be subjected to the same sexual harassment and assault that pretty much all women have to put up with. I remember how objectified and hurt I felt in the wake of my own brushes with sexual assault and fear for the day when she comes home and tells me about what happened to her. And I worry that there will be no protections in place or legal recourse for her after a Trump presidency.

I want Keelty to know there are more factors than race here. Women, even white women, got burned. Progressive white women are feeling especially betrayed by other white women who did vote for Trump. It feels extremely personal. And all women, even the idiots who voted for him, are going to pay the consequences for this. And that the progressives ones like me are going to have to pay a penalty for the idiots hurts.

Women, regardless of color, are hurting. We are grieving. Considering I was raised by and mother and father who both identified as feminists, I’m struggling to reconcile the messages of equality and hard work I got at home with what happened on November 9th. I am scared for my future, and I am scared for my children’s future.

And that is what Keelty does not get about the safety pin movement.

For me, it’s not about white guilt. And most of the people I see who are interested in the safety pin movement were involved in the Black Lives Matter movement or advocating for the rights of the LGBT community or some other progressive movement. The people wearing safety pins voted for Hillary Clinton, not Trump. Perhaps they weren’t as active on racial issues because they were active on some other progressive issue. Perhaps because of time or financial constraints they can’t do much. Whatever the reason, the people donning safety pins are by and large people who had progressive tendencies and genuinely want to do something to help.

Further, it’s not just white people wearing safety pins. People who are brown or black are also wearing them. At the Unitarian church when I went to pick up my daughter from Sunday school the teacher was an older Hispanic woman wearing a safety pin. We looked at each other and talked about how we had to band together and support one another.

And that’s what being a woman is about. I’m a counselor and am very aware of research showing how women reduce stress and unite through troubling times by reaching out to each other and helping each other. While men can wear safety pins, women started the movement. This is the continuing tradition of women finding ways to unite, show solidarity, and support each other.

And I really don’t appreciate a white man butting in and telling us what to do with our grief, pain, and our need to do something! I’m already struggling with feeling like I don’t have a voice and feeling disenfranchised by geography. I can’t change the fact that my blue vote doesn’t mean a damn thing in red Texas but I can wear a safety pin and show that I stand against hate!

Look. I’m not going to argue that communities of color aren’t suffering right now. They are! Just like religious minority communities, and LGBT communities, and communities for the differently abled. And women. I’m not going to get into a pointless suffering contest over which group has it worse because it’s impossible to do so because privilege is so complex.

I’m white, so I have race privilege. I’m straight and I identify with the gender I was born with, so I have those privileges as well. I am differently abled, so I don’t have the privilege of being typical, though. I am an atheist so I certainly don’t have religious privilege. And I am a woman. And women, apparently no matter how qualified, still can’t break that thickest, toughest glass ceiling. It is easier for a sexist rapist to get in the White House than an immensely qualified woman. Right now, I am really feeling oppression based on my gender. To boil this down to simply white guilt ignores and dismisses the grief that women are experiencing right now!

Further, even though I’m white, I know what it is like to be bullied. I was bullied so badly in elementary school for being a “retard” and for “going to Hell” that my parents moved school districts to get me away from people who were bullying me. I have never been bullied for the color of my skin, but I know how harmful and painful it is to go through any sort of bullying. And I do not want to be one of those people who stands off to the side and does nothing while someone is being harassed. I want to do what was never done for me growing up. I want to be the person to intervene and help.

Most people sharing information on safety pins are also sharing information on bystander information. I even know people who are going to workshops on the topic. We are alarmed at this normalization of bullying and feel the need to act. And I would say most of us wearing the paper clip understand the responsibility that comes with it. We understand it means standing up when we see a bully. That’s why we’re putting it on.

I would encourage Keelty to listen more to the people involved in the movement and get a better grip on their reasons and motivations before disparaging people who are mobilizing against hate. And perhaps, as a white man, he should keep his opinions on how women mobilize to deal with grief to himself.


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