Safety Pins Aren’t Enough But…
  • December 17, 2016
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Safety Pins Aren’t Enough But…

You may have noticed the safety pin in the banner at the top of the page. I placed it there a couple days after the presidential election.

The wearing of a safety pin as a political fashion statement began in Britain after the Brexit referendum results. According to the New York Times the practice began when, “An American woman living in Britain tweeted a suggestion that people wear safety pins to show support to those experiencing abuse. Two days later, #safetypin was trending on Twitter.”

The Times goes on to explain the adoption of the practice here: “After the election of Donald J. Trump, fears are growing that segments of his base may physically or emotionally abuse minorities, immigrants, women and members of the L.G.B.T. community. As a show of support, groups of people across America are attaching safety pins to their lapels, shirts and dresses to signify that they are linked, willing to stand up for the vulnerable.”

From the earliest days of this studio’s operation the word ‘safe’ has been prominent in our Mission Statement and I think we’ve done a good job of living up to that aspiration so when I ran into a friend of mine wearing one it inspired me to add the image to this site as a symbolic statement, or reminder, that Still Hot Yoga is a safe place (for context, my friend is black and I’m caucasian). I’ll leave a discussion of what that actually means for another day because I’m confident that a majority of our clients will agree that it is a fair statement. Please correct me if you have any reason to disagree.

Nothing is simple, of course, and there are people who think wearing a safety pin as a political statement is a knee-jerk reaction and an empty gesture if not backed up by tangible, and meaningful, action. Ijeoma Oluo is one of them.

I understand Ijeoma when she says, “I won’t trust anyone just because they are wearing a safety pin. No, it won’t give me any comfort. I will trust actions, nothing more, nothing less. I wear my blackness every single day, and people don’t have to look for it to target me. Don’t make me look for your symbol of support. Show it every day in your words and deeds.”

I don’t feel the need to justify my display of the safety pin on this site. I’m confident that, for most of my life I have walked the walk of advocacy for justice and equality.

I’m old enough to have marched with candle wax dripping into my palm while angry men shouted from the sidewalk to “love it or leave it USA” during the Viet Nam war. I slept outdoors in the rain using my leather jacket for a pillow while Helen Caldicott called for an end to nuclear energy in Washington DC in the late 70’s. I was interviewed by a reporter for a national television network in 1980, during the Detroit Republican National Convention, asking me why, as a man, I was marching with tens of thousands of women in support of the ERA. I ran from charging horse mounted cops in front of the San Francisco Hall of Justice demanding that the police be accountable for crimes against marginalized communities. More recently I was proud to march through the streets of downtown Atlanta in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Still Hot Yoga has regularly contributed money to local and national causes and organizations that work for human rights and justice. I have made phone calls and written letters to politicians. I have always voted.

Still, none of that, in my opinion, is enough so I have tried to do two other things that I believe are the most important things a person of privilege, like myself, can do to further the cause of social justice. The first is to acknowledge my privilege and the ways in which is has sheltered me from the storm of inequity and injustice that permeates our society. The second is to try to be authentically present, honest and compassionate with every human being I meet, no matter how different their cultural origins, racial makeup or personal beliefs may be from my own.

The safety pin you see on this web site isn’t an empty gesture but it is a symbolic one. I believe in the power of symbols but I don’t believe symbolic gestures are enough. But they can still be important signifiers and acknowledgement of the omnipresent need for vigilance against the tyranny of oppression and the march towards progressivism.

To be perfectly clear, my choice to display the safety pin on this site was a reaction/statement to the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States. I fear for our country and for the many marginalized people for whom the dangers his so-called “populist” movement represent a serious threat. But everyone is welcome at SHY, including those of you who voted for Trump or who may disagree with me on some or all of the points I’ve tried to make here.

There’s a reason most people prefer to practice yoga in a studio environment with other practitioners. In the West, yoga is as much about coming together in community, and unity, as it is about personal development. But the two go hand in hand. We don’t practice together in spite of our differences.

For me, the safety pin is not a symbol of liberalism, progressivism or any particular political position or belief. It’s a symbol that is meant to unite us in celebration and appreciation of our common humanity.

Written by Eric

Eric Jennings practices and teaches yoga in the style and method originated by Bishnu Ghosh, acclaimed Indian physical culturist. He holds certifications from Ghosh Yoga College of India (2016), Yogic Physical Culture Academy (2013) and Bikram Yoga, Inc. (2001). He has studied with Muktamala Mitra, Jared McCann, Mary Jarvis, Tony Sanchez, Marlysa Sullivan, William Huffschmidt, Yoganand Michael Carrol and Bikram Choudhury. With a background in theatre and performance one of Eric's strengths as an instructor is his ability to offer clear and accessible instruction making all practitioners, no matter their level of experience, feel safe, supported and encouraged in their practice.