Button pins–identity performance

Button pins featuring gender, identity, race, religion, politics, and culture are distributing during different events and campaigns. Icons and words on the pins promote certain ideas that help to present wearers’ opinions. In the past 5 years, wearing button pins become popular, not just as fashion, but more for identity performance.
I started to collect button pins since my second year in undergrad. The ones I own are mostly from university campus campaigns. For example, “Black matters”, “I school as a girl”, “Your vote counts”, “Talk to me” and more. They represent certain aspects of my life, and especially present who I am. There are four pins on my backpack say “talk to me in English/ French/ Cantonese/ Mandarin”. I collected them at the International Student Center at Queen’s University, and they identify the four languages I speak. These pins convey a message about me being multilingual–international. Without knowing me or even interacting with me, people create a rough impression of me by using this contextual cue on my backpack. Personal possession of specificity items become a social cue to understand somebody’s image on identity. Personal performance items denoted a creative or personal performance-related function in the life of respondent. My pins performs my identity, as other people’s pins represent who they are.
Since more and more people wear pins on their belongings (backpacks, shirts, jeans, hats and etc.), we form a connected network to share common values through these pins. It has become a social norm for the public to read and understand these social cues on pins and react accordingly. The process of interpreting personal identities makes explicit the self-reflexivity that is necessary for identity formation, but the choices individual make in crafting their performance highlight the self-monitoring that Foucault sinisterly notes in his biopower theory.


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