A Symbol Of Strength And Solidarity In Women: The Meaning Behind National Denim Day

By Amelia Power for PhotoBook Magazine

I got my inspiration for writing this story from reading about this day and my love for denim.  Denim is an essential item, one that is always needed. Denim exists in a wide range of forms and is accessible to many, allowing those who wear it to be creative in the way they express themselves through a piece/material of clothing.

Any organization and event that brings awareness of sexual assault as well as the misconceptions surrounding it is important to me. I think any woman (and anyone, for that matter) would feel the same. Sexual assault is not something of the past; it still persists today, which is why events like this are important in educating people who may be oblivious and unaffected by such matters.

Something that stood out to me was the strength and solidarity the women in the Italian parliament who wore jeans, not their usual workwear ensemble to court (see below).  This event is unlike other sexual assault awareness events because it takes the very thing – denim – that was used to blame a victim and turns events into powerful tools for protest and symbolizes resilience.  

On April 24, 2019, more than 10 million people wore denim with pride and with a purpose. This year, on Wednesday April 29, millions will do the same. Let me share the significance and history of National Denim Day.

In Italy in the early 1990s, an 18-year-old girl was raped by her 45-year-old driving instructor and was threatened that if she told anyone about the incident he would kill her. The case was soon brought to court where the perpetrator was convicted of rape and sent to jail. He then appealed to the Italian Supreme Court and the conviction was overturned because the 18-year-old girl had worn tight jeans.

The rationale behind this was that because her jeans were so tight, it would have been impossible for them to be removed without her efforts, therefore making it a consensual act. After the decision had been made, women in the Italian Parliament wore jeans the following day in protest, and soon thereafter the California Senate and California Assembly followed suit. In 2008, the case was revisited and overturned. The Italian Supreme Court commented, “women’s clothing has nothing to do with the violence to which they are forced to submit on a daily basis.”

Peace Over Violence, a “child abuse and youth violence prevention center…. committed to social service, social change and social justice”, was founded 1971. The organization established the Denim Day campaign as an annual recognition of the case and to bring awareness to “victim blaming and destructive myths that surround sexual violence” (as stated on its website). Celebrated on April 29 during sexual assault awareness month, community members around the country and world are encouraged to wear denim and to take a stance against sexual violence and its misconceptions. 

With the current outbreak of Coronavirus and the practice of social distancing, this is the first year that community members participating in the protest will have to find  new ways to protest. They will do so from their homes, rather than in public and on the streets. The Peace Over Violence website provides several ways in which participants can take part in the movement. A web page enables protesters to  register by providing the name of their organization or group (if applicable), the number of people they are participating with, and the reason they “wear jeans with a purpose”. They can also briefly talk about their first Denim Day if they have participated in the past. 

The non-profit has also created a Denim Day 2020 Action Kit, available for purchase on its website ($20.00). This digital kit provides a guide that includes action plans on how to get involved, materials regarding awareness to be distributed such as posters and sharable images, educational resources surrounding sexual violence, and Denim Day Customizable Templates for sharing images and posts on media platforms.

Additionally, the organization hosts a fundraising campaign called Dollars for Denim that “directly support[s] rape prevention education and healing services for survivors of sexual harassment, assault, abuse and rape.” In practicing social distancing, but still honoring the event, participants are encouraged to engage in social media by posting the denim they are wearing and using Denim Day logos and banners in their posts to spread awareness.

This post was originally published on PhotoBook and republished here with permission. PhotoBook, an online magazine based in Brooklyn (New York), monitors what is happening in the creative world (referring to emerging and upcoming artists, a group that includes photographers, fashion designers, illustrators, videographers, painters, and other creative talents). The goal is to integrate the creative world with a supportive and healthy environment, embrace positive well-being and sustainable fashion, and support social conscious change. Instead of focusing on the big-name individuals, brands, and companies, PhotoBook addresses individuals and emerging brands and companies benefiting from broader recognition.

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