On Wednesday Stanford’s campus was filled with all varieties of denim, from skinny jeans to decorated vests. However, the event was more than just a fashion statement: it was an international social protest in solitude with victims of sexual violence.
“Denim Day,” as it is known worldwide, has been run for 16 years by the California-based group Peace Over Violence, which aims to eliminate violence against women.
The event began in 1999 after the Italian Supreme Court overturned a rape case in which the victim was wearing “tight jeans.” The court determined that the jeans were so tight the victim must have helped her rapist remove them, thus giving consent. The day after the decision was made, women in the Italian Parliament all showed up to work dressed in jeans to show their support for the victim.
Since then, Denim Day has become a worldwide event to protest damaging attitudes towards sexual assault.
At Stanford, the Office of Sexual Assault and Relationship Abuse Education and Response (SARA) sponsors Denim Day as one of their many events during April, Sexual Assault Awareness month.
“The case that sparked the Denim Day movement is universally indicative of how controversial and contested the issue of sexual violence can be in our society,” said Angela Exon, assistant dean of SARA, in a statement to The Daily. “It sheds light on how survivors are sometimes seen as complicit in their assaults and abuse.”
In solidarity with victims who have suffered from such misconceptions about sexual assault, nearly 1,200 students, administrators and staff sported denim around campus on Wednesday.
“Denim Day is about making a statement through fashion and encouraging the dialogue in our schools, workplaces, communities, legislature and, most importantly, in our homes,” Exon said. “The goal is to put an end to the erroneous and destructive attitudes about sexual violence that contribute to its prevalence.”
The hope is that those who don’t know about Denim Day will inquire about the prevalence of jeans and thus learn about the protests against violence against women that occur across the globe and closer to home, right here on Stanford’s campus.
“As a culture, most of us are not adequately informed about these issues when we are growing up, and we don’t typically talk about them as adults,” Exon said.
Denim Day is aimed at starting this dialogue.
Several student groups, Greek Life organizations and individual faculty, staff and students reached out to SARA to get stickers and flyers to advertise the event.
“We are ecstatic about the overwhelming response that we have received,” Exon said.
Jite Ovienmhada ’18 learned about Denim Day through her position on Frosh Council. One of the group’s advisors talked about how the event originated and the implications of the Italian Supreme Court’s decision.
“It really fascinated me to hear the background story,” Ovienmhada said.
She wore denim on Wednesday and emailed her freshman dorm to encourage her peers to do the same.
“I think so often girls are told, ‘You really have to be careful what you wear,’ or even, ‘You asked for it,’ just because of the clothes they have on,” Ovienmhada said. “Why should I have to limit what I choose to wear or limit my self expression because someone else is in the wrong?”
Contact Elizabeth Wallace at wallacee ‘at’ stanford.edu.