When Fashion Makes a Statement

Marketplace feminism suggests that if we purchase the right “feminist product,” such as a t-shirt, lipstick or underwear, we’ll be liberated. While these types of items may help people feel empowered, they’re rarely linked to movements that are working for systemic change.

Denim Day is an exception. It’s an annual event wherein wearing jeans is a smart fashion move and a political statement that says: “There is no excuse and never an invitation to rape.”

Founded nearly two decades ago by the nonprofit Peace Over Violence, Denim Day was sparked by a case that happened around the same time in Italy, in which an 18 year-old woman was raped by her 45 year-old male driving instructor. Although he threatened her life, she shared what happened with her parents, who helped her press charges. After the trial, her instructor was convicted of rape and sentenced to jail. He appealed and the Italian Supreme Court overturned the ruling because, as the Chief Judge stated, “the victim wore very, very tight jeans, she had to help him remove them, and by removing the jeans it was no longer rape but consensual sex.”

The women in the Italian Parliament immediately protested by wearing jeans to work. The California Senate and Assembly did the same. Shortly after, Denim Day started in Los Angeles.

This year’s Denim Day is tomorrow, Wednesday, April 26. The event is always in April to coincide with Sexual Violence Awareness Month. It often coincides with national Take Back the Night events, which seek to end sexual, dating and domestic violence and offer a space to destigmatize sexual assault, give voice to victims and educate allies.

In addition to wearing jeans tomorrow, check out the Denim Day and Take Back the Night websites for events near you. Start a conversation with someone and suggest that no matter what anyone wears, they’re never asking for it.


Stephanie Abraham is a non-fiction writer and media critic based in Los Angeles. Her writings have recently appeared in McSweeney’s, Al Jazeera and Bitch. She’s the Pop Culture Correspondent and Film Critic for Rising Up with Sonali. Follow her on Twitter @abrahamsteph and at StephanieAbraham.com.