Many people today would not consider wearing jeans an act of rebellion. I wear jeans almost every day because they are comfortable, acceptable, and they fit my live style.
For a long time in our history, however, women wearing pants of any kind was out of the question. Jeans were designed for men to wear on the farm, in factories, in mines, anywhere that men did laborious work.
Women were supposed to wear dresses and look like a “lady.” Always. Even when they were working and cleaning the house. As women began to wear jeans for whatever reason, they were criticized that they were being “unladylike.”
For many of us in many cultures today, wearing jeans is no big deal. We put them on every day to do our work, you know around the house, in the office, in restaurants, in factories, in mines, on the farm, wherever women work.
And women have been criticized for wearing pants in general, and jeans specifically. In the 1990s, an 18 year old woman was raped by on April 24 by her 45 year old driving instructor. The reason he gave? She was wearing tight jeans and was asking for it. His conviction was overturned because it was completely logical that he rape her because of her manner of dress.
That is startling to hear, but we live in a time just slightly more progressive than that in which jeans are more acceptable. At least on the surface. No one is ever asking to be raped, no matter what she or he is wearing. That is a myth and a delusion. In my deepest heart, I would like to believe that people have gotten over the delusion by now that whatever a person is wearing contributes to their rape. I don’t believe it, but it is still my hope that we can get there.
Here are some images of people not asking to be raped.
None of these people are asking to be raped. They NEVER asked to be raped. We usually think of adult women as rape victims, but please don’t forget children and men don’t ask to be raped either.
A young woman named McKenna Nerone from Wauwatosa, Wisconsin started a campaign for a class in her high school. She is a senior and had heard about the young woman in Italy in the 90’s. She decided to collect 1,050 pairs of jeans to donate to Pathfinders, a local nonprofit that helps young people who are survivors of sexual assault, homelessness and mental illness. Her story was in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Tuesday, April 9, 2013, written by John Klein.
Why 1,050 pairs of jeans you might ask? Nerone figured that during the time she is class every week, 1,050 people are raped in the United States. Nerone met some resistance to her project. She speculates that people were resistant because, “(n)obody wants to talk about rape.” She’s right of course, but as she goes on to say, “I want to make people start talking about it…”Many people think that if you’re going to be raped you need to have this criteria,’ she said listing weight, physical attributes and tight jeans. ‘But no, that is just not true.”
Did she make her goal? Yes, she did. Last night, April 24, 2013, at midnight, she and some friends and news crews gathered outside her high school for the display. As she stated in her interview, each pair of jeans represents a person. Here’s a link to a partial picture of her achievement.
If you did not know about International Denim Day, it is never too late to commemorate it. Wear jeans tomorrow. Put it on your calendar for next year. Whenever you have the chance, talk about it, loudly and clearly. Wearing dresses did not stop women from being raped. Women, before the sexual revolution in the 1960s, were not asking to be raped either and they wore dresses. No one ever asks to be raped, no matter what they are wearing or not wearing. And until we can talk about it, it will never stop. And it MUST stop.
To close, a song we still need to sing, for human rights. I believe it. We Shall Overcome.