Smile Politely

A photo journal of Denim Day at U of I

Last week the University of Illinois campus celebrated Denim Day, an event to raise awareness about sexual assault. Denim Day originated as a protest against a 1998 Italian Supreme Court ruling in which a rape conviction was overturned based on the argument that since the victim was wearing tight jeans, she must have helped her attacker remove them and thereby consented to her assault. Denim Day subverts a symbol of victim-blaming into one which advocates for victims. At U of I this year, Denim Day was commemorated through the crafting of a large quilt comprised of denim patches decorated by U of I students. Several workshops were hosted throughout April at locations around campus, where attendees could design a patch of their own to be added to the quilt. 

The workshop I attended took place at the University of Illinois Womens’ Resource Center and was sponsored by Illini Art Therapy. In conjunction with the Denim Day project, workshop attendees were also encouraged to draw or paint lotus flowers.  The lotus, a flower which grows through muddy waters, harkens to the Denim Day ethos: that something beautiful and inspirational can blossom from darkness.

The assembled quilt was displayed on the U of I quad on April 29th. Messages like “We Believe You” and “You have a voice” shone out as a beacon of hope, understanding, and compassion. I watched as students paused on their way to class to observe the quilt and discuss the messages displayed there.  It was encouraging to see these conversations take place.

What made the Denim Day project meaningful to me was not only that it gave students a creative outlet to take a stand against sexual assault, but also a means for that message to reach the campus at large. As one of the squares aptly states, “Sexual assault is not a women’s issue, it’s a community issue.”

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