Denim Day

Being the vintage film buff that I am, I recently made the mistake of watching Bus Stop (1956) starring Marilyn Monroe and Don Murray. The premise is very simple: Murray’s character, named Beau, instantly falls in love with Monroe’s character, Cherie, and wants to marry her right away. What is intended to be portrayed as a comedy gives off a much darker message.

Poor Cherie is in a constant state of distress as Beau makes many efforts to drag her, carry her, or even lasso her home to Montana while she tries to resist. She begs, she pleads, she screams, she cries. And yet, in some bizzare Stockholm Syndrome twist, Cherie unrealistically realizes she has fallen in love with Beau. Somehow, she changes her mind at the last minute and decides she will marry him and live in Montana. Never mind her dream of becoming a famous Hollywood star. No! That’s second to being a wife. In the end, the sexually assaulting, kidnapping, determined man got what he wanted.

I know so many of you readers will agree, this is a highly problematic movie. Fuelled with anger over the poor message of the movie, I made the poor choice of observing the comments and reviews in hopes I would find others that agree with me. What on earth could possess me to think such an idea would work? Far too many praised this movie, some claiming that “the people of the 1950s knew how to take a joke” or that it is “cute” or “endearing.” Personally, I thought it was closer to a psychological thriller, but that’s just my opinion. My point is, even in the modern world, many still encourage rape culture as a reasonable method to get what you want or as a good, humorous plot of a movie. They are far too dismissive of the victims’ experiences, their distress.

Now, times have obviously changed since the 1950s, and as each day passes, sexual assault becomes more and more condemned, but there is still so much work that needs to be done to demolish rape culture. There is a difference between sexual violence and rape culture. Rape culture is teaching men that they can take what they want as long as they can use enough force. Rape culture is telling women that the way they dress is the reason they were assaulted. Rape culture is young women being afraid to be in public by themselves at night. This is not only true for the U.S., but for just about every country across the globe.

In 1998, a teenager in Italy was sexually assaulted by her driving instructor. The Supreme Court ruled that the driving instructor was innocent because the young woman was wearing tight jeans, and therefore “she was asking for it.” The following day, countless women of the Italian Parliament went to work in jeans as a form of protest. It was so simple, yet so impactful, so powerful. Being a changemaker does not mean you have to grab your sword and shield, sometimes all you really need to grab is a good pair of jeans. Since then, denim has become a symbol of the fight against sexual violence. This became the start of Denim Day.

Famous Lucy Maud Montgomery once said “It’s not what the world holds for you, it’s what you bring to it.”

So I’ll ask you, what will you bring to the world? Yes, it’s a world of danger, selfishness, and dismissiveness. But, more importantly, it’s a world of change. Every event, every speech, every word brings us a step closer to normalizing a safer community, that discourages rape culture and victim blaming behaviors. The movement is strengthened through solidarity, through the masses. Marquette offers a wide variety of opportunities to support the movement. The Student Wellness Center offers programs targeted towards sexual violence prevention. In these programs, we teach students effective bystander intervention strategies and empower students to be the difference that they want to see on campus. There are also other resources such as the 24/7 on-call advocates, the Counseling Center, and the Title IX office that can help support survivors of violence.

We also invite you to join us on Wednesday, the 27th, for our own celebration of Denim Day.

We will have plenty of wonderful, educated, and inclusive activities to be involved in, we promise to make it worth your time. Let’s show the world that we are fed up, that we won’t take another day of it. The days of unhealthy movies, like Bus Stop, and the victim blaming, such as that done by the Italian Supreme Court, are over. Let’s put on our jeans and denim jackets, heck even our denim bucket hats, and let’s show the world what we have to bring to it.

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