Why Women Across India Are Sharing Photos Of Themselves In Ripped Jeans

A chief minister said women — from children to professionals and parents — shouldn’t be wearing ripped jeans. In 2021.

Indian women shared photos of themselves using the hashtags #RippedJeans and #RippedJeansTwitter in response to a chief minister's sexist comments. | Twitter, left to right: @asyounotwish, @vijivenkatesh, @rohini_sgh
Indian women shared photos of themselves using the hashtags #RippedJeans and #RippedJeansTwitter in response to a chief minister's sexist comments. | Twitter, left to right: @asyounotwish, @vijivenkatesh, @rohini_sgh

The chief minister of an Indian state called “ripped jeans” a sign of societal and cultural degradation— prompting widespread outrage and the mass sharing of perfectly wearable jeans across social media.

Multiple outlets reported that Tirath Singh Rawat said during a recent government meeting that he was shocked to learn a woman he met on a flight traveling with two children who was “wearing boots, jeans ripped on the knees, [and] several bracelets on her arm” also runs an NGO, or non-governmental organization. Rawat, the recently appointed chief minister of the Indian state of Uttarakhand, made the comments at a workshop organized by the State Commission for Protection of Child Rights on March 16.

Rawat said: “You run an NGO, wear jeans ripped at the knees, move about in society, children are with you — what values will you teach? If this kind of woman goes out to meet people and solve their problems, what kind of message are we giving out to society?”

According to the BBC, Rawat compared the trend of wearing ripped jeans to “running towards nudity” and observed that “while people in India were wearing ripped jeans, those abroad were covering their bodies properly and doing yoga.” He also criticized parents for allowing children, and girls in particular, to wear them.

Rawat described ripped denim as clothing “that both caused and was symptomatic of moral turpitude,” the BBC reported. As the network’s Geeta Pandey in New Delhi noted, denim is “the favourite punching bag of Indian patriarchs who routinely blame the fabric for the moral degradation of youth.”

Young people and women had no problem responding to the chief minister’s outdated comments, sharing photos of themselves wearing ripped jeans online with the hashtags #RippedJeans and #RippedJeansTwitter on social media.

Rawat is a member of the ruling BJP party, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and women leaders in opposing parties also shared their reactions. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra of the Indian National Congress (the other main national party) tweeted this photo of PM Modi and other cabinet officials showing their knees.

A few days after he made the initial remarks, Rawat attempted to clarify, saying he is “not against jeans but just ripped jeans.”

The Times of India reported that Rawat said he’s “not against people wearing clothes of their choice” and noted that he has a daughter.

“The statement was made as a father,” he said. “The event where I said that was about women and children. I said that since a student is at school for five to six hours and spends most of the time at home, traditions and values can be inculcated better at home.”

He continued: “But while clothing is an individual choice, people should respect their culture and traditions … As children, when our trousers were torn, we would put a patch over the tear so the teacher would not reprimand us in school. Now, children are deliberately cutting their trousers with scissors, which should not happen.”

Others pointed out that chief minister Rawat seemed more concerned with fashion choices rather than urgent threats to the safety of Indian women, like rapes and sexual assault.

"Rapes happen not because women wear short clothes but because men like Tirath Singh Rawat propagate mysogyny [sic] and fail to do their duty. Stand in solidarity with the women in #RippedJeansTwitter !" tweeted Swati Maliwal, the chairperson of the Delhi Commission for Women.