Day Thirty One

Day Thirty One: Sheena Goldstein (Metuchen, NJ)

December 2016 marks the completion of my first year as a working mother. Participating in Dressember 2016 allows me to express the deepened respect and appreciation I have for mothers and women everywhere.

As I pushed myself through the daily physical, mental, emotional and social challenges of working motherhood, I began to understand some of the critical realities of how and why women have too often in history endured the cycles of abuse that Dressember illuminates.

I came to understand that throughout history, before crucial progress in technology, culture, medicine and laws, being a working mother outside the domestic sphere while caring for an infant was almost impossible. This was especially true if a mother was able and committed to providing the critical health benefits to her child and herself through breastfeeding that only a mother can provide. Furthermore, before the industrial revolution, there was no hygienic alternative to breastfeeding for nourishing a newborn.  (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2684040/)

What does this have to do with cycles of abuse, you may ask? When women are not able to work outside the domestic sphere:

  • Who determines how rape is legally defined, what its legal consequences will be and how they will be enforced? Men.
  • Who creates the fashion marketing campaigns that often prey on women’s insecurities and promote a cultural myth that women’s bodies are worth less than they truly are? Men.
  • Who writes the history textbooks that children read to understand who built the world we live in? Men.

Men who don’t grow breasts from their body at puberty and experience the subsequent unwanted glances and social pressures specific to women. Men who have never created a human being in their body for nine month, pushed that human being out of their body, and then supplied that baby’s only nourishment from their own body for her first months of life. Men are only 10% of adult rape victims in America, while women are 90% of adult rape victims. One in every six American women will be the victim of attempted or completed rape. (https://www.rainn.org/statistics/victims-sexual-violence)

I am not trying to demonize men here. We certainly need their help in the fight for gender equality and so many are already fighting with us (Thank you, President Barack Obama! http://www.glamour.com/story/glamour-exclusive-president-barack-obama-says-this-is-what-a-feminist-looks-like) However, the public sphere needs women’s voices and mothers’ voices on issues that only they can truly understand.

Additionally, working outside the domestic sphere gives women and mothers economic, mental and social independence.

As I try to wrap my already protective mother-frenzied mind around the reality of Donald Trump’s presidency haunting my darling baby daughter’s most precious childhood years, I am reaffirmed in my belief of one thing: we must fight like hell to protect the rights that our foremothers (and forefathers – Vice President Joe Biden, I love you http://msmagazine.com/blog/2016/10/06/115168/) fought like hell to ensure for us.

Fight for laws that protect women from domestic abuse and sexual assault. Fight for access to contraceptives. Fight for our right to choose if and when we will become mothers. Because believe me, if and when you do, you will need the protections in place that our foremothers fought to secure for you, your bond with your baby, her health and your own.

And when you are managing everything to stay calm and not bring stress on your body during pregnancy to have the healthiest pregnancy possible, and rocking your newborn to sleep after nursing her until she became milk drunk, and handing your precious baby (who can’t even sit up on her own yet) over to a bright eyed young teacher at daycare, then unsuccessfully fighting back tears as you tear yourself away to take a car, two trains and walk 10 city blocks to work on women’s history textbooks on the 48th floor of a New York City skyscraper, you will feel waves of appreciation wash over you for the laws and advancements that your foremothers and forefathers fought hard to provide, to enable you to balance motherhood and the career you worked hard to build:

  • For those who fought for protected maternity leave (which still needs much further improvement and protection).
  • For electric breast pumps and those who fought for legally protected time and private, sanitary space to pump breast milk at work, enabling you to continue breastfeeding for as long as you and your baby need (protecting both yourself and your baby from some cancers, sustaining your strong emotional bond, among 99+ other proven benefits of breastfeeding, which would otherwise virtually stop if you were away from your baby for a full time work week without pumping: http://www.notmilk.com/101.html)
  • For the women who broke down barriers in the workplace to fight for our place there, despite pregnancy, etc.
  • For freezers, refrigerators and microwave ovens, which allow us to eat a warm, prepared meal without spending hours over a stove every night.
  • For all modern appliances – washers & dryers, dishwashers, I love you!

 

  • For internet, email and VPN access that allow us to meet work deadlines that day care closing hours just won’t allow you to complete in the office.
  • Smart phones, texting, and yes, social media, for when your postpartum, lactation hormones are in full force, you’ve had three hours of sleep, are behind on multiple deadlines at work and just need a few words of encouragement and support.
  • Video monitors, digital photography etc. for when you are away from your baby for 8+ hours and just need to see her face.
  • Formula, so that if pumping doesn’t work for you, or you need to supplement your pumping supply, your baby can be fed while you are away at work. Not all women are physically able to breastfeed, and it does not work for everyone, so we are fortunate that this alternative is now available.
  • For Feminism, which taught men and women that it’s okay to bend traditional gender norms. It taught men it’s okay to change a diaper and care for his own baby (deepening father and child bonding as well) so his wife can sleep before and after a hard day at the office (a day spent not only meeting tight work deadlines, but pumping breast milk one, two or even three times throughout that work day, and composing herself enough each time to step out again into the office and sit with colleagues around a table for an important meeting: critical, physically tiring work that only a mother can do).

On the completion of my first year of working motherhood I feel relieved, empowered, proud of my professional accomplishments (despite many new challenges) and ready to face year two with one year’s experience under my belt.  I am also grateful for the normalcy gained from a connection to my old life and to my wonderful, supportive team of mostly female co-workers, many of whom are working mothers themselves.

Every mom, dad and family has different circumstances and it is not always practical for a mother to work outside the home. That is a perfectly wonderful and healthy choice as well, if that works best for you and your family. Feminism has also enabled a world where men now very often take the role of stay-at-home dad while the mother works, which is thankfully more and more accepted in our culture. Being a mother or father is extremely challenging, whether working outside the home or not.

Whatever your situation may be, continue to fight for women’s rights, for us, and for our daughters. Fight to ensure that women’s and mothers’ unique voices are heard in our justice system that defines the laws of our land, in our culture that molds young minds and the leaders of tomorrow, and in our workplaces where women will continue to impact the world in ways that only a mother or woman can.

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To donate to our team page to support IJM and A21, two organizations fighting against slavery and injustice everyday, please click here.

Day Thirty

Day Thirty: Naushin Nawar (London, UK)

On the 24th of April in 2013, the deadliest garment-factory accident in history led to the death of 1,129 people in Dhaka, Bangladesh. In the aftermath of this accident, many high street retailers in the UK including Primark and Matalan came under fire for their part in the lease of spaces in these crumbling factories. Workers at Rana Plaza were treated poorly, particularly underage girls, with few if any days off, terrible working conditions, and meagre pay to show for it (about $51 per month for an 8am-5pm day – although workers could end up staying until 11pm in order to finish orders on time).

Tragedy on this epic scale was what it took to bring ethical fashion to the fore of the public mind. And although high street retailers have made attempts to make their production chains more transparent, there is clearly still a long way to go. Supply chain audits don’t pick up the extent of abuse in such company factories, meaning we may be buying clothes with the intent of being more ‘ethical’ but with abuse continuing behind the scenes. What’s more, while this is a particular problem in the fast fashion industry, it is certainly not unique to it – nor is it localised to Bangladesh.

What response can we have to injustices like these? For a long time, my solution was to ignore it, and hope for the best. After all, what can one person possibly do? I didn’t like the idea of signing up to a campaign, but having embarked on the Dressember campaign, I’ve realised that it’s so much more than that.

Wearing a dress for 31 days might seem like an odd way to raise money for victims of modern slavery, but the decision to choose a dress over jeans each morning in the Scottish winter does wonders for keeping these issues on my mind. If nothing else, it reminds me to continue praying for mercy in these situations. But as well as that, it gives me a set of lenses to view the world through, and to make conscious choices in light of that. One individual’s campaign might not change the world, but it can shape the way we look at the world, and that’s a good start!

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To donate to our team page to support IJM and A21, two organizations fighting against slavery and injustice everyday, please click here.

Day Twenty Nine

Day Twenty Nine: Lauren Farris (Edmonds, WA)

Rows of women in black stilettos line the outside of each bar.

“Come come! Massage here!”

One woman calls towards us as my friend and I pass by. Several other women with crossed arms barely glance up from their seats. Small children dart around and hold up knick-knacks to sell, glancing over their shoulders. In every direction, signs like “Ladyboy Bar” or “Foxy Lady” flash at me and grow brighter.

In the corner of my eye, a group of swaying men surround a young Thai girl. Laughing, one man slings his arm around the girl and jabs his buddy to his other side. She grimaces and crosses her arms tighter. “Come on, just a kiss sweetheart.” She makes a noise and tries to squirm out of his embrace. The group roars as the man shoves her to another man across from him.

This is a scene I witnessed in Thailand and is one of many scenes from human slavery all over the world. Almost two years ago, a small team and I from Youth With a Mission stayed in Thailand for three months where we worked with several groups, including Lighthouse in Action, which reach out to individuals in forced prostitution in the open bars. In the open bars, either poverty, family, or pimps are the traffickers. Once forced to work in the open bars, “bar moms” or “bar dads” pressure and brainwash bar workers into continued sex work. Even a few days before we arrived, one of the bar girls was shot during a night with a customer, and her friend had begun transitioning out of the bars to working at a cafe in partnership with Lighthouse in Action.

To say the least, those three months were pretty eye opening for me. However, my heart for this entry is about these individuals first and foremost. The ones who smooth down their faces and place on a different smile for certain customers. The ones who become shocked to hear “how are you?” instead of “how much are you?” – which is about the price of a bunch of grapes or a pack of beer.

Though this is not only about those in Thailand. Sometimes, it’s easy for me to think that human trafficking happens “out there.” Sure it’s a reality, but it’s far away from me…until I realize that human trafficking happens within my own city of Seattle and all over the United States and world; where millions of precious sons and daughters of God– from bar workers to even customers and pimps– remain unaware of how completely beloved and treasured they are.

Which is why Dressember is important. Though Dressember doesn’t magically cure human rights overnight (as amazing as that would be), that’s not necessarily the point. Dressember presses into the uncomfortable. Although wearing a dress every day might seem like a small thing, it is a combined step in facing a reality that many would rather not think about. It brings awareness, prayer, and fundraising support to people and organizations that carry on this long term work. Wonderfully, Dressember is the power of a voice in a dress spreading into a movement.

Because these individuals are worth more.

For more information on Lighthouse in Action, click this link: http://www.lighthouseinaction.org/ .

For a local organization in Seattle, check out REST: https://www.iwantrest.com/ .

If you’d like more in depth information on human trafficking, Nefarious is a great documentary: http://nefariousdocumentary.com/.

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To donate to our team page to support IJM and A21, two organizations fighting against slavery and injustice everyday, please click here.

Day Twenty Eight

Day Twenty Eight: Joy Fisher Williams (Arlington, MA)

Dear Friends:

I was honored to be invited by a colleague to write a blog post for the Dressember empowerment campaign and against human exploitation as my own experiences have shown me the impact we can have when we come together for good.

As a 20-year resident of the Boston area and a native Midwesterner, I’m one who has established a new home and a new “family” some 1,000 miles away from my parents and siblings. This was only possible through the great friendships and rich support network that has risen up around my husband, children, and me over time.

I realize such a network—or preferably, a large-scale embrace—is not something readily available to the disenfranchised. Women who are raped or beaten often suffer in the privacy of their own dormitories or homes, in the guilt and shame that tells them surely, they played a role and no one will believe them if they report the abuse. Children are the most vulnerable. They depend on parents and caretakers, and when those people cannot offer stability, their day to day is whittled down to one basic necessity: SURVIVE.

I’ve been surprised by how far a little bit of intent goes in making an impact on those we cannot easily track or reach directly through our giving. For example, my Boston network has led me to a wonderful organization called Transition House, a domestic violence agency whose emergency shelter, short and long-term housing program, and community outreach program have touched more than 12,000 women, children, and men since its founding in the 1970s.

It was the conversation initiated by a fellow daycare mom that led me to a lunch with the director of the organization, and another intentionally small, local fundraising event I later organized for Transition House with the same daycare mom that led to an opportunity for my friend in human resources to offer resume writing and job interview training to the clients at the shelter. That event was held at my favorite area boutique, whose staff not only had some pressing queries of their own about domestic violence but also offered a possible solution for their overstock DRESSES: could they pass them along to Transition House clients?

And dresses take us to Dressember, and to the matter at hand…

Did you know that only 15% of charitable donations go to those living in or with poverty, homelessness, illness, and/or abusive situations? (This is according to a Congressional Budget Office study detailed in this article.) With 1 in 4 women experiencing intimate partner violence at some time in their lives—not to mention the millions affected globally by human trafficking—we can do more.

In our efforts to be intentional, it can be hard to know where to start. I might suggest the following:

  1. Start small, think local: do you know an organization or someone involved in an organization doing good in your community? Reach out to them! Perhaps you can fill a gap in their volunteer base with your unique skill set (in my case, it was marketing).
  2. Leverage your network(s): once you find a role, reach out to your friends, colleagues, and church or club members and bring them in to learn more about your organization. Cultivate your donor base by showing—not just telling—them about the work you’re doing and inviting them to participate.
  3. Expand your circle and your reach: can your organization do more? Can your network do more to have an impact at a regional, national, or global level? Don’t be content to limit yourself to the local once you recognize the global possibilities!

For what it’s worth, I’m somewhere in between steps 2 and 3. And while I prepare to make the leap, I am enthusiastic about the effect a whole lot of intention can have!

My Boston family—shown in this picture with me in a dress purchased at that favorite local boutique—reminds me that home is less a place and more a feeling. That feeling is safety, security. For those trapped in the cycles of violence, poverty and human trafficking my hope is first for a way out, and ultimately for safety and security. May my intention be a reflection of that hope.

Joy Fisher Williams, Arlington, MA

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To donate to our team page to support IJM and A21, two organizations fighting against slavery and injustice everyday, please click here.

Day Twenty Six

Day Twenty Six: Katie Rector (Portland, OR)

If you are new to Dressember, welcome! The goal of this movement is to raise awareness on some serious issues facing women. Feel free to take a look around at the stories women have been sharing this month about their participation. I wanted to take a moment to share what has been on my heart concerning Dressember. I’m new to the movement, but the Lord has been pressing on me to explore the concept of justice for almost two years. It started with the observation of Lent in 2015, when my husband and I decided to give up animal byproducts.

Going vegan for Lent was not just about the food I ate. I decided to spend some time learning about the lives of the animals in dairy and meat production. I was shocked to learn about the inhumane practices that dictate the lives of dairy cows. As someone who was vegetarian for five years, I always thought I had “did the right thing” when I gave up meat. As it turns out, there are some animals who have it worse than death. This isn’t to say that I think using animal products is wrong, (and it’s certainly not the topic of my post today!) I just think the industry needs reform. We cannot, with a clear conscience, let the practices of that industry continue in the way it currently runs. Our value for life and creation needs to be one of the highest priorities we have.

As I continued my study into the lives of food production animals, I was prompted to go further. My stomach was turned by the lives these animals were living, but I felt convicted that there were human lives being treated inhumanely that I was also unaware about. I started looking into the lives of textile factory workers, production workers, cotton harvesters and more. Some workers were treated well, but the vast majority were paid very low wages and had unpredictable contracts. For women, many times these flexible contracts are cancelled when they become pregnant. Digging deeper into the lives of women in the textile industry showed little evidence of progress and very little integrity. This leaves us with very little answers as to what actually goes on in some of these factories and farms.

I watched documentary after documentary and the more information I came across, the more motivated I was to take action. I had a tough time thinking of ways that we, as Americans not in the textile industry, could help our sisters (and brothers) in need in these factories. I wept for them; I prayed for them; I wondered if I could ever do anything that would help bring about reform for them. We live in an age of information and communication, and yet there is so much we do not know about the inhumanities some women face. After much research, I have thought of a few ways we can get involved for change on this issue.

Here are some ways YOU can help to stop the injustices of the textile industry overseas:

  1. Pray for our brothers and sisters in their suffering. Commit to prayer for them once a week to intercede for them and to bring awareness for yourself. Ask others to join you in this prayer.
  2. Participate in Dressember (and movements like it) that raise awareness of these issues. Use social media for good and bring others into your journey alongside you.
  3. Download the app: Buycott. You can bring the app with you at the store and scan each item you place in your basket (you can also look up items from home). Buycott helps you to make purchases that promotes certain topics you care about, but also helps you to avoid products that are inhumane for a variety of reasons.
  4. Be a savvy shopper. Look for certifications like Fair Trade USA (fairtradeusa.org) or B Corp (bcorporation.net). These certifications help shoppers know which businesses are being socially responsible. The more shoppers desire these certifications, the more companies will change their practices and obtain certification!
  5. Recycle clothing. The clothing we have can be reused and recycled in order to lower the amount of clothing waste we create. Waste not, want not, right?

Is there a perfect solution to all of these issues? No, certainly not. I’ll admit that my vegan adventure didn’t last past Lent season. Maybe I can’t make a drastic commitment to all issues, but it is within my power to continue in my awareness. We must be diligent to seek to grow in awareness in the issues that affect our world in a serious way. We must become protectors of our sisters on the other side of the world.

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To donate to our team page to support IJM and A21, two organizations fighting against slavery and injustice everyday, please click here.

Day Twenty Two

Day Twenty Two: Katelyn Reimer (Portland, OR)

Hi friends, I’m Katelyn. I grew up in a small, sheltered town in the middle of Kansas. Just when I had gotten used to the routine of things, my family moved to Portland. I went from a predominantly singular culture to an epicenter from which cultures spring. I absolutely love Portland and the ingenuity that it cultivates, and I also love Kansas and the family values that it upholds. Neither one is wrong, neither one is right. And surprisingly, although they’re completely different spaces, both are economic powerhouses for human trafficking.

My experience with human trafficking and abuse is not with extent, but it is enough to make my blood boil at any whisper of such injustice. Harassment: the feeling when another person’s unwarranted look turns from kind to lacking self-control– this should not be normal. And yet, the other day at the grocery store, a man made me (ironically wearing a dress ‘a la Dressember’) feel completely disrespected with his glances. I hurried out of the store and into the safety of my locked car. I’m going to be honest- that man’s looks scared me as a 5’1″ woman.

And then it hit me. This. This is why Dressember matters. Because as fortunately as I could walk away from such attention, for many, that attention comes unwelcome in places closer to home and harder to avoid. Be it family members, significant others, co-workers– the list can go on. Dressember matters because it loudly shouts “this is not okay!” to a type of situation hidden in words of leverage and scared testimonies.

My message to you who experience this and feel chained by it: you are known and you are loved. You are the reason why my all-jeans closet now has a dress in it. You are the reason, because you matter. Your life matters. And sweet friend, I want to encourage you that there is hope at the end of the tunnel, but also IN the tunnel.

May we be the hope IN the tunnel for injustice. May each and every one of us greet the candid world with a firm bidding to respect one another. This is the start of something beautiful and restorative.

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To donate to our team page to support IJM and A21, two organizations fighting against slavery and injustice everyday, please click here.

Day Twenty

Day Twenty: Savannah Bukant (Kenmore, WA)

Tolle totem

I am a second year student of Naturopathic Medicine, studying at Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. Life is medical school; my life is naturopathic philosophy and biochemistry and the human body; life is learning physical exams and clinical diagnoses and nervously drawing blood, while simultaneously learning of the power of herbal medicine and concocting teas and tinctures. This journey to becoming a physician is exhilarating, taxing and demanding. Most days my mind is completely overwhelmed by the volume of information professors expect us to retain, never mind even venturing into ever-frequent feelings of inadequacy or loneliness that arise because I’m a single human being and I’m embarking on a challenging journey. And yet, despite the stress, each day I wake up free to pursue my dream. What an incredible gift. Sometimes I find myself standing outside on campus, watching the sun rise in the middle of this magical little forest in which I live and learn, speechless. Unable to comprehend the beautiful reality that I’m actively living my dream; one day very soon I will be a doctor, possess adequate skills and tools with which to care for people through their own journeys on this earth. I cannot imagine my life looking any other way. I can’t imagine journeying into any profession other than naturopathic medicine. God has called me and I’ve responded with inspiration and passion.

The practice of Naturopathic Medicine is founded, among other theories and models, on six philosophical principles. My favorite of these principles is Tolle totem: treat the whole. Treat the whole person. Treat the entire system. Don’t treat the symptom in isolation; understand the imbalance in the context of the human being. And understand the human being in the context of the larger community. Treat the broken bone and the wounded heart. Address the congested liver and  the stuck anger. Find the root of the depression biochemically and spiritually and socially. Treat the entirety of the person. Humans are not only bodies and humans are not only souls. Your body is your soul, and your soul your body.  When mind, body and spirit are in union, the human can thrive and grow and love to full, divinely-designed potential. Enter imbalance and disconnection, enter dis-ease. I see in humans today a gaping, heartbreaking disconnect between body and spirit. Our physical body is the most tangible, most present-moment expression of our souls. What a miraculous gift of form, the human body. The home to our sensations, our thoughts and feelings, our emotional responses, our creativity. I look into the vast valley of tired, dry bones, and I see potential. I envision fullness, power. I long to inspire a Breath that brings new union to body and soul. I believe I am called to breathe life into dry bones – into my own and others – powered by Breath itself.

And I realize that too many women around the world live disembodied, disempowered and dis-eased because their own rights to embodiment have been stolen. Tolle totem – treat the whole: Without rights to her own physical body, or without space to use her mind with creativity and emotion, or without opportunity to pursue whatever lights up her spirit, a woman is restrained from living wholly. I am free to nourish each of these pieces of myself, daily, when I choose to do so.  An enslaved woman may not experience any of these three fundamental pieces of a full life. Treat the whole: our human community cannot thrive to full potential when members of the community are enslaved and oppressed. For the whole of humanity to shine, all parts must be well.  I’m very, very insulated from the reality of modern day slavery and sex trafficking.  So to participate in Dressember brings conscious awareness to the fact that no, not every woman lives a safe and autonomous life, and yes, many, many women and children are living in slavery, right now. Today. Wow. It doesn’t seem real until you consciously picture a single woman living in fear and captivity. I wake up each morning to a day full of potential, vision-making and learning, free from the terrifying thought that my body may not be my own today. I take this freedom for granted.

So, what’s in a dress? A daily reminder that freedom is to be cherished, that not every woman lives an abundant life, and not every woman has the chance to freely pursue her dreams. And on the few days I’ve not worn a dress this month, for whatever the reason may have been, I am drawn into humble gratitude for the freedom to simply choose my clothing. I am free to choose a dress every day, and choose a dress in honor of the women who cannot. I am reminded to send prayer and energy to the precious women for whom it is terrifyingly painful to bring unity to body + soul.  I am reminded to encourage friends and family to shop ethically and think before buying. I am reminded that each singular drop creates everlasting outward ripples. I am still far from understanding the reality of slavery, but I am connected to these women in spirit, and pray they are receiving renewed Breath in their bones.

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To donate to our team page to support IJM and A21, two organizations fighting against slavery and injustice everyday, please click here.

Day Nineteen

Day Nineteen: Carly Roberts (Washington, DC)

Perfect vs Good

One of my favorite aphorisms is “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.” The phrase’s origins trace back to the 1600s, and it is as true today as it was then.

When it comes to fundraising, I have noticed in myself and others around me a malignant cynicism growing out of what was once healthy caution- especially when that fundraising is associated with public actions.

I’m reminded specifically of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. To review, $115 million was raised through the viral campaign that saw people posting videos of themselves being doused in ice water and passing on challenges to their friends to do the same. The funds raised from this stunt-driven effort allowed scientists to discover three new genes contributing to the disease; discoveries which will help identify new therapies for ALS.

This we know in retrospect. In the heyday of the fundraiser, a crop of criticisms casting aspersion on the participants and the ALS Association rose from what seemed like every corner of the internet. Some were the unfounded armchair critic types that are attracted by any viral sensation, while others floated more fact-based criticisms, using phrases like “funding cannibalism.”  All discouraged participation in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

I was challenged and made a video, but chose to take it down after reading some of the criticism. At the time, I was serving in a leadership position on my college campus and was cautious (trending towards paranoid) about ensuring that my public actions were not cause for controversy. I wish I had kept the video up.

While it is vitally important to examine our motivations for participating in public awareness and fundraising and to ensure that solicited funds are directed to reputable, responsible charities, we can’t let fear of getting it wrong paralyze us.

When I was invited to participate in Dressember, my thoughts first ran to concerns about how I would be perceived for participating. I was worried that people would think I was just doing it to get attention or to make myself feel good. But then I remembered the ALS Ice Bucket challenge, and all of the other times I let worry about people’s perceptions stop me from doing what I felt was right. After researching A21 and International Justice Mission, I decided to follow my heart and conscience and jump in!

Sex trafficking is a problem so big and hurtful that it’s difficult to feel like any one person can make a difference, let alone by wearing dresses for a month. But it is our responsibility to, in the words adopted by a certain presidential candidate: “do all the good you can, for all the people you can, in all the ways you can, for as long as you can.”

That’s why I’m wearing a dress every day this month. This is not an action in isolation, and it is not an action for vanity. This won’t bring an absolute, perfect end to trafficking, but today I’m choosing good in the war of perfect vs good. These are great charities doing great work, and I’m excited to be supporting them!

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To donate to our team page to support IJM and A21, two organizations fighting against slavery and injustice everyday, please click here.

Day Eighteen

Day Eighteen: Rachel Chlebowski (Old Bridge, NJ)

This is my first time participating in Dressember. After learning about the movement this past November, I thought hard about wearing a dress every day in December. I wasn’t looking forward to wearing dresses on my cold and windy walk to work in Manhattan. I will admit that I forgot about it the first couple of days, so I actually started Dressember a bit late and joined with my own fundraising page a week into this year’s campaign. Ultimately, I committed to participating and wearing a dress every (remaining) day of Dressember in order to advocate for women, autonomy, freedom, and femininity. It’s not really a big deal—to wear dresses every day for a month—and yet it means the world to me.

While I am contemplating which dress to wear, and what gifts to buy for my loved ones since ‘tis the season, the International Justice Mission and A21 are fighting to end human trafficking and help victims of modern-day slavery. Donations to the Dressember campaign support IJM and A21 in the modern-day abolitionist movement. Both organizations work in educating, protecting, and rescuing people vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation. While I tell my friends and loved ones about Dressember, I am planting seeds of awareness for the movement, for the organizations it benefits, and for the human exploitation which we all want to end. Maybe others will do Dressember next year, and start their own fundraising campaign. Maybe you will participate by wearing dresses next December—and in doing so, advocate for the dignity and autonomy of all women to a whole new group. Participating in the movement is its own form of giving. I am reminded of this sentiment from David Mitchell’s novel Cloud Atlas: “My life amounts to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean. Yet what is any ocean, but a multitude of drops?”

I can’t believe I almost decided not to participate in Dressember because I didn’t want to wear dresses for a month. Now that we are more than halfway through the month, I can already look back and think about how small the sacrifice is. The cold is nothing compared to the power of being able to contribute to this movement.

In my contemplation, I also wondered if wearing dresses everyday is more feminine than I usually allow myself to dress for my walk to work in Manhattan. Femininity and feminism aren’t the same thing, and neither are they exclusive. Feminism is without a doubt one of the reasons I decided to do Dressember, and just to be clear for the readers in the back, feminism is not about burning bras or rejecting men—it’s about equality. As a feminist, I believe women should make equal pay for equal work and have bodily autonomy, and men should be able to show emotion without being scorned or judged. The most important facet of feminism to me is that women should be able to be anything, just like men. Women shouldn’t be judged or vilified for being masculine OR feminine, for being scientists or politicians or homemakers–for being typical or defying standards–and frankly, men shouldn’t be, either. The definition of femininity is the quality of being female—why is it negative to be associated with womankind, to be feminine? Feminism is the fight, but femininity is the force, the point, and the means.

During Dressember, we raise the dress as our flag. Feminism and femininity aren’t exclusive; every woman should be able to feel both strong and feminine. People seem to look down on femininity, but it really doesn’t make sense—our civilization would not exist without the women’s work that people so easily belittle. Our society would not be the beacon of hope it is without the kindness, care, and loyalty of those before us. So I am proud to wear a dress every day this Dressember, for the women before me who didn’t wear much else, the women who currently need our help most, and the women after me who will hopefully have it better.

To donate to our Dressember campaign and support the fight for a better world for all of us, please visit https://support.dressemberfoundation.org/team/95169. Thank you, and happy holidays!

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Day Sixteen

Day Sixteen: Emily Flanagan (Seattle, WA)

I love my morning coffee and cozy blankets. I live my life in scarves and will often go out of my way for the things that bring me the warm fuzzies, like visiting old restaurants or wandering my favorite bookstores. I love my comfort.

But I also avert my eyes when I’m at a stoplight and a stranger is holding a sign on the corner. And I’ll politely excuse myself when a woman at church begins to share stories from her past. I avoid tough conversations and plug my ears when I hear news that I don’t like. I love my comfort.

When I first heard about Dressember a few years ago, I didn’t get it. How can simply wearing a dress solve an issue as big as human trafficking? The answer is: it doesn’t.

What I mean is – simply wearing the dress doesn’t really do anything. Whether there’s two or two hundred thousand women wearing dresses throughout the month of December, the act itself makes a statement but does not bring about change. When a close friend asked me to join her in this movement, I struggled with saying “yes.” How would my participation change anything? Besides, I live in my blue jeans. And I love my comfort.

I went through my usual excuses of why I shouldn’t participate. I thought about blaming work and saying that it would be weird wearing a dress every day to the office. I thought about politely avoiding responding until it was “too late” to join in. To be honest, I can’t admit to having this big, convicting moment that led me to participate in Dressember this year. Instead of making excuses, I made a commitment to wear a dress every day in December and it has challenged me in ways I couldn’t imagine.

I’m not perfect at this whole activism thing. Out of the 16 days in December, so far I’ve worn pants twice and to be honest I probably will again. But for me the act of putting on a skirt most mornings is not about meeting a personal goal of wearing a dress every day. It’s about entering into someone else’s pain by willingly making myself uncomfortable if only for 8+ hours a day.

There are people like you and I who are being torn from their homes and families and sold into sexual and labor intensive slavery. There are daughters and sons who are stripped of their innate, God-given value for the “benefit” of those willing to pay a price to use them. I believe that the freedom to choose is a beautiful gift of being human, and it deeply saddens me that there are industries that rip that freedom away from people just to make a dollar.

I pull on my stockings because there are people who live in uncertain, far more uncomfortable conditions than I live in and I want to acknowledge that this pain is real. When people who know me ask why I’m “so dressed up,” it’s sparked conversations and opened others’ eyes to the very real fact that many things in our world are not okay and I’m not okay with that. Wearing a skirt is a small way to be a freedom warrior for the sake of restoring people their worth. While it pales in comparison to the hurt that trafficking victims face everyday, it’s a way for me to be challenged to set aside my own comfort, pray for them, and hope for change.

I choose to be uncomfortable because I believe that everyone is worthy of love, and justice is just love in action.

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To donate to our team page to support IJM and A21, two organizations fighting against slavery and injustice everyday, please click here.