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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