Day Fifteen

Day Fifteen: Katrina Larson (Bellingham, WA)

Hello Dressember Community!

My name is Katrina Larson and I’m from Bellingham, WA. We have recently been hit with a lot of snowfall the last week so I’ve had to be creative with my dresses and have been matching them with snow boots.

I’m participating in Dressember in memory of my mom. My mom passed away one-and-half years ago from lung cancer, but her legacy and passion were left behind.

My mother wanted to be an international missionary as soon as she became a Christian. Over her lifetime, she participated in and led mission trips to Bolivia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Poland, and Peru numerous times. Her heart and devotion for the oppressed, the marginalized, and downtrodden was overwhelming. She took in Vietnamese immigrants who had no place to live. She served in Bolivia as a young woman, even when coups had taken over the city and overthrown the government. She preached fiery messages to her women’s group at church and challenged them to never settle for mediocrity or stagnation.

She would be proud of me for standing up for something I believe in.

When I think of her and wanting to continue what she started, I think of warriors at the front of the battle line. When people, especially women and children, are sold and bought like property, it’s time to fight. Maybe fighting looks like wearing a dress in December when it’s freezing outside.

We may not be the ones directly involved in IJM’s programs, but we can talk to our friends and families about it. At Christmas time, I think of how Mary is at the heart of the nativity story, the mother of Jesus. Even though she was poor, marginalized, and far from home, she was brave and strong. Women in that society were second-class citizens. King Herod could take children from their mothers’ arms and murder them for his own egomaniac gain. We still live in a world of corruption, exploitation, and deception. We all know King Herod is the “bad guy” in Christmas pageants, but do we fight against the oppressors and enslavers of our day? Just like the nativity family needed shelter in Egypt, there are still families in need of refuge from people who seek to enslave and harm them.

When I was in high school, I first learned about this important issue when I heard a local anti-sex trafficking activist named Ranie Hong share about personally being trafficked. Here is a link to her and her husband’s story if you’d like to hear it. Ranie  is now a mother and is able to offer a better future not only for her own children, but also for children around the world through her foundation.

As we try to make sweaters fit over dresses, sip hot cocoa, and put lights on the Christmas tree let us not forget our brothers and sisters who cry out for freedom in this season of hope.

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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.

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Day Eleven

Day Eleven: Anastasia Brower (Bellingham, WA)

I wouldn’t really call myself an activist. I would call myself an activist cheerleader. That’s where I’m most comfortable- on the sidelines. I love watching other people get excited and passionate about helping others, standing up for what they believe in, and advocating for the voiceless.

The funny thing about following Jesus is that He calls us all to advocate for those facing injustices. That’s what wearing a dress every day for a month is about for me. Jesus is saying, “Anastasia, think about these people. Pray for them. They exist and you can do something about it.”

This month is about going beyond myself, stepping away from the sideline, and deeply loving people around the world facing injustices.

Last year, the campus ministry I am a part of held a women’s day for all of the women in our ministry to gather. At this women’s day a poem was shared, and this poem is often what drives me to continuously go beyond myself, especially when I’m feeling comfortable with where I am. This poem is about women standing up for other women and tearing down the ridiculous walls that us women tend to put up around ourselves. Dressember is about tearing down those walls, joining together, and being united by Love in spite of fear.

Let us be Women who Love by Idelette McVicker

Let us be women who Love.
Let us be women willing to lay down our sword words, our sharp looks, our ignorant silence and towering stance and fill the earth now with extravagant Love.
Let us be women who Love.
Let us be women who make room.
Let us be women who open our arms and invite others into an honest, spacious, glorious embrace.

Let us be women who carry each other.
Let us be women who give from what we have.
Let us be women who leap to do the difficult things, the unexpected things and the necessary things.
Let us be women who live for Peace.
Let us be women who breathe Hope.
Let us be women who create beauty.
Let us be women who Love.

Let us be a sanctuary where God may dwell.
Let us be a garden for tender souls.
Let us be a table where others may feast on the goodness of God.
Let us be a womb for Life to grow.
Let us be women who Love.

Let us rise to the questions of our time.
Let us speak to the injustices in our world.
Let us move the mountains of fear and intimidation.
Let us shout down the walls that separate and divide.
Let us fill the earth with the fragrance of Love.
Let us be women who Love.

Let us listen for those who have been silenced.
Let us honour those who have been devalued.
Let us say, Enough! with abuse, abandonment, diminishing and hiding.
Let us not rest until every person is free and equal.
Let us be women who Love.

Let us be women who are savvy, smart and wise.
Let us be women who shine with the light of God in us.
Let us be women who take courage and sing the song in our hearts.
Let us be women who say, Yes to the beautiful, unique purpose seeded in our souls.
Let us be women who call out the song in another’s heart.
Let us be women who teach our children to do the same.
Let us be women who Love.

Let us be women who Love, in spite of fear.
Let us be women who Love, in spite of our stories.
Let us be women who Love loudly, beautifully, Divinely.
Let us be women who Love.

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To help fight the injustice of modern day slavery, donate here:
https://support.dressemberfoundation.org/fundraiser/863223

Day Nine

Dressember Day Nine: Cayla Barke (Bellingham, WA)

Make My Voice Loud
Cayla Barke
Canvas- Mixed Media, Acrylic, Watercolor

These pieces were created after my investigation into the world of sex work and particularly, sex trafficking four years ago. I want to recognize that the stories I reveal are not my own and this is not something that I take lightly. I have an immense privilege to be able to create a work of art where I have limited lived experience.

My purpose in creating these pieces is to allow for space. I think space is important. Space for stories to begin to be heard and the common discourse challenged. I hope to inspire people to look twice and wonder what is going on. I want the viewers to go back and research. I want them to think about how the systems in place set up a difficult and sometimes inescapable setting, but most of all I challenge hope to speak in this awful dwelling.

The Prince of peace, Lord of lords, and King of kings sees the captive. Hagar, a woman who was abused and taken advantage of to the point where she had no voice was met by God in a lonely place. She was the first person to name God and she named him El Roi, “the God who sees me” (Genesis 16:13). Redemption is in the plan and God is close.

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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 Six

Dressember Day Six: Chloe Hatfield (Renton, WA)

Hello All,

I have always loved flipping through a good magazine.

I grew up reading American Girl, soon transitioned to Seventeen, and now I always pick up a copy of Glamor or Vogue before a vacation. A few weeks ago I purchased the latest issue of Vogue before my flight to Mexico. As I was flipping through the glossy pages, I came across an article that really shook me and opened my eyes to the sexual exploitation of women, girls and young boys in Iraq by members of ISIS.

The article, “Brave Hearts” by Janine Di Giovanni, details the lives of a group of young women in Iraq who witnessed a sweeping genocide of their people. In August of 2014 around 5,000 Yazidi people were killed and 6,000 more were enslaved. Thousands of women and girls were captured and sold off to “husbands” who would repeatedly rape and beat them. Some girls were “married” to as many as seventeen men. One girl was even married to an American, whose wife at home had full knowledge of her husband’s other “wife.”

One survivor is the same age as me — 23. After being witness to the brutal murder of eighteen of her family members, she was captured and gang raped by ISIS fighters. She describes the experience by saying, “the Islamic state did not just come to kill us, women and girls, but to take us as war booty and merchandise to be sold in markets.”

Being a survivor of sexual assault myself, I cannot imagine living and being “married” to my rapist, reliving the trauma day in and day out. I can’t imagine how I would cope with this magnitude of trauma, but these amazing women have taken the most selfless route. These brave women survived and many have escaped. According to the Vogue article, a group of them have created the “Sun Ladies,” a small army of women and girls who now have combat training and are prepared to lay down their lives to honor their families and to take back their rights and territory.

These women have seen unimaginable horrors and lived through incredibly traumatic events and yet they have chosen to dedicate their lives to seeking justice. These women demand those responsible for these acts will see their day in court.

When I heard about Dressember I immediately knew I had to join. If women in Iraq can give up their comforts and sleep on a roof with a rifle above their head to fight against human trafficking, I can wear a dress for 31 cold days. If these women are willing to sacrifice their lives to seek justice, I can be cold whilst raising awareness for these issues.

Thank you for reading and for being apart of Dressember! To learn more about the “Sun Ladies” click here to read the full Vogue article: http://bit.ly/2fUHV7k

Xo,

Chloe

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To donate to our team page to support IJM and A21, two fantastic anti-trafficking non-profit organizations, please click here.

Day Four

Dressember Day Four: Sophia Latorre-Zengierski (Princeton, NJ)

I have been thinking a lot about courage—what it is, what it means.

As a Ravenclaw, for those of you up on your Hogwarts History, I have sometimes struggled with the notion that it is necessary at times to speak up, hoping instead that ideas would simply stand up for themselves. But the truth is ideas go nowhere without someone advocating for them, fighting for them, believing in them—in short, sometimes it necessary to be a Gryffindor.

After the staggering results of EU referendum in Britain and the US election at home, I attended a screening of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, which was preceded by a conversation with JK Rowling on the work of the Lumos Foundation. Normally, at these sort of things, I would go all out on Ravenclaw pride. But I went as a Gryffindor—a Gryffindor in search of magic and hope, things the world of Harry Potter had always given me. And yet, what struck me most was something different: the work of the Lumos Foundation and how they persevered in building positive, loving communities for children when the world can seem so dark.

I know a lot about darkness, so much so that I am regularly called the “Queen of Darkness” by those that know me well. But it’s for that reason that I also know that while darkness is part of us—a part of humanity—it does not define us. It does not define any individual, woman or child. It is a reasonable response to look at circumstance, especially truly awful circumstance, in a defining way. I choose to participate in Dressember because I believe that a person is worth more than their circumstance; that they are, in fact, a whole person, imperfectly perfect. The dress is our acknowledgement that she is more than her wounds—she is quick, she is clever, she is brave.

That last one is particularly important in these tiring times. When I walked into my office on November 9th in lower Manhattan, an office populated almost exclusively by women, it was like someone died. The sinking I felt in my own heart was not isolated. It was palpable in the elevator, meeting rooms and every corridor I passed. Colleagues greeted me with shocked, heart-wrenched faces and we exchanged hugs between meetings. Lunches and after-work drinks were not just a passing notion between co-workers, but a necessary function in the day. Assistants already scared by the fragility of the publishing industry felt they had been betrayed by older voters and worried even more for their future. Mothers feared for the world their daughters would grow up in. My own manager told me how she struggled to tell her young kids how to respond to our newly-elected misogynistic bully.

Couple that cold reality with the hard figures on these issues. 70% of the victims of human trafficking are women and 50% are children. Young girls typically enter the garment industry at the age of 5 to be paid less than minimum wage for years on end at the mercy of fast fashion. Everyday violence runs rampant through the developing world to the point that 1 in 5 women is a victim of rape or attempted rape. Suddenly my fears seemed small—but not quite. This is a global, pervasive problem. Sexism exists between the walls. It travels through the pipes, creeping into our living rooms through floor vents, filling the air to capacity until it’s no longer an intruder—it’s normal.

Normal is a scary concept because once things are ‘normal’ they are accepted. Challenge the status quo and you’re accused of interfering with the team spirit. The thing is that ‘normal’ is not synonymous with ‘good’ or even ‘okay’. Normal is bigger than that and when things get big we don’t know what to do; so we are rendered helpless, quiet. We’d rather stay safe.

But as another dark and twisty woman once said, “Safety does not come first. Goodness, truth, and beauty come first.” To me, Dressember is goodness, truth, and beauty all wrapped up together, a Christmas trinity if you will. This simple idea of wearing a dress every day gives each of us an opportunity to speak up in this darkness, to celebrate the truth—that every woman is beautiful and should be treated with respect. Now is the time to be a Gryffindor.

I’d like to close with an original poem, which, somewhat ironically, I’m going to let speak for itself…

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Just a Girl

I didn’t know what could be

Jumping into the space race

Big ball gowns at top of the Met

Prizes for literature, science too

Travels from here to Timbuktu

Then, over dinner, the dismissal:

She’s just a girl, my father said

 

We’d play baseball at the park

The boys would pitch to me soft

Speak over ideas on projects in German

Steal crayons before graduating to essays

The lady did not protest, knowing

She’s just a girl, my teacher said

 

Looking over my shoulder at law school

Two purposes I knew

The dances, broken shoes

Bottles of wine, a weight on me

And I’d cry weakly to go home

She’s just a girl, my boyfriend said

 

Smart shoes, pinstripe suit

Girl back together again

Labels were sellotape over loose limbs

Knocked again project after project

Spurned by a queen bee and her mates

To no credit of her own for the energy

She’s just a girl, my manager said

 

Nighttime coffee reran it all back again

Except for the pause of bright un-curtained light

Picked up my pantsuit, dust it off, took the keys

Nevermind greet the day. Greet the world.

Greet the world because I am a girl.

Bold. Creative. Daring. Effervescent.

That’s right—I’m just a girl.

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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 One

Dressember Day One: Savannah DiMarco (Portland, OR, USA)

Hello, friends! Thank you so much for visiting our PNW Dressember page. I’m genuinely grateful that you’ve taken the time to read a bit of our story and the heart behind the campaign.

If you scroll down to the previous post below and/or visit our ‘About’ page, you can find out more about the Dressember campaign, fundraiser, and our team’s passion.

Each forthcoming post (beginning with this one) will come from one of our team members: a comment, memoir, artistic piece, essay, etc. that illuminates that team member’s reasons for committing to wearing a dress every day during the month of December.

This is my second year participating in Dressember. Although I cannot forget the wondrous feeling of donning a pair of dungarees after a month spent in drop-waist, shift, and a-line dresses (and staunchly refusing to wear pair of tights again until February or March), I also cannot forget the value in acknowledging oppression and slavery every single morning whilst putting on my jumper, tights, boots, and dress.

Oppression and slavery take many forms, including but not limited to debt bondage, coerced sex work (pornography and prostitution), domestic abuse, sexual abuse, involuntary servitude, unsafe working conditions, child labor, child soldiery, and child marriage. Women and girls are often most impacted by the aforementioned horrors. The Dressember Campaign was born to advocate for these brave girls and women who live their own nightmares day-after-day.

Since taking part in last year’s Dressember Campaign, I have learned much more about the complex systematic injustices that allow for global oppression and slavery’s expansion. I’d like to devote this blog to one of many injustices (and I do believe that other Dressember team members will cover many of the others in days to come) that demand our immediate attention: slave and child labor in the fashion industry.

I highly encourage reading up on this topic, and can recommend the following resources for a start:

  • Project Just: A newly-launched, research-based web platform that provides information about leading brands’ sources, methods of production, labor codes, steps toward ethics and sustainability, and more. Brands that meet very high ethical and environmental standards are noted #JUSTAPPROVED.
  • Ethical Fashion Forum ‘Introduction to Fashion’s Key Social Issues’: A London-based organization that exists primarily to educate fashion industry insiders about supplies and ethics publishes the 2016 breakdown on working conditions, forced labor, wages, and more.
  • Fair Trade USA (Clothing & Apparel): An organization that certifies and promotes brands that can demonstrate that all aspects of their sourcing and production is ethical and free from slave labor.
  • Anti-Slavery International ‘Slavery in Global Supply Chains’: British NGO Anti Slavery gives a brief rundown on the reasons that a t shirt or pair of jeans might have been created with slave labor. Peruse the website for other aritcles on the topic, such as on Uzbekistan’s cotton industry.
  • US Department of Labor: The US DOL provides two reports on Child and Forced Labor worldwide.

In a 2011 interview, British actress Emma Watson was asked about her firsthand experience with a fair trade organization’s methods; having witnessed both fair trade production and standard garment production in Bangladesh. Though five years old, the issues the interview covers have persisted in recent years. When prompted to speak to the reason for purchasing ethical handmade apparel, Emma replied as follows:

‘Because I went to the slums…and I saw what the conditions are like for the people who work in these factories and by this different model…and it’s just horrible. It’s just the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen. I just don’t think that’s a sustainable business model or a way to carry on working with the developing world. That income, to make these garments…. is just huge…it’s 70-80 percent of what the country earns.’

Today Emma has become a supporter of ethically-minded brands such as Zady, People Tree, and Nisolo, all of which closely monitor their production and do not produce items that do not benefit the members of their supply chain(s).

This, I believe, is precisely the point. It is my prayer and it is among my chief life goals: that the fashion industry would not only move away from worker exploitation, abuse, unsafe working conditions, harassment, oppression, slavery, and child labor—but that encouragement, empowerment, and positive change would become the new standard.

When discussing sustainability, Studio 7.5 in Berlin (a German chair design company) replied: ‘The environmental aspect is inherent. We don’t discuss it anymore. It’s part of our job.’ In the same way, creating and purchasing garments that are not only free from oppression and slavery but are also actively benefiting supply chain contributors and their communities is our responsibility as shoppers, business owners, designers, students, bloggers, and advocates. It is inherent. It’s our job.

Jesus cares deeply for all people. His heart cry is for all people to be free from oppression and slavery. As I wear a dress everyday this month, my hope is in a God who can inspire, mobilize, and equip our generation to take a stand for freedom in the fashion industry.

There is very much work to be done, yet we can take heart. Love is on the move.

Thanks for reading, friends! Please feel free to contact me with any and all questions, comments, etc.

So much love,

Savannah x

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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.

Dressember 2016

Welcome to our Dressember 2016 Page!

Every couple days during the month of December, one of us Pacific Northwest girls from Seattle, Portland, Bellingham (and everywhere in-between) will post a blog update to explain why we’ve committed to rocking a frock every single day in December. And yes…it will be cold!

So, why is abandoning comfy jeans, trousers, and jeggings worth it?

Together, we have decided that and re-wearing the same slightly uncomfortable outfits again and again (and eventually beginning to loathe tights) is well worth it, because Dressember provides opportunities to stand together, give, and celebrate hope.

In short, we are wearing a dress every single day to STAND TOGETHER with those who have suffered abuse and oppression because of their femininity, to GIVE to organizations that are fighting slavery, injustice, and inqequality, and to CELEBRATE HOPE for small yet significant political, economic, and social changes that are unfolding in real time.

The Dressember Campaign uses fashion to advocate for women who’ve been exploited for their femininity. As women take on the creative challenge of wearing a dress for the 31 days of December, they are advocating for the inherent dignity of all women. 

Funds raised by the Dressember Campaign go to International Justice Mission and A21. These two organizations work toward advocating for those who have been enslaved, sexually exploited, and/or violently oppressed.

Donations ultimately champion the cause of abolition and safety for women, men, and children worldwide. To donate, please click here.

Thank you for visiting our page and for following our journey.

Fundraising Page: https://support.dressemberfoundation.org/team/95169 

  • We have joined the Simply Liv & Co #inspiringsimplicity team page to raise funds for IJM and A21. Simply Liv & Co is a fantastic emerging brand that focuses on simple living and slow fashion in the effort to combat unethical fashion and slave labor.

Official Campaign Page: http://www.dressember.org

Campaign Support NGOs: http://www.ijm.org (IJM)  http://www.a21.org (A21)