I will be wearing dresses and only dresses for the month of December, in order to raise funds and awareness for the issue of human trafficking; a movement known as "Dressember."
“Dressember uses fashion to advocate for women who've been exploited. 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.”
Obviously this needs to be said. This needs to be advocated for because on so many fronts: in the issue of sex trafficking, in our popular culture, oppressive religions, abusive homes – the dignity of women has been stolen.
A friend of mine who is a survivor of sex trafficking was describing what the mentality is like for a prostitute, or victim of trafficking. “Imagine you take everything that our popular culture says about women to the extreme. ‘Your worth lies in how sexy you are. You are powerless. You are a sexual object.’” She told me a story of a man telling her “I’ve been doing this for a long time, I know what I like. What I want you to do is turn around and take off your clothes. If I like what I see, we can continue. If I don’t, I’ll still pay you, but I’ll just be on my way.” After she’d done as he said, he looked into her eyes and said, “No, thank you.” She told me, “I felt so worthless. To be seen in such a vulnerable place and be rejected like that, when for so long I’d been told that therein lies my worth…”
Dignity: noun. A sense of pride in oneself; self-respect.
I’ll now make a confession: as a female I’m alert, hyper – aware of my surroundings, and sometimes downright paranoid that something horrifying will happen to me, simply because I am a female. I feel utterly defenseless in a world that teaches me two things: 1. I am a sexual object. 2. Girls like me are sought after by predatory men.
Of course this isn't to say that all men are predatory. I have some really phenomenal men in my life who are the kind of advocates the world needs. I'm speaking to that percentage of people that parents hear about on the news and then warn their children about. Ever wonder why women go to the restroom in large packs, like a wolf tribe? It's because we're hard wired from a young age NOT to be alone. On my earliest independent social outings in junior high - going to the movies with my friends - the very last thing my Mom or Dad would call to me from the car was, "Don't go to the bathroom alone!!!"
I wish I could walk around feeling like I’m some kind of brave warrior, (sometimes I do,) but a lot of the time, I’m just scared to walk to my car by myself. I’ve been on dates with pushy guys, afraid to be assertive and tell them what I really think out of fear that they might retaliate. I’ve been taught never to humiliate a man’s ego, but to smile and somehow get out of the situation with minimal damage. Because I’m smaller. And weaker. And I have something that they want. That’s a lot working against me.
Dignity: noun. A high or honorable rank or position.
Where is my dignity? Where was my friend’s dignity?
Another story I heard on that same weekend came from a very strong woman who also survived human trafficking and went on to establish a non-profit, and teach trainings to adults about CSEC, (Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children.) She told me a story about a woman speaking up during one of her trainings and asking her, “Don’t you feel bad for all the married men you’ve slept with over the years?”
Isn’t it horrifying to think – here she was, an innocent child being exploited, while grown men are seeking her out, paying to have sex with her, and someone has the nerve to cast the blame on her. The woman.
We don’t bat an eye when things like this are said; it’s a pattern that takes place throughout all of human history. The woman is shamed and blamed. The man is just a man expressing his instincts; he goes free. Anna Karenina. The Scarlet Letter.
Dignity: noun. Being worthy of honor or respect.
Again. The Mission Statement:
“…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.”
Because to BE a woman in this world is to face the scarlet letter that is so easily assigned to our gender.
To face the physical challenges of child-bearing and the monthly pain that comes with it.
To bravely walk to our cars at night with our heads up and our shoulders back.
To push back when we are discriminated against in the work place.
To maintain our self-worth in a culture that values us for our looks.
To keep moving forward in a country who’s President was caught boasting about sexually assaulting women.
Good God. What a world we live in. We need advocates. We need to be advocates.
Dressember 2016. Lets do this.