Posted by Rachel Kyes
The heart of Dressember is dignity for all women.
Dressember started as a fashion project, a challenge to wear a dress every day in December. The founder, however, wanted to make an impact on the lives of women around the world, so she partnered with International Justice Mission (IJM) in 2013. What once had been a test of one’s dress-wearing abilities became a fundraising effort supporting the fight against human trafficking and violence against women. By committing to wear a dress all 31 days of December, women across the world are advocating for the inherent dignity of all women.
Until partway through my sophomore year of high school, I hadn’t realized that human trafficking was a problem. I had heard of sex trafficking in Southeast Asia, but I hadn’t grasped the idea that millions of men, women, and children are forced and manipulated into many different forms of slavery (not just prostitution, friends) until I read about IJM. Their work fighting against six forms of violence—slavery, sex trafficking, sexual violence, police brutality, property grabbing, and citizens’ rights abuse—is really really awesome, to put it mildly. I did some (well, a little) research and was absolutely heartbroken. The image of millions of helpless people suffering in ways beyond my imagination hurts me, and the fact that so many of us don’t realize the extent to which slavery affects all of our lives is honestly a little terrifying. It’s not just sex trafficking- labor trafficking accounts for around 14 million of the 20-30 million enslaved around the world. And people don’t know it exists in the U.S.
People ask why I’m wearing a dress when it’s 37F outside, and the best response I have is ‘it’s nothing compared to living a day in slavery.’ I also see this as a time for reflection. When I’m cold walking to the dining hall (not a frequent occurrence, let me tell you), I think of how blessed and lucky I am that I can do something to positively impact someone else’s life, even if it’s just by raising awareness about an issue within our little circle of friends.
I didn’t want it to stop there though, so full-scale expansion was imminent. Thanks to another McDermott and a former CV student, I met the IJM campus club president, and the club helped tremendously with posters, reserving the Plinth, and running the event booth.
December 9th came upon us suddenly and surprisingly warmly (why Texas weather, why?). We stood on the Plinth for three hours, passing out stickers and flyers, and getting petition signatures to ask UTD to work with the Worker Rights Consortium to check that the apparel UTD sells is fair trade. The turnout was incredible, thanks to many friends who spent a few hours hanging out around the booth, drawing in both their friends and strangers with their dresses (see the pictures and you’ll understand).
The participation and enthusiasm shown for the event was absolutely amazing, especially by the McDermotts, and the general UTD community was well-represented too. I am thrilled to be part of a group that will engage so fully in something, not just because it’s a fellow scholar running it, but because they are passionate, caring individuals who want to make a difference. It’s a perfect environment for fostering growth and ambition, because you have individuals around you who are willing to take on challenges (and dresses) to support something they believe is worth fighting for.
The icing on the cake is that the dresses I let several, erm, broad-shoulder fellows wear aren’t even stretched out. Whoosh!