Last year was my first time participating in Dressember and I loved it! At the start of my month of dresses I wrote a blog post that told the story of how my passion for fighting human trafficking and sex slavery began, and I’ve decided to repost the story here. If you’ve already read this story, feel free to skip to the bottom of the post to learn about how I’m choosing to engage in Dressember this year.
I sat, eyes riveted on the screen, too horrified to look away. It was an incredibly graphic movie clip, and something I, as a highly sensitive person, would typically avoid. But I knew that for the sake of acknowledging the horrors of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, it was something I needed to see.
The African slaves on the ship were chosen one by one to be thrown over the side to their deaths. It didn’t matter whether or not they knew how to swim because they were chained to bags of rocks that would drag them to the bottom of the ocean. The pressure from their rapid descent would crush them long before their lungs filled with water, not only satisfying the slave trader’s wish to kill them, but also making their deaths excruciatingly painful.
When the clip from Amistad ended and my APLA teacher turned off the screen, a heavy silence ensued. I remember being hit full force with a wave of emotions. Not only was I sickened by the reality of the African slave trade, but I was also alarmed to realize that the vast majority of my classmates, while acknowledging the atrocities of slavery back then, were completely unaware of its prevalence in society today.
“Did you know that there are more slaves in the world today than there were during the entirety of the Transatlantic Slave Trade?” I desperately wanted to ask them. Although the world’s population is much larger now than it was a few hundred years ago, that statistic alone blows the argument that slavery no longer exists completely out of the water.
After class, my friends and I could not stop talking about what we had seen, so decided to form a group called the Modern Underground Railroad, or MUR for short. We extensively researched slavery in the world today, and planned presentations that we could give in our history and language arts classes. And then, life got in the way. The academic rigors of junior year took over, and our grand plans for presenting to our classes fell to the wayside, never to be fully realized. However, a seed had been planted for a passion that would burst into bloom three years later when I went to Nepal.
Before going to Nepal, I would have said I felt at least somewhat prepared to deal with human trafficking up close and personal. I had read books and articles, attended lectures and prayer meetings, and extensively researched anti-trafficking organizations. However, several experiences in Nepal quickly humbled me, and reminded me that there is no way to fully prepare for catching glimpses of a system that buys and sells girls. Two instances in particular stand out as moments when the reality of trafficking hit me full force. The first was when my team was accidentally taken into India (you can read that story here Whoops, I Went to India!), and the second was when we visited a village and met young girls who were the exact demographic of girls most likely to be trafficked (you can read about it here Three Little Girls).
Needless to say, my trip to Nepal greatly furthered my passion to end human trafficking, which is a form of modern-day slavery. Once I returned I began looking for ways to continue to be involved in the fight for the freedom of all. Then I discovered Dressember, and it has proved to be a wonderful opportunity for continued involvement! (http://www.dressember.org)
I loved participating in Dressember last year, but to be honest, while I am incredibly excited to participate in Dressember this year, I’ve also been wrestling with how I want to approach getting involved. Do I wear one or two dresses for the entire month, or creatively use as much of my closet as possible like I did last year? Do I fundraise individually, or focus more on advocacy and prayer? Do I try to write about Dressember as it happens, or take a picture every day of the month, or do something else to make this experience meaningful to me and encouraging to others? There are so many options for how to be a part of the Dressember movement (to all of you who are on the fence about participating, consider this a nudge – you can do it!) but just like last year, I’m feeling frustrated that my schedule is going to greatly limit my participation. For the next three weeks, school is going to consume the majority of my time and energy, and then, for the rest of December I will be at home, out of my normal routine, and swept up into a whirlwind of wonderful, yet busy holiday activity. And none of that is conducive to giving Dressember the time and energy I truly want to give it. However, I know that all God calls me to do is the best I can with what I have. So, in light of my circumstances, here is what I have decided:
- I am not going to limit myself to wearing only one or two dresses for the whole month. In practical terms, I don’t have a neutral enough dress to make that work. But instead, I’m going to use Dressember as an opportunity to be a better steward of my wardrobe. Last year I found that Dressember pushed me to wear different combinations of my various articles of clothing, and in the process I gained a deeper appreciation for the clothes I own. How many of you (women in particular) have looked into your overflowing closet and thought, “I have nothing to wear!” I know that I am guilty as charged. And it’s such a ridiculous, silly, and honestly, entitled attitude to have. Not only do I have more clothing than I need, but I also have a huge degree of choice in what I wear. So, one of my hopes for Dressember is to gain a deeper contentment in the clothing I own, as well as a newfound appreciation for my freedom to choose.
- I am not going to individually fundraise this year. Now, hear me out on this – I wholeheartedly support the nonprofits that Dressember fundraises for (A21 and International Justice Mission). Both organizations are doing incredible work to fight human trafficking and sex slavery. However, when I was reflecting on why I would or wouldn’t be fundraising this year, I realized that my main reason for individually fundraising is that I feel like I should. And that is NEVER a good enough reason to do something. Should is a dangerous word. In the wise words of Shauna Niequist “When you’re using the word should more and more often, it’s a sign that your living further and further from your truest, best self, that you’re living for some other set of parameters or affirmations that you think will bring you happiness.” So, for this reason, as well as another that I will expand on in the next point, I will not be individually fundraising this year. However, if you would still like to donate to Dressember (and by extension the work of A21 and IJM), you can do so here: Dressember Donation Page.
- As I have been reflecting on how to make the most of this month of dresses, I’m realizing that I don’t think it’s wise to add something extra to my already bursting schedule. It’s simply not realistic. So that puts fundraising, lots of extra blogging, and daily picture-taking, among other methods of involvement out of the question. However, the one form of involvement that I keep coming back to is prayer. And it makes so much sense with the season of life I’m in. For one thing, God’s been teaching me (again) that prayer is never powerless! For another thing, prayer is something that, with a bit of intentionality, very easily fits into my current schedule. Every day I spend a bare minimum of twenty minutes walking to and from campus (and often it’s more like forty, or sometimes even sixty minutes depending on how many times I go back and forth). Something I’ve noticed lately is that when I get busy or tired, my vision narrows until all I see or care about are the things that most directly affect me, and that that self-centered focus spills over into my prayers. This is not how I want to live! So I am going to use Dressember as a reminder to pray for the marginalized and exploited.
I’ll close with two things. Firstly – I would love for you to join me in participating in Dressember! If you have questions about the practicalities of the movement, or about my experience with wearing a dress for 31 straight days last year, don’t hesitate to ask! And secondly – last year, before I began Dressember, I wrote that “by wearing a dress, I will be embracing my femininity and reclaiming the dignity and power of being a woman in a world that says otherwise.” I feel like that one sentence perfectly encapsulates why I am choosing to fight trafficking in this particular manner, and I am excited to see how Dressember 2016 furthers my journey to discover what it means to live into being a woman in this world.
31 days of dresses, here I come (again) and I couldn’t be more excited!