Spectator staff members will sport dresses during December to empower femininity

Graphic created by Savannah Reeves

Graphic created by Savannah Reeves

Story by Colette St. John and Lara Bockenstedt

I run like a girl, and I can do it wearing heels and a dress, too. Throughout December, Colette and I will be showing off these skills by wearing a dress each day.

The project is part of Dressember, a campaign that began in 2009. The organization raises money for the International Justice Mission, a group dedicated to protecting poorer populations from violence. Dressember focuses specifically upon human trafficking and violence against women.

Too often, femininity is punished. It is abused, exploited and overshadowed. Men suffer too when they are stripped of their right to express feminine characteristics; when sensitivity is considered weak and they are told they lack control.

According to DoSomething.org, between 14,500-17,500 people are trafficked into the U.S. each year, 80 percent of whom are female. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence stated that on average, 1 in 3 U.S. women experience physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner within their lifetime.

Furthermore, Senior Politics Reporter for the Huffington Post, Laura Bassett, reported on a story last year where three United Nations delegates from Poland, the United Kingdom and Costa Rica spent 10 days preparing a report of the nation’s treatment of women.

The delegates found that the U.S. fell behind on international human rights standards through issues such as the pay gap, child care and how female migrants are treated in detention centers.

“It’s a kind of terrorism,” one of the delegates said. “To us, it was shocking.”

While I’m encouraged by progress made over the years, this month’s election yielded a cold reminder that widespread respect for women is a path we’ve only just begun to carve.

Dressember seeks to combat these issues by using one of feminism’s greatest strengths: empowerment through femininity. It may not be the most concrete way to enact change, but it is a conversation starter.

Wearing dresses each day for a single month is a reminder that I can create my own rules and have an obligation to rewire harsh conditions for others.

— Lara Bockenstedt, Op/Ed Editor

Colette St. John stands with other participants in Dressember, all of whom are involved in International Justice Mission at UW-Eau Claire.

Who would have thought a dress could change the world? I sure didn’t.

After a crippling election that has torn our nation apart, it’s time to bring light to a country drowning in darkness. No, not for any particular party or political stance. Rather, taking a stance against the injustice millions of women (and men) face each day in this country and around the world.

For the entire month of December I will wear a dress each day in support of women who have been exploited for their femininity, both in our country and around the world. Despite the gripping cold and many inches of snow, you will find me walking (maybe sprinting) around campus in a dress as a way to bring awareness to the issue of modern day slavery.

Dressember, the official name of the month-long advocacy, works to empower women and take action against such a horrible crime. By wearing a dress, you stand alongside those without a voice, screaming on the inside for someone to help.

We have the power each day to make a difference through our actions, whether in small or large ways. It takes a crowd to make a statement, and a cause backed by passion to stir change.

I’m enthralled to be a part of a movement where action prevails, and voices and Facebook posts aren’t the backbone of the fight. While our voices are so very important and shouldn’t be disregarded, action must accompany. Words fade, action sticks.

Beyond simply being an advocate by wearing dresses, money is raised to support organizations working to help bring victims out of the entrapment of slavery and receive proper after-care. Turns out, wearing a dress for a month can and will make a huge impact for the livelihood of many.

One can’t ignore the harsh fact that over 35 million people are enslaved around the world today.

It’s time to unite, arm and arm, in an effort to stand with those who have been exploited for their femininity. An opportunity to take a stance, and make change. To stir conversation about a topic that is all too often swept under the rug and blatantly ignored.

Colette St. John, Marketing Program Coordinator