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Saturday, December 20, 2014

A Dressember to Remember

Halfway through my month of wearing dresses.
A little over halfway to my goal of raising $300 dollars for International Justice Mission.

 I've allowed myself to wear workout clothes, when I'm working out and around the time that I am working out.  In the home I've allowed myself to wear sweats, because they point of this is to raise awareness for women who are oppressed, not for me to ruin all my dress clothes while cleaning the toilet.  But when I get dressed  it's a dress.
This has had the unfortunate side effect of making me very aware of what I look like all the time, because when you wear a dress you feel like you have to do your hair, wear makeup, and maybe even accessorize a wee bit.

I've worn dresses through many days of very cold rain.  I've worn dresses through my heater breaking.  I've worn a dress to a birthday party in a bowling alley.  I've worn a dress to a Christmas tree lighting ceremony. I've worn a dress when I would've rather just thrown on jeans and a hoodie.

When I first heard of the Dressember challenge (a challenge to wear dresses the month of December to raise money for the charity International Justice Mission) I thought, 'that was totally created by someone from California.'  I soon found out that a friend of mine attends church with the woman who created the challenge.  The church is in Pasadena, California.
Here I am in New England walking through snow storms in a coat, dress, and leggings.
Silly?
Maybe.
Most of the women who have restrictions placed on the way that they dress live in warm climates, right?
Currently in Kabul, Afghanistan it is 37 degrees Fahrenheit.  Where many women wear a full burqa.
In Thimpu, Bhutan it is currently 36 degrees.  Women are restricted to traditional dress, which includes (you guessed it) a long skirt or dress.
In Pyongyang, North Korea the high is 12 degrees today.  Women are required to wear skirts and if they wear pants they are forced to work in a labor camp as punishment.
While I have access to things like SmartWool socks and fleeced leggings many of these women do not.  I have actually found out that some of my fleeced leggings are warmer than jeans.

I remember when I lived in Nairobi seeing women wearing full hijab in the blazing sun of equatorial Africa.  I wondered how they were holding up in all that black polyester.  I wondered how many of them chose to wear it.
I know that some Muslim do choose to wear hijab, and I can understand that (having the barrier to not be looked at).  The point is that they're allowed the choice.  No one should be forced to wear something because their state or their husband says they can't leave the house unless they are wearing it.
I am not speaking out against traditional dress either.  Just that women do not have the freedom to dress as they see fit.

I haven't worn a dress to work out.  I don't think I could take my workout seriously if I was worried about a dress getting caught in a Spin Bike, or tripping while running, or sweating through one of my nice dresses while doing burpees.  I have seen film of Afghan and Saudi women rowing crew and skateboarding while wearing hijab.  I am thrilled to see them out there in boats and on boards, when so many of us would not.  Before I went to that bowling birthday party I found myself in my bedroom doing lunges with my hand on my bum to see if my dress would ride up while bowling.  I don't know if it did indeed while at the party, because I was also squatting, bending over, and lifting small children around.  Hopefully my leggings are not see through....
Certain types of dress certainly do restrict freedom of movement.  There also seems to be a correlation between the restrictions placed on women's dress and the restrictions placed on them elsewhere.

Through a storm of first world problems (bad weather, sniffly children, a broken double stroller, large embarrassing temper tantrums) I have found myself cooped up in the house with my children for the past few weeks.  There has been the few times when the thought of getting dressed properly was another straw on the  camel's back of not leaving the house.  This has made me think of women who's movements are restricted by other forces.  In some countries women can't leave the house without a male escort.  I can't imagine how difficult my life would be if I had to wait for my husband to be with me so that I could go somewhere.  I don't know about you, but my husband works and is not with me for most of the day.  He also travels for his job and is often gone for days at a time.  I would be home for weeks at a time, with just my children.  I don't know what the infastructure is in those countries that restrict women so heavily and if they have parks and libraries available to them, but I know that most of my day is spent shuttling my children to the YMCA so we can get some exercise or to the library or to parks.  So restrictions on my movement effect the the health of my children as well.  Which effects the overall health of a people group.

So any time you restrict women, you restrict children.  When you endanger women, you endanger children.  When you endanger children you endanger your future.

That's why I chose to wear dresses all month to raise awareness and funds for International Justice Mission an organization that fights for the rights of the oppressed worldwide.  They've shut down sweat shops in India, they've pulled people out of sex trafficking, and protected many others.  The founder Gary Haugen, the President and CEO of IJM came and spoke at my church in Santa Barbara several times and I loved hearing his story and how he stepped down from a prominent legal career to fight for the underprivileged.

Thanks for reading my thoughts that have been swimming in my head as I've spent the month being ladylike, if you haven't donated to International Justice Mission and would like to here's the link to my Dressember page.

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