Dress up to take social injustice down

Noah Hausmann

If you see folks dressing fancier this December, don’t be too surprised. “Dressember,” a movement to dress up every day in December—wearing a dress, collared shirt and tie or bowtie—in order to raise awareness and funds to end human trafficking and other universal rights problems is being promoted by the student group NMU Social Justice Committee, whose purpose is to draw attention to local, national and world injustices.

re-dress“We want people to know that every person is valued, worthy and dignified,” said NMU Social Justice Committee Coordinator Kayla Argeropoulos, a senior history major. “But people who are trafficked or held in slavery don’t feel worthy or dignified. Through the simple act of wearing something that makes us feel more dignified, we have the opportunity to share with others the opportunities that they have to make a difference through everyday activities.”

Now a global movement, the idea for Dressember began in 2009 with Blythe Hill, a college student at another university, who decided to wear dresses every day for a month as a personal style challenge and started bringing attention to the issue of human trafficking, according to dressember.org.

Since 2013, the Dressember Foundation has raised funds for International Justice Mission, a nonprofit that campaigns for human rights, rescues victims of violence, sexual exploitation and slavery, and other relief organizations to end these kinds of oppression.

It’s estimated that as many as 27 million people worldwide are trapped in sex trafficking or forced labor, according to the U.S. Department of State’s 2007 “Trafficking in Persons Report,” and 80 percent of transnational victims are women and up to 50 percent are minors.

“Slavery still exists in many industries, such as clothing, chocolate and coffee,” Argeropoulos said. “For most of us, it isn’t something on our radar every day. We don’t think about what goes on behind the scenes when we purchase things and the consequences of supply chains, how we as consumers influence slavery and human trafficking.”

Because of winter break, Dressember will have to be mostly an individual effort on people’s parts. To participate, simply dress up when able and be ready to explain to people why.

“The act of wearing a dress or bowtie is just silly if you don’t talk about slavery or trafficking,” she said. “It’s really the act of asking questions and sharing about these  issues.”

NMU Social Justice Committee will have a kick-off event Wednesday, Nov. 30 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. in Jamrich room 1320 to raise awareness about Dressember and other things people can do to fight rights violations. Donations for the cause can be made to dressember.org.

“December is usually a month when we’re dressed down, hanging out in our casual clothes. It’s also a cold month. We don’t want to wear bowties and dresses—we just want to be comfy—so this is a great way to stand out from the crowd and talk to people about ways other people feel uncomfortable and ways we can support them,” she said.