Meet King's student activist Natalie Garrison and her Dressember campaign
December 11, 2015
Have you ever wondered how something as simple as a dress can spark a conversation about social justice? Dressember is a movement that uses fashion as its advocacy platform for women who have been exploited based on their femininity. During the month of December, women are called to take the challenge of wearing a dress for 31 days as part of the movement advocating dignity for all women.
One of those women participating in the Dressember campaign is Natalie Garrison, a 2nd year Social Justice and Peace Studies Student at King's (Honors Specialization with a Minor in Women's Studies) who has taken up the Dressember challenge.
How do your studies relate to the movement?
To me, social justice involves both empowering oppressed members of society and advocating for broader social change at home and abroad. Dressember is a collaborative movement whose mission is to leverage creativity and communication to advocate for the inherent human dignity and rights of commodified women and children. The Dressember Foundation exists to inspire and empower a global community of women showing solidarity with survivors of one of the greatest and fastest-growing injustices of the 21st century, human trafficking. Women of all ages, races, and religions, from different countries in the world adopt the title of volunteer advocate and daily post pictures of themselves in dresses to raise money for institutions, such as International Justice Mission and A21. These organizations work to prosecute traffickers through legal advocacy, protect survivors through individual safety planning and societal reintegration, and prevent others from experiencing trafficking through community engagement programs.
How did you first hear about Dressember?
I was in high school when I first heard about Dressember through my friend who was in her first year of university. During her exam season, I watched her use Facebook to raise money, share her feminist perspective, and start meaningful conversations about the buying and selling of human beings.
Tell us how you got involved in Dressember.
Through a conversation with that same friend, she informed me how this issue especially targeted women (80% of survivors) and children (over 60% begin below age thirteen). Our conversation inspired me to further research human trafficking in my first year social justice and peace studies courses. I decided that I could not just retain this information and do nothing in my everyday life.
Why do you think participating in Dressember is so important?
In my experience, I find there is a paradox with studying systemic violence and injustice. I eagerly want to do something proactive in the field. But I still know that I am at risk of trivializing movements if I do not invest close attention to lectures and course readings, which inform students of the complex interdisciplinary and intersectional context. In my opinion, Dressember satisfies this paradox.
Using social media to share that I choose to wear dresses rather than pants is not time consuming. I can commit the majority of my time to submitting papers and studying for exams. However, I see real change in my conversations and by the amount I’ve fundraised for anti-human trafficking institutions.
How can other members of the community get involved in Dressember?
One thing that involves maximum impact with minimal effort is a one-time donation to an advocate. In addition, people have asked if they could share my page on their social media sites, to ask their social circle for donations as well. Another thing you can do is follow my posts on social media to increase your awareness on the world’s largest and fastest growing international crime. By simplifying dense research on Human Trafficking and conceptual tools learned in my classes, I hope to spark interest in the average person.
Where can we follow you on social media for Dressember?
My fellow King’s student Katelyn Browning and I operate a human trafficking awareness Instagram account @endingthetraffick. The Instagram account began as a final project for our first year social justice class but we’ve received very positive feedback from that online community, so it has been running ever since! Each day in December, the campaign asks that you post a picture of yourself in a dress. In addition to this, I practice brevity by writing captions that share information about human trafficking. To donate, please visit the dressember fundraising page.
We wish Natalie the best of luck with this year’s campaign. For more information, please visit Dressember.org.