Lately, of course, I’ve been thinking about getting dressed and the place femininity has in feminism. And now I’m going to put your money where my mouth is, and use it to do some practical good for women, and perhaps some people who identify otherwise, too.
I am participating in Dressember, which is essentially where one wears a dress a day through the month of December. A number of people are doing this in order to support women’s charities. A bunch of Aussies are doing it for the White Ribbon Foundation. You can use your friendly neighbourhood search engine to locate participants all around the world. I think the origins are with blogger Blythe Hill, and you can head on over to her blog to find people simply doing Dressember for fashion and fun.
So, the go is this: I’ll be wearing a dress a day, and posting pictures every few days. I’ll link to my donation page at Everyday Hero, which will be open until 1 January. You, if you’re so inclined and able, can donate.
Which charity am I fundraising for? Well, folks, I’m raising funds for the Hamlin Fistula® Relief and Aid Fund, which is the Australian representative of the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia (which is run by Australian Dr Catherine Hamlin, to eliminate some of those question marks appearing above your heads). I have been following and helping out with the work of the hospital ever since I saw Dr Hamlin speak a few years back. On one level, I feel slightly weird about supporting this because it reminds me quite strongly of the narrative of the white woman coming to save the Africans. But on another, this is the only dedicated fistula hospital there is in the country, and the hospital is now working on training Ethiopian midwives to go be present in villages so that hopefully less people will have to come to the hospital in the first place.
This next paragraph is about the medical side, so consider yourself warned. Fistulas are holes that develop internally as the result of obstructed labour, which result in stillbirths for the most part. They disproportionately affect young girls whose bodies are too young to handle pregnancy safely, rape survivors who are often subject to rape as a tool of war, and rural women without access to medical care or sufficient nutrition. It’s therefore a condition that is almost non-existant in the West, but tens of thousands of new cases develop each year, mostly in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Those who develop the condition often cannot hold their waste or give birth again, and may be shunned by their communities. The hospital cures 93% of fistulas, and gives those who can’t be cured somewhere to live and employment. I wrote quite extensively on the topic in 2009 if you want to learn more.
I’m hoping to raise $500. Australian dollars are roughly equivalent in value to US dollars last I knew. I deeply care about the work this hospital does and hope that some of you will help support my efforts to raise funds for them. And, on a lesser note, to turn around the idea that femininity (and women) are trivial by performing it for a cause that is definitely not trivial. I’m going to run out of dresses at some stage, so I may end up reusing some with accessories and tops and such, but I’m also thinking I might borrow some off readers. (Be scared, Sydney.) (Be more scared, relatives.)
So, here goes! Here’s the dress I wore on 1 December:
Yes, it is rainbow with sequins. I decided to go all out for day one. I saw it in a sale and I knew I had to have it and be that person with a rainbow dress. It is my dress of not caring what other people think, of feeling happy in myself.
Here’s the dress I am wearing today:
My grandma bought this dress for me when I was thirteen. It was a beautiful dress, but I objected on the grounds that it would take me forever to grow into it and I didn’t know where I’d wear it! These problems were both resolved in time. She made the cardigan for my mother, and my mother gave it to me. I put together a lot of my outfits on the basis of multiple generational connections.
I look forward to wearing dresses all December – should I be invited to ride a horse, I suppose I shall have to ride sidesaddle! – and putting together some silly and lovely outfits both. Mostly, I look forward to any donations you would care to make. Again, the donations page is here.