dressember, skye’s way

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I wear dresses 364 days of the day, so of course I’m wearing pants on the first day of a month dedicated to dresses. I’m nothing if not an obnoxious contrarienne.

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Seriously, though – today is the first day of Dressember, wherein participants wear dresses for a month to raise money for the International Justice Mission. A few of my blogger friends are really committed to this, and that’s great! I even did it myself last year. But this year I will be abstaining, and here’s why.

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The International Justice Mission stands against “the commercial sexual exploitation of children, forced labor slavery, illegal detention, police brutality, and illegal land seizure”.  I have nothing but respect for these goals, and police brutality is especially topical. If you consider donating to IJM, however, you should know that their anti-trafficking efforts often leave consensual sex workers caught in the crossfire. I do not doubt their good intentions, but they come from a perspective that sees sex work very differently than I do and too often conceptualizes all sex workers as victims.

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I do not begrudge anyone’s participation in Dressember. No charity is perfect, and everyone weighs their values differently. If ending trafficking, in the aggregate, is of higher priority to you than the protection of sex workers, that is okay. We all triage our activism. From my perspective, however, it’s not worth it.

That’s why this year I will be collecting funds for the International Union of Sex Workers. I’ll have a gofundme page up within a few days; please consider donating. No matter your moral position on sex work, I think we can all agree that the women and men engaged in it deserve their agency respected and equal protection under the law.

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If you wish to donate to Dressember, please direct your funds to my fellow blogger Kristina’s campaign. I plan to do so myself as well. I do believe that the IJM, on the whole, does important work. But it’s vital that we balance it out with attention to the populations they neglect.

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peasant in lace

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I love fairy tales. I always have. I love them for their darkness and their spite, their sickness and their slanted sort of health. I love hidden variations on their themes present, unexpectedly, in the oddest corners of literature. I love seeing them twisted and hinted at and expounded upon. My most evocative mindscape – well, one of them – is a rambling Bavarian cottage lousy with secrets and maybe-truths.

Today I’m Cinderella simultaneously before and after. Cinderella in her lacy altogether returning to the hearth she once called her whole world. The tricky part is figuring out which, the before or the after, is the tragedy.

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I wrote this poem when I was fifteen. I call it City Girls.

Stories are just that,
flights to pace and prowl,
the bones of poetry and secrets:
into these we build our lives.

Do you remember
the stories from your childhood
do you –
ever let those musty books
take purchase in your mind?

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Do you ever let those figures
the bones of creation,
the archetypes of nascence,
to be filled in by the
flesh and faces
of real time?

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That woman on the corner
could be Rapunzel,
skinny and cigaretted
her walk-up patio perched high
against a low-down world.
If I wanted to see her
I’d take the stairs
because her hair’s too short and smoke-stained
to ever really shine.

Or –
Snow White for the cyber age
Chinese chambermaid, quietly bred
emptying the wastebasket
every morning
on the corner of Seventh and Main.
Rapunzel smokes,
oblivious to the congress
of colliding tales
just below her window,
every morning.

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Snow White
stands under five feet
and she’s got
thin humble lips
and a home-stitched face
not anonymous enough for comfort,
and no one will exalt her
in a transparent coffin
when she pops off.

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Snow thinks the subway is
a luxury:
for all its jerks and belches
there she can rest her
bound and weary feet.
Sharing her low-slung plastic bench
is the girl in yesterday’s makeup
and last week’s clothes.
Frosted hair won’t come
back into fashion in greater Manhattan,
but her crowd appreciates it;

they’re the ones flicking cigarette ash
into drainpipes
and fending off the down-lows
in their potbellies
and leather jackets
who crave more tricks than
they can pay for.
Where is she going, dressed like that-
is there an appointment in the world
worth requiring such an abusive shade of red?

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I’d like them all to meet, someday
in that pub above the laundromat
Rapunzel with her bored lips,
Snow White with her deference,
Sleeping Beauty with her pierced-heart narcolepsy.
Each asleep in one way or another,
each missing a piece potent enough to
wake up her corner of the world.

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Blouse: Downtown Threads Skirt: Goodwill Boots: Battery Street Jeans Hat, Tights, & Bra: Gifted Necklace: Family heirloom


I cringe to disrupt the mood of this post, but I want to emphasize that this poem is absolutely not to be read as sex-work negative or prejudicial in any other way. Sex workers are laborers who deserve to see their work legitimized. Sleeping Beauty has a hard life and she is a prostitute, not necessarily because she is a prostitute. (The same can be said, in different ways, of my poem’s other two characters, though their lives aren’t quite as politicized.) Sex workers’ lives run the gamut of human experience, because they’re, you know, human. I apologize for the aside, but the safety, autonomy, and legitimacy of sex workers is one of my pet issues. If you’d like to learn more, I highly recommend the blog Tits and Sass.