What Is the White Dress Project?
Posted byErin Ollila
According to the Office on Women’s Health, up to 80 percent of women develop fibroids by the time they reach 50 years old.1 Are you one of these women, or does someone you know endure the symptoms of fibroids? The White Dress Project aims to shine the spotlight on fibroid awareness and empower women to share their story.
What Are Fibroids?
First of all, what are fibroids? “Fibroids are muscular tumors that grow in the wall of the uterus,” defines the Office on Women’s Health. They’re almost always non-cancerous and may vary in number and size. Some women don’t experience symptoms at all and may not even know they have them. Others may experience side effects, such as heavy and uncomfortable periods.1
What Is the White Dress Project?
The organization was founded by Tanika Gray Valbrun to increase support and national recognition of fibroid awareness. After years of excessive bleeding, bloating and cramping, Ms. Valbrun had a myomectomy to remove 27 fibroids. One day, while recovering from the surgery, she thumbed through her closet only to realize she owned nothing white. “It was at that moment I realized how fibroids had caused me to sacrifice my quality of life. This is immediately where the name came from.”
“Obviously, when you have your period, you know you don’t feel comfortable wearing white, but in our organization we really use it as a symbol, a tool to really just empower women and give them hope that we will continue to fight for this epidemic,” says Ms. Valbrun.
The White Dress Project then teamed up with Alisha Thomas Morgan, a former Georgia house representative, to bring a resolution to the House of Representatives to make July Fibroid Awareness Month. It passed, and the organization continues to encourage other states to follow suit. A national resolution has been introduced to the House, and the White Dress Project hopes July will become a nationally recognized month.
Empowering Women to Share Their Stories
The organization’s mission is to bring awareness to the prevalence of fibroids, and in doing so, they encourage women everywhere to share their stories so that no one faces adversity in silence. But, are women comfortable talking about their condition?
“Women are still very, very reluctant. We will ask women to share these stories all day long. And even when they share, it’s the caveat that ‘I know this is gross’ [or] ‘I don’t usually share things this personal,'” says Ms. Valbrun.
She continues, “There’s a balance between maintaining that femininity and maintaining that sophistication, but also knowing that you’re not the only one going through this.” If women don’t talk to each other about their experiences, how will they know that they aren’t alone? Or worse, how will they discover there’s a problem? Without someone to talk to, a woman might believe the excessive bleeding, bloating or discomfort she is experiencing is routine. She might not bring it up to her doctor during an annual exam if she thinks it’s a normal experience.
Though, while there’s still some hesitancy, women are beginning to speak up. Ms. Valbrun says, “You start to realize that the shame and guilt of sharing a story, or the shame associated with talking about your period and issues below the belt, is so minimal compared to the healing you can get from sharing your story and the personal relief that you feel.”
Ms. Valbrun says, “When you start sharing your story, the floodgates open on people who can relate. There’s just so much healing in that. While you have to be your own advocate, sharing binds us together. There’s one thing that we all have as women, and that’s the uterus. So, it crosses cultural lines, it crosses socioeconomic lines, and it binds us together. If I stand up for myself and there are other women who will stand up with me, then the shame and guilt that are associated with talking about these things disappear.”
Are you ready to share your story? Share directly with the White Dress Project or hop on social media and use the hashtag #WhyIWearWhite to tell your personal experience today!
1“Uterine fibroids.” Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. February 6, 2017. https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/uterine-fibroids
- Posted by Erin Ollila
- On July 17, 2017