February 14, 2013
Donna Haghighat, Esq. is Founder and CEO of www.shoptimize.org and is the Grants and Programs Manager for the Women's Leadership Fund at the University of Hartford.
Is Founder and CEO of Shoptimize.com and thinks of herself as a "social change agent." Her background is in women's funds and works as the Women's Leadership Fund's Grants and Programs Manager.
When Donna learned that women make up 86% of the purchasing power in USA but only 14% of leadership power, she wanted to develop a way to use womens' purchasing power to bring about change and get more women involved in leadership. In response, she started Shoptimize, a shopping website that gives 1% of its after-tax profits to nonprofit organizations that advance and empower women and girls. All products are made by companies led by women.
Donna, Mala and Shadia are involved with Girlcott, a campaign to raise awareness around women and body image, and encourage women to go makeup free in March 2013 and donate the money saved to organizations that benefit girls and women in Connecticut. The campaign was initiated by Rabbi Donna Berman of the Charter Oak Cultural Center, and inspired by Eve Ensler’s statistics on women’s beauty products. Girlcott's exhibit, Revealed: Images of Women Leaders Who Bared to Make Changewill open at the Charter oak Cultural Center on February 28th.
Mala has been very active in performances of the Vagina Monolgues as well as V-Day, a global effort started by Eve Ensler to end violence against women and girls (www.vday.org). She shared information about Anne Lamott's movement Occupy Valentine's Day, Voices of Women Worldwide (http://www.womensvoicesworldwide.org), Women's Media Center (http://www.womensmediacenter.com), and Naomi Wolf's book The Beauty Myth. According to Wolf and others, women are driven to compare their insides with the idealized outsides of woman used in commercials, ads, etc. (thin, blond, white, accentuated figure) - rather than bond with each other, women compete with each other. The beauty myth works to keep women feeling ugly, so that they purchase makeup and items to make themselves look more beautiful. Women are now starting to unite and bond.
Shadia is a student at University of Hartford and a liaison for Girlcott. She discussed her recent blog post for Girlcott about her desire to buy makeup when she is emotional (happy, sad, upset), even though she doesn't wear it every day. When she goes to interviews and meetings, she struggles with the decision of whether or not to wear makeup, and that she and other feminists often feel guilty wearing makeup: even though she tells women to love their bodies, she enjoys wearing makeup and worries about being a "bad" feminist. She believes that it is ok to be conflicted with yourself, and that wearing makeup does not make you a bad feminist. Women need to embrace the doubt and questions about themselves, as it means they are thinking things through and changing as a person. Women should “embrace the in between spaces.”
GROUP DISCUSSION (AUDIENCE QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS):
An audience member talked about she was stopped at the mall the night before to try a vendor's wrinkle cream. Though she didn't want it, she purchased it for $100 because she thought it made her feel good.Whether women wear makeup or not doesn’t matter – what matters is that women have a voice and need to speak out against the negative responses to their sexuality. She was moved when she learned that Harriet Beecher Stowe was not allowed to speak in mix-gendered audiences after writing Uncle Tom's Cabin and that her brother or another make had to speak for her.
Donna: Need to stop supporting companies that objectify women. After a Super Bowl commercial for GoDaddy.com objectifying women, GoDaddy got 7,000 negative Tweets, and Donna is now looking to change her website host.
An audience member requested a workshop on strategies of response (letters to the editor, Titter, Facebook, etc) for women. Women don’t hear about many movements and efforts to raise their voices, nor do they always have the confidence to speak out themselves.
- Mala: Eliminating the gender studies major at the University of Hartford would not save money, yet the school has not said why they want to cut it. She believes they want to streamline the program since the department is small. The gender studies program resulted from merge with the Hartford College for Women 7years ago. If the school does cut the program, all courses would still be offered, but major would be non-existent.
An audience member shared that shestopped wearing makeup not only for social reasons, but because of the unregulated chemicals. She recommended that attendees watch Annie Leonard’s video The Story of Cosmetics.
- Donna: Women should use Skin Deep, the Environmental Working Group’s searchable internet database of beauty products.
- An audience member mentioned that women who work in nail salons have the highest level of birth defects, miscarriages, etc. because of the chemicals used in nail polish.
- Another audience member also uses her sexuality in her predominantly male industry to be taken seriously.
- If there is no overt oppression, women might think they’re free even though they aren’t.
- Why women make certain choices needs to be explored.
- Donna: perhaps "women's studies” would be less threatening than “gender studies” because “gender” sounds threatening to societal structure and hierarchy.
- Donna: Girlcott Makeup Sex Groups are being held to explore intimate relationship between women and the makeup they wear, and the topics have expanded to other womens’ issues; there need to be more face-to-face discussions.
- The Stowe Center, social media is very powerful and effective.
- Social media is not going away - women need to utilize it to make their voices heard.
- Women have gotten together much more easily than men – consciousness-raising groups in the 70s, going to movies, etc. – things men won’t necessarily do together.
- It is not a question of women getting together, but women comparing themselves to an idealized image and not moving forward through loving yourself.
- Sadiha: There are multiple feminisms. You cannot cannot judge other women by their feminist standards (ie. not every feminist opposes makeup).
Inspiration to Action:
- Work with other women to create positive change together - "together we have power."
- Be aware and check out organizations that support the advancement of women.
- Embrace the in-between space you have – don’t feel bad about who you are, or what you believe. Keep growing! Don’t feel guilty.
- Don’t give yourself a hard time about having a hard time.
- Use your voice and encourage other women's voices.
- Promote real facts about women and speak out against negative/false stereotypes.
- Tweet your disapproval – respond to things that bother you.
- Hold a workshop on how to use your voice to make a positive social change with social media.
- Be brave and don’t care what others think.
- CT Technology Council – Women of Innovation.
- Watch Annie Leonard’s “The Story of Cosmetics."
- Skin Deep –Environmental Group’s website.
- February 28, 6-8PM - Girlcott Revealed gallery opening at Charter Oak Cultural Center
- Makeup Sex on Feb 28 at Charter Oak Cultural Center.
Explore the links featured on our Takeaway Sheet for more information and ways you can take action!