Welcome to the conversation!

Welcome to the conversation!

Harriet Beecher Stowe's (1811-1896) best-selling anti-slavery novel Uncle Tom's Cabin (1852), made her the most famous American woman of the 19th century and galvanized the abolition movement before the Civil War.

The Stowe Center is a 21st-century museum and program center using Stowe's story to inspire social justice and positive change.

The Salons at Stowe programs are a forum to connect the challenging issues (race, gender and class) that impelled Stowe to write and act with the contemporary face of those same issues. The Salon format is based on a robust level of audience participation, with the explicit goal of promoting civic engagement. Recent topics included: Teaching Acceptance; Is Prison the New Slavery; Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North; Creativity and Change; Race, Gender and Politics Today; How to be an Advocate

This blog will expand the reach of these community conversations to the online audience. Add your posts and comments to keep the conversation going! Commit to action by clicking HERE to stay up to date on Salon and social justice news.

For updates on Stowe Center programs and events, sign up for our enews at http://harrietbeecherstowe.org/email.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Event Recap: Rethinking Beauty: Women, Power & Influence

Salons at Stowe
February 14, 2013

How can women emancipate themselves from gender expectations and stereotypes?  How do preconceived notions shape us?  Can we create new standards of beauty based on character, talent and intrinsic human equality?  Explore these issues and more at the first event of the new year for Salons at Stowe.

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.

Mala Matacin, Ph.D., is Founder and Faculty Advisor for Women for Change at the University of Hartford, and Associate Professor and Co-Chair of the Department of Psychology.

Shadia Siliman is on the executive board of Women for Change at the University of Hartford and will graduate with a double Bachelor's in Gender Studies and Psychology in May.

Donna Haghighat
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 Matacin
As a Professor of Gender Studies, Mala teaches two course of particular relevance to the Salon's topic: Beauty, Body Image and Feminism and Women, Weight and Worry. In 2008 she had a class of especially strong and powerful women who were inspired to bond together. She and the students started Women for Change at the University of Hartford, a group which focuses on the way women are portrayed in the media in order to help create change and tell a different story.

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 Siliman  
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.”

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.
Another audience member talked about growing up in a family where she couldn’t speak or show emotions, and projected a lot of the frustration on her looks. From an early age she obsessed over her appearance and by 15 began seriously doubting her intelligence - she had to get 3 advanced degrees to try to prove to herself that she was intelligent. She commented that if you don’t believe you have a voice and if you do not feel equal to what’s happening around you and that you make a difference, you start picking at yourself and finding faults. To solve these problems, women need to bond and encourage their voices; elevate friends all of the time and start promoting the real facts about “how wonderful women are.”

How are the statistics on the power of women going to overrule the commercials and public pressure put on women?
  • 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.

An audience member discussed the need to start with social media early-on - teachers should use it in the classroom to encourage children, rather than fear it. Social media can become change rather than a tool for bullying. Those interested should check out Connecticut Technology Council's Women of Innovation Award.

An audience member said she could understand the inner dilemma of thinking you are a bad feminist – her friend felt guilty after having a large, elegant wedding, and she herself felt guilty when she got married and changed her name.

Why did Univ. of Hartford want to cut gender studies?  Would it save money?
  • 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 she stopped 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.

An audience member said that every time women take a few steps forward, they fall back because there aren’t enough women who want to move forward; she feels empowered after Salons, but then sees billboards and commercials that make her feel that she cannot make a difference.

An audience member commented that she works in a predominantly male industry, but uses her appearance to her advantage but was very upset when a man offered to purchase a car for her.
  • Another audience member also uses her sexuality in her predominantly male industry to be taken seriously.

Rabbi Donna Berman from Charter Oak Cultural Center discussed how "choice is a funny thing."
  • 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.  

An audience member commented that as a historian of social change, he has found trends in spaces for discussion and conversation (Stowe’s time = parlors, 40s and 50s = African American churches)…where is the space for women to have discussions today?
  • 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.

An audience member stated that how you reach people comes down to how much you love yourself - it starts with a one-on-one with someone else to begin a dialogue which grows.

An audience member said that she considers how other people accept her in order to be accepted and accomplish things; she watches successful people on TV, reads about people in magazines, to see what they do; she does not think she is a feminist.
  • 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!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Girlcott: Bare It All!

On February 28 from 6-8 p.m., CT Girlcott will debut the exhibit Revealed: Images of Women Leaders who Bared to Make Change  at Charter Oak Cultural Center in Hartford. The exhibit features photos of more than 30 prominent Connecticut women who agreed to be photographed without make up to bring attention to issues of beauty and body image. 

CT Girlcott is "a movement of women willing to go makeup free in March 2013 to donate the money usually spent in a month on cosmetics to organizations that benefit women and girls in Connecticut and around the world, while raising awareness around body image and the relationship between women and the makeup they wear."

Want to learn more about the Girlcott movement and women's empowerment? Join us tomorrow night for our first Salon of the season: Rethinking Beauty: Women, Power & Influence with featured guests Donna Haghighat, Esq. and Mala Matacin, Ph.D. Call 860-522-9258 ext. 317 to reserve your seat!


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

First Salon of the season!

Join us next Thursday, February 14 for our first salon of the winter series: Rethingking Beauty, Women, Power & Influence. Our featured guests will be Donna Haghighat, Esq., Founder and CEO of www.shoptimize.org, a shopping website that gives 1% of its after-tax profits to nonprofit organizations that advance and empower women and girls, and Mala Matacin, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Co-Chair of the Department of Psychology, University of Hartford and Founder and Faculty Advisor for Women for Change.

The Salon will begin at 5p.m. with refreshments in the Visitor Center. The facilitated discussion will begin at 5:30 p.m. and end by 7 p.m. Admission is free. RSVP by calling 860.522.9258 ext. 317 or email Info@StoweCenter.org.

The Huffington Post's article Body Image Issues Among Young Women More Influenced By Peers Than TV, Study Finds is a great introduction to the evening's discussion. (click the image or link below to read the article) 


Friday, February 1, 2013

Winter 2013 Salons

We are excited to announce the Winter 2013 Salons at Stowe Calendar! Click the image below to read more and to print a copy for your refrigerator.

Check back often for posts about related websites and topics, our Salons speakers, and ways YOU can take action!