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A Fresh Look

In honor of Women’s History Month, to help women and girls and to raise consciousness about issues affecting women, including body image, health, self-esteem and the nature of beauty, several area groups have launched Girlcott 2013. Participants are pledging to go without makeup for the month of March (if going totally makeup-free makes your blood run cold, partial baring is also acceptable) and donate the money they would have spent on cosmetics to local and international groups that help women.

The goal of Girlcott, is “to raise both consciousness and money,” says Rabbi Donna Berman, executive director of the Charter Oak Cultural Center. The idea was born nine years ago, when Eve Ensler, author of The Vagina Monologues , mentioned at a talk in Hartford that women worldwide spend billions on cosmetics each month. In fact, according to a study by the YWCA, women in the United States spend $7 billion a year on cosmetics and beauty products.

To encourage dialogue about the use of cosmetics and other issues, Girlcott’s creators came up with the idea of supplying a list of questions, posted each month on the Girlcott website (, that can be used as the basis for monthly conversations called “Make-Up Sex” among groups of friends. (Sample question: When did you first find out that men and women have different roles?) “Women all over the place are starting to have these conversations, which is exactly what we wanted,” Berman says.

The actual Girlcott taking place this month adds the financial piece of the puzzle. Participants can donate any amount to any of the organizations endorsed by Girlcott. To encourage others to go makeup-free, more than 30 local female leaders, including Cathy Malloy, CEO of the Greater Hartford Arts Council; former Hartford Courant columnist Susan Campbell and Sen. Beth Bye, have agreed to be photographed without makeup. The photographs will be displayed around the city, as well as in an exhibit opening at Charter Oak on Feb. 28. Students at Ethel Walker are also getting involved (though their talks are called, more appropriately, “I Shadow: Bringing Our Inner Selves into the Light”). Students from the all-girls school are studying I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls Around the World, a book of stories reminiscent of The Vagina Monologues , and will put on a production of it on March 5 and 6 at Ethel Walker and March 7 at Charter Oak.

Berman says the hope is to make Girlcott an annual event, and to see its influence spread. “We’d really like to see people start doing this around the world,” she says. “I like to say, ‘We’re raising conscience, money and hell’.”

—Elaine X. Grant