Emily Boushee photo
Some of Hartford’s most influential women gathered Monday at Hartford’s Charter Oak Cultural Center to unveil their plans to boycott — or more accurately, “girlcott” — gender injustice.

Several women’s groups around Hartford and some local universities have teamed up to raise awareness about the challenges facing women. The name they’ve given their movement is CT Girlcott.

Rabbi Donna Berman, executive director of the Charter Oak Cultural Center, began Monday’s press conference by describing the origin of the CT Girlcott movement. The formation of the group was inspired by playwright Eve Ensler’s visit to Hartford in 2004. Ensler, author of “The Vagina Monologues,” had offered statistics regarding the cosmetics industry that Berman found shocking. In 2011, girls ages 8-12 spent about $40 million a month on beauty products, Berman said.

The beauty industry’s profound influence on women inspired CT Girlcott’s first project, the “Bare it All Campaign,” which asked women to not wear or purchase makeup in the month of March. Rather than spend money on makeup, CT Girlcott asked that women instead donate that money to a charity dedicated to women’s issues. The portraits of 32 Hartford women who took the pledge to go makeup-free were displayed during the month of March in the Charter Oak Cultural Center in an exhibit entitled, “Revealed: Images of Women Leaders Who Bared to Make Change.”

The group plans to create a new exhibit of bare-faced women in March 2014.

Connecticut first lady Cathy Malloy, who attended the event without makeup, stressed that the goal of the movement was not simply to stop women from wearing cosmetics. “What’s important about it is, we have a choice . . . Not to wear makeup, to wear makeup,” she said. “We shouldn’t be defined by this, by whether we wear makeup or not.”

Emily Boushee photo
State Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, weighed in on how women today still face many challenges.

“Being an out, gay elected official I think about gender a lot,” Bye said. “Gender is such a powerful force in our culture.”

Bye stressed the importance of programs like CT Girlcott by highlighting how far women in the state still have to go in order to reach positions of power in government. She said that only 30 percent of Connecticut’s legislators are women. She also emphasized the importance of having more women in leadership roles as a means of gaining political, social, and economic equality for women. Three of the six constitutional officers in Connecticut are women, but there are fewer women than men in leadership positions in the General Assembly.

CT Girlcott seeks to continue the dialogue about the challenges facing women through several events and programs in the future. On Oct. 2 at the Charter Oak Cultural Center there will be a 7:30 p.m. showing of the documentary “Girl Rising,” which showcases the power of educating women. Additionally, CT Girlcott will sponsor an exhibition, Stop Telling Women to Smile by Tatyana Fazlailizdeh in March 2014. The exhibition is a series of portraits of women who have been the subject of gender-based street harassment. CT Girlcott is hoping that its past efforts, coupled with its future programs, will eradicate gender-based injustice not just in the city of Hartford, but across the nation as well.

“As wonderful as this is, this is only the beginning. Just you watch,” Berman said at the conclusion of the press conference.