inside the secret online girl cult trying to unseat the stanford rape judge
Remy Holwick is a model, photographer, and feminist activist. This week, she and the members of her online girl cult are hosting an IRL blowout in Brooklyn to "fuck rape culture" and fight the patriarchy.
If you live in New York City and are semi-active on Facebook, you might have noticed an event invitation floating around for a rather large Brooklyn warehouse party taking place on Wednesday night. The open-invite blowout will involve locally distilled vodka, lots of stationery, and an awesome overarching goal: unseating Judge Aaron Persky, the California judge currently under fire for sentencing Stanford rapist Brock Turner to an extremely light six months in prison (it's now been revealed that Turner will serve only three months of this sentence). The target of the event, aptly titled "Fuck Rape Culture," is now an infamous antihero, as anyone who's been on the internet over the last week will be aware. However, its host is a little more mysterious: it's a secret online society called GRLCVLT, comprised of over 3,000 members, friends, and feminist activists. GRLCVLT's leader is Remy Holwick, a Bed-Stuy-based photographer and Ford model who founded the cult's New York chapter after moving back to the city from Los Angeles a few years ago. We spoke to Holwick about what goes down inside the most badass members-only club on Facebook, and what to expect on Wednesday night.
Tell me about the GRLCVLT group — if you were not immediately involved with its inception, how did you become a member and eventually the leader?
GRLCVLT is a national and now international group. We have groups in Los Angeles — which is the original group — plus New York, Miami, Seattle, San Diego, and now London. We're an international group of women totaling around 5,000 or 6,000 at last count. We've been around in L.A. since 2011, and I became a member in 2012. When I moved back to New York — I was living here about 10 years ago — I was asked by the leader of the L.A. group as one of several people to take a stab at trying to start the New York group. We started in October 2014 and now we are the largest group nationally, with around 3,000 members. We are a very diverse cross-section of women from all walks of life — everyone from students to CEOs.
I'm guessing you have to be invited to the group? How do you ensure that diversity balance is maintained?
It's been key for us to have that level of diversity from the start. We make sure to involve friends that we respect and trust, but also friends whose viewpoints or experiences are different from ours. I know that when I try to involve a new member, I try to bring in someone who comes from a place that's different from me — not just to bring in members who would benefit from the group, but who the group would benefit from.
Do you know each other in real life?
We do! We have an official meetup once a month at the Ace Hotel, which is totally free for our girls. In addition to that we have a ton of smaller events — we have a cooking club, we have a book club, we have a bowling league. We'll often post, "Hey, I'm having lunch at this restaurant, join me if you want," and that way we'll meet random people we wouldn't meet otherwise who show up. My closest friend in New York is someone who I met through the group.
What do you all talk about in the Facebook group?
We have a very specific set of rules designed to keep conversations going and to make sure everyone's views are expressed. You must acknowledge if someone is hurt — you can't say somebody doesn't have a right to be hurt. "Don't feel bad" or "don't be hurt" are not valid statements within the group. But beyond that, we talk about everything from what pair of shoes to wear to Tinder horror stories to job opportunities. You trust the members a lot more to be fair and to really respect your feelings when something bigger comes up, because you get used to interacting with them regarding small things. That's the way real friendships work too — it's those everyday lunches and small conversations about nothing that make you trust one another.
You work in photography and model — how do your intersectional feminist values play into your work in fashion?
They play into it hugely. I'm selective about the projects I do. I'm with Ford, and we have a good relationship because they understand that I have views politically and as an activist and artist. They really try to book me jobs based on that facet of my personality rather than just being a clothes hanger, because I won't do a shoot with cornrows at this point — my shoots reflect my values.
What inspired you to organize the party to unseat Judge Aaron Persky?
I spend a lot of time on Facebook because I'm in this group, and I got really sick of seeing everyone saying the news was so sad. The news is sad, but among all these posts I started to see things pop up, like opportunities to write a letter. I thought, "I can do that." So I said to the group, "If I can get ten of you, I'll host you in my house to write these letters." One of the ten who responded initially was a PR who told me she would cover the party if I could get a space.
Within another hour I had a space. I had it booked by the next morning. And then the publicist found a graphic designer who put a flyer together within another hour. By the end of that day we had a team of ten working on everything from alcohol sponsorships to getting the stamps and supplies put together. One of our alcohol sponsors is Industry City Distilleries, whose venue actually canceled the band Good English [after the drummer wrote a letter in support of Brock Turner]. They turned around and said, "We don't do sponsorships, but we want to do what's right." They canceled their money-making event then turned around and donated product. They took a loss for us. It was amazing. We're so thrilled to have them as an ally.
What has the response been like amongst people on Facebook who are not members of GRLCVLT? Have you had many RSVPs from male allies? Have you had any trolls?
The trolls have been so minimal. It's been incredibly respectful. I hope it's because the core of this group is women whose beliefs are really rooted in respect for other humans. Actually, two of the biggest cash donations that came through were from male allies, which was really heartening to us. We've had male-fronted bands reach out who were interested in playing at the event, though I have kept it to female-fronted bands because I want to make sure that we are being true to our message. I think people are realizing that if you get angry enough, it's not hard to get out and do something. If you're just one of a thousand voices, you can find those other 999 voices and put them all together, that's when real change starts to happen.
Do you have any idea what turnout you're expecting?
Our Facebook RSVPs right now are 1,000 people going and 2,000 interested. We're definitely going to be at capacity, but that doesn't mean people shouldn't come. At this point we do have outdoor space in front of the venue, and people outside will be provided with letter-writing supplies to make sure that their voices are heard.
GRLCVLT is throwing a Los Angeles party to unseat Judge Aaron Persky on Friday, June 17th. Find more information and RSVP on Facebook.
Text Hannah Ongley