By now, you’ve heard about the case of the Stanford rapist, Brock Turner, and the absurd leniency of his recent sentencing — a mere six months in jail — by the judge presiding over his case, Aaron Persky. And the case hasn’t stopped there. From the release of the powerful letter Turner’s victim read to him aloud in court, to that of the letter Brock Turner’s dad wrote in his son’s defense, to that of the band member’s misguided character reference of Turner that got her band booted from Northside Festival, news of the trial’s unfolding and its central players has occupied the unseen chyron of the internet this week, updates ticking across our Facebook news or Twitter feeds at an unrelenting pace.
What you might not know, however, is that there’s a 3,000+ member secret society in New York that’s working to unseat the judge who sentenced Turner.
An event surfaced on Facebook this week, titled “Grlcvlt’s ‘F**ck Rape Culture’ event to unseat Judge Aaron Persky.” It’s hosted by Bed-Stuy resident Remy Holwick, Ford photographer and model, and local leader of a secret online feminist group who currently goes by Grlcvlt.
Brokelyn spoke to Holwick to get a feel for her movement, its members, and what she hopes to inspire in today’s feminist Brooklynites.
“Rape culture is problematic, rape culture is being formed and maintained by the patriarchy,” she said. “And [Judge Aaron Persky] is an instrument of the patriarchy that we can unseat.”
Grlcvlt’s event is next Wednesday (June 15) at 7pm at Holyrad Studios (35 Meadow St.) in Bushwick. They’ll have printed supplies with stamped and addressed envelopes for anyone who wants to fill out a court order to unseat Judge Aaron Persky. There will also be drinks and music, because obviously smashing the patriarchy doesn’t have to be as depressing as the patriarchy itself.
“I put together the event last Sunday night,” Holwick told us. “First I invited 10 people to my living room, I saw us all signing forms [to unseat Judge Aaron Persky] and putting them in the mail. One of those 10 girls was a PR agent. Within an hour, we had the venue. Within a day, liquor sponsors.”
Next Wednesday’s party is just one of many Grlcvlt initiatives, but that’s definitely not a secret. In fact, as of now, Holwick’s Facebook event has a confirmed attendance of more than 800 people, with another 1,400 interested. The venue, Holyrad Studio, has a capacity of 150.
Grlcvlt didn’t start in New York. It was originally co-founded in Los Angeles, where Holwick used to live and first got involved. The “cult” began as more of a support network among socialites in LA, but has since expanded and rebranded in multiple cities: New York, San Francisco, Miami, Chicago, Vancouver, Seattle and London.
The New York chapter of Grlcvlt now has over 3,000 women and will mark its two-year anniversary in October. Its members use social media channels to share information through strategic hashtags, and the members I spoke to were dutifully reticent about the group’s affairs.
I’m making it sound like a drug operation, but it isn’t. Grlcvlt isn’t all that invisible — there’s news of them online, and Holwick has spoken openly about her day-to-day dealings. It all sounds pretty positive and safe, though something about it still rings exclusive, and a little zealous. Perhaps it simply follows, then, that the folks involved I caught up with all sounded kind of… cult-y.
Gabriela, 27, a product designer living in Queens, preferred not to give her last name because she “[wasn’t] sure what the policy in terms of full names” was when it came to Grlcvlt.
“I was invited into it by a good friend of mine, who is an active member,” she said. “There is a vetting process for getting involved and it’s not meant to be exclusive — it’s just that we need to keep the members at a manageable number.”
Alayna D., a Grlcvlt member living in Queens, told me she’d been with the group “since the beginning” and that she’d been “given permission” to pass along another member’s contact info.
“It’s online,” she said, “you just have to be invited in.”
It’s worth noting here that for Holwick, using the word “cult” to describe the feminist group’s brand feels just right. Grlcvlt has had various names over the years — Girls Night In, the Coconut Oil Friendship Club — but she told us this one has staying political power.
“People think the word ‘cult’ is dangerous and subversive. And what is feminism to the patriarchy? Dangerous and subversive.”
Regardless of cult affiliations or convictions, all are called to Wednesday’s form-filling party to subvert the patriarchy and show the California courts the power of collective voice and local action.
“A lot of these things are fundraisers, are about money,” Holwick said. “We have things that money can’t do. When we write letters, we show up in places that money can’t. That’s what’s missing from our political system and we want to show, that just because we don’t have money it doesn’t mean we’re not essential to the politics.”
That “we” goes beyond women, by the way. Holwick was most adamant about the power of grassroots movements and collective action, values she feels are intrinsic to Brooklyn (amen, sister). When we asked her how folks could get involved with Grlcvlt if they couldn’t make the event, she offered that, rather than trying to join the readymade 3,000-strong movement, anyone should start their own secret group on Facebook, and invite 10 friends.
“I don’t want to lead 3 million people,” Holwick said. “I want to see leaders emerge who really have the power to shape their local communities.”