Remy Holwick is a photographer and the lead admin in a secret online feminist group (even the name’s a secret!) that gives 3,000+ New York City women, most of whom are in Brooklyn, a safe place to discuss what’s on their minds. Stemming from an LA sister-group with 17,000+ members, the NYC chapter does everything from helping women better support each other through hard times to offering up jobs to discussing political issues to laughing at shitty Tinder dates—and Holwick has helped oversee it all.
Tell us a little bit about the “secret online feminist group” and its evolution? What is it? Who is it for?
The NYC group, which is totally hidden from view, unsearchable on the internet, and unjoinable (you have to be initiated by existing members) is 3,000 NYC women, and is part of sisterhood of groups across the U.S. and now spreading internationally. Each group is independent, but each shares some commonalities and traditions with its sister groups. We are a group rooted in positivity and dedicated to creating a safe space for adult women to share and converse on anything they wish. We exist first and foremost to support each other, and as such, we actively work to dispel the myth that women must tear each other down to accomplish anything, and are strongly anti-shaming, which extends to shaming any other female, no matter how controversial—including sex workers and celebrities (you won’t see us bashing a Kardashian, ever, or calling another woman a name).
We also actively follow the principles of intersectional feminism. We are a diverse group of women—which is important. Having the opportunity to reach outside the realm of women who are obviously similar to you, like your friends or the people you work with or live near, and to find commonalities with women you would have never met in your day-to-day life, creates a real opportunity for us to have extremely productive discussions on what it means to be a woman right now in this society, and to be able to learn from each other—from the angles of women of all kinds of cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. It’s really necessary to be having these kinds of conversations, and the real beauty of it is that we are having these big-question kind of conversations alongside discussions where we all bond over Tinder horror stories, inside jokes, or helping each other decide what to wear, or supporting each other through the death of a loved one. Those little day-to-day commonalities really create a lot of trust and help us find and keep our common ground when we tackle some of the bigger, scarier stuff—cultural appropriation, the evolution of feminism, etc. We can all learn and grow into better people together, but we do it with a lot of trust and respect—while helping each other find jobs, support each other through breakups, find a new place to eat, etc. We go out a lot too in real life. We have a lot of meetups and activities. I mean, we even have a bowling league.
What was your role in the inception of the group?
I moved back to Brooklyn in 2014 after a stint in L.A., where I became active in the group. Thanks to the ability to communicate constantly online, in real time, we all grew close through daily communication, and began to grow as people. We began to trust each other, and made real, lasting friendships. That group became a real homebase for me, and when I made the decision to move back to NYC, I was really afraid of what I would do without them. The NYC group had been created but wasn’t really active when I got here, and I worked a lot with the admins of the LA group to grow the group here through daily conversations, events, etc. Today, the bulk of the NYC women are Brooklyners. We’re celebrating our first anniversary and are experiencing that really beautiful thing that made the LA group so special, where we’re starting to really get to know each other well, trust each other, and learn from each other.
What is your day-to-day role with the group?
Each group nationally has an admin that really serves to define the group voice and help ensure the conversations we have stay respectful and focused on benefitting the group, and I try to do that for the NYC group to the best of my ability. I don’t try to be “mom,” but I do try to bring my own experiences to the table and to lead by example and not just by saying things that I think we need to hear—which is hard. I’m human and I make mistakes. I guess I try to use those mistakes as the basis to be relatable with the other 3K women in the group. I like talking about my mistakes—admitting to them and talking about how I’m learning from them. I try to make other women feel like they don’t have to be right all the time, and I use myself as the number one example. I also try really hard to be empathetic. For new women especially, we are all raised in this world where we are taught that it’s important to be the token “special” girl—the cool girl, the girl who is “one of the guys”, the smart girl, etc—and that often comes hand-in-hand with putting other women down to preserve that sense of being special. What we end up with is a society of “amazing” women who have been taught that in order to be amazing, they have to prove that they’re different than other, less amazing women. That kind of thing is what I was raised on, and it’s so toxic. We’re all amazing women—every last woman—and a lot of my day-to-day role is promoting that, and kind of facilitating and supporting the un-learning of the oppressive ideas that we’ve been fed societally that teach us to keep each other down. It’s hard and scary to unlearn all that, and empathizing with how it feels to try and be a woman at all, given the amount of negative stuff that we’re handed, is really key in terms of the guidance that sometimes becomes necessary in learning how to be productive and supportive of each other, rather than competitive.
How has the group helped you as an individual—both personally and professionally?
Who haven’t I met through the group? Professionally, I deal with a lot of people outside the group, but I definitely have clients and editors inside the group. It’s been great to meet them this way. Personally, I’m a very different woman than when I started. When I was added to the group, I kind of knew what feminism was—sort of. Now I know what I believe, and I know how to respectfully talk to other women about what they believe and have discussions about it that I know will open my mind to other, better ideas. I know that it’s better to be supportive than competitive with other women based on gender. I know that it’s really important to listen and not just assume I’m right because I’m me. I made all my best girlfriends through the group. It’s become the center of my life.
How do you think the group is crucially affecting and influencing Brooklyn culture?
Honestly, I just wanna quote Kathleen Hanna and scream, “Girls to the front!” really, really loudly. I think to have several thousand women in a city who are all on the same page, who know each other’s secrets and respect and trust each other, is pretty awesome—and then to go on and say that they’re all there not just for each other superficially, but to really support one another, and to help each other grow and become better people together, is pretty profound. There’s a “cult” of three thousand women in the streets who have each others backs and who just want to see each other, and other women, do WELL. Like, be wildly successful and change the world. As a woman, knowing that I’m walking down the street with this happening around me in secret is pretty exciting.
What do you think the future holds for the group?
More parties. Cat memes. Beyonce memes. Good hair. I’d like a fun hat. We’re at a place where we just had a lot of growth happen fast, so we’re not adding anyone new, and I can’t tell you too much, but I promise you, you see us every day in the streets. We’re everywhere.