[Canniseur: Grlcvlt is doing good and doing well by helping raise up women &/or femme-identifying people. The Grlcvt herstory is one you must read. I love hearing great stories about women helping women. This one is no exception.]
There’s a secret society of feminist advocates that’s launching its very own weed brand in California.
Meet Grlcvlt. It started as an online safe space where women connected and informed other women of potentially unsafe parties. Since 2011, Grlcvlt (pronounced “girl cult”) has evolved to serve a “global village who access each other for literally everything,” as Grlcvlt CEO and founder Annaliese Nielsen puts it.
Grlcvlt’s following is a voracious, international web of femme-identifying people interested in self-care. Born amid the loving kindness of strangers on a Facebook group, of all places, the community helps its members with modern problems. Whether they help members find employment, connect people with kindred spirits, help individuals get projects off the ground, offer recommendations for photographers, or share advice about particular problems, the Grlcvlt community offers too many resources to count.
The feminist group is best known for participating in the campaign to have judge Aaron Persky removed from his seat after his lenient ruling in the Brock Turner rape case in 2016. Grlcvlt acolytes assembled across the world — in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and even Australia — for a series of actions in the form of activist-laden feminist parties entitled “Fuck Rape Culture.” Persky was formally removed in 2018 by a state-wide vote, the first time a California Supreme Court judge was recalled in 80 years.
The group’s activism has continued behind-the-scenes ever since. Grlcvlt lends a helping hand to a veritable “rainbow of different genders and identities and presentations,” said founder Annaliese Nielsen to MERRY JANE. This community is not limited to people who are biologically female, but instead, caters to “historically underfunded or under resourced gender identities.”
Today, it has scaled to dozens of location-based as well as topic-based spin-offs. Grlcvlt’s offerings now include the subsets of makeup, cooking, interior decor, and yes, you guessed it — cannabis.
Self-care has been epitomized for the Grlcvlt brand in its latest venture, a cannabis line that launches in California on November 8, 2019. Its inaugural product is a tincture called Quiet Time. The tincture contains a beta caryophyllene-heavy terpene profile with 150mg of THC and 150mg of CBD per bottle, a cocktail that is intended to help with relieving anxiety. And more products will be unveiled in the very near future.
MERRY JANE got in touch with Grlcvlt’s head honcho to discuss feminism, how cannabis can be a miracle when it comes to treating anxiety and menstrual cramps, and why a secret feminist society is needed in 2019 and beyond.
And to experience the Grlcvlt magic yourself, attend the brand’s release party on November 8th in Los Angeles, which MERRY JANE is supporting!
MERRY JANE: Tell us more about your background. Where does your passion and fire for feminism, safety, activism, and self-care come from?
Annaliese Nielsen / Grlcvlt: I’ve always been an inclusive person. Growing up, my typical parent teacher-student conference was like, “You know, Annaliese won’t do her homework, but she’s really nice and wants everyone to sit together at lunch.” My dad was like, “Annaliese has leadership qualities.” In reality it was more like, Annaliese has undiagnosed ADHD and wanted everyone to have fun and sit together. I wanted everyone to be friends.
Today, I’m 36. I grew up as a part of the burgeoning internet. I was always really fascinated by the fact that you can use the internet to connect with and talk to another person across the world. When I was 16, I developed Raves.com, because that’s what I was into that moment. I wanted people to meet up with, people who were going to raves, to create a new set of friends. This has been a thing throughout my career, woven into my personal life. My background is all in tech. Every role I had as a woman in tech, it was all about connecting people. In 2005, I started an adult website called GodsGirls.com, and there was a big social aspect to it.
When Facebook emerged, we started our Grlcvlt group. We were just using it then to have a quick way to be like, “We are going to the club tonight.” It became this very personal space we cultivated, a real authentic village we have online. And now it spans every continent. There’s a whole little world that we made.
Grlcvlt’s founder Annaliese Nielsen. (Photo by Anna Demarco, courtesy of Grlcvlt)
Grlcvlt began by highlighting safe spaces for people who are not men, and has grown to a global community. How did the group become the expansive lifestyle brand it is today?
We’ve had this group in various forms for something like eight years now. At first, it was a social board, like, “Hey we are meeting up at this safe bar, you can come.” And then it evolved into a job board, because you have all these women in positions of power working in Los Angeles. It makes a big difference. If you see a job listing at Paramount, we could make that connection happen for you. It became this sort of innocuous mafia, the legend of it.
This is really early, during Facebook’s start, when people weren’t really using Facebook groups like this yet. There were all of these women in the group, and they were talking about men [in positions of power]. We were trying to protect each other with these groups, in getting each other jobs, meeting each other for cocktails. It really has served many purposes.
Where did the name Grlcvlt come from, and when did it evolve from a friend community to an activist group?
These spaces have had so many uses. The legend grew, people would jokingly be like, “Are you a cult?” And we joked back, “Yeah, of course.” Whatever. There is no arguing with that. So, we just started calling ourselves that, and that’s where the name came from.
When it came to activism, we found that we were really effective. We had a greater ability to organize than some people by taking advantage of the resources we’d been cultivating for so long.
It was very natural for us to get involved after judge Aaron Persky gave a horrible ruling on the Brock Turner rape case. In our group of women, everyone was very moved by the letter that Emily Doe wrote to the judge. We were contacted by a law professor from Stanford who wanted to recall that judge. She held a fundraiser, and she urged us to enter the conversation and to take action, since we were some of the people involved in the space in 2015. She got us into that. Caused a bunch of noise. And here we are.
The #MeToo movement was already happening prior to the Rose McGowan version. She kinda hijacked a thing that black women were already doing for a long time. The #MeToo movement existed for longer than mainstream press was aware of it. There is an element of that in any space curated for women. We’ve been warning each other about men for a long time. We’ve had to.
I am interested in the charity and advocacy work Grlcvlt has engaged with. Immigrant rights and security are now a huge focus at Grlcvlt today. Can you elaborate on that?
I think that part of the reason why we’re especially drawn to these immigrant advocacy activities is because half of our community are immigrants; 15 percent of them came to the US as refugees from Central America and Africa. The attacks from Trump on these people has been really distracting and very personal.
To be able to pool our resources to help people in precarious situations feels like a great way to help each other. Immigrants, refugees who came to the US — we are here for them and support them.
Why is a secret society of women allies and helpers needed today?
Women need each other. Queer people need each other. There are systems that have been in place for all of time that are against women, that are against queer people, that are against people of color. We are able to create this world where some of those barriers don’t exist to the same degree.
That happens in things like employment, where you may not have the same opportunity for that cool job at Paramount Studios. Because maybe the person you would interview with has a bias against you. But if we can get you in with the right person to interview with, then maybe we could step over that bias.
Aside from that, I think that people are just lonely. Loneliness is part of the human condition and friendship is very important. It’s our goal to curate spaces to help cure the loneliness a bit and make sure people have someone to reach out to.
Annaliese Nielsen, founder of Grlcvlt. (Photo by Anna Demarco, courtesy of Grlcvlt)
Tell me more about Grlcvlt’s cannabis tincture. The product has a beta-caryophyllene-dominant terpene profile, which some believe has anti-anxiety properties.
I have been prescribed Xanax for something like 15 years now. I started using tinctures really regularly and mindfully in a regimen. I noticed that my Xanax use has just plummeted. I used to get stressed if I ran out, thinking, “How would I refill it? What if ran out?” And when I started using cannabis tincture, I just stopped caring about my Xanax and stopping having the side effects. My memory improved. I really wanted to be able to give that same thing to anyone else who might want to try it.
I live my daily life with baseline low anxiety. Tinctures with THC and CBD have helped a lot with that. As Grlcvlt made this foray into cannabis, I really listened to my friends who were like, “You know, I want to try it, too, but I had a bad experience. It makes me feel anxious.” I was like, “What can we do to make sure they aren’t anxious?” So, the beta-caryophyllene is a primary ingredient for this product because it’s been found to reduce anxiety.
How do you like to use the tincture, how do you suggest femme-identifying people use it?
You can microdose it at work and flatten some of that anxiety out without getting super blazed. Or you can take it home, and use it in your bath with your Grlcvlt bath salts, and feel super high and relaxed. Tincture is really easy to dose. It was an easy first venture into cannabis for us.
The regular use of CBD has been so amazing for me. I noticed after six weeks of using it regularly — and this has not changed in the last nine months — I don’t even get any menstrual cramps anymore. I don’t get any of that back pain the days before my cycle starts. I was getting these periods I was not prepared for, because the pain was gone. My regular CBD use has changed everything.
These things contribute to your overall wellness in ways that have lasting effects. I was taking the tincture to get balance for my personal health, but want to be clear that I don’t think that people should be trying to quit their psychiatric medication by using weed. For me, personally, the use of Xanax, and my reliance on it, was not as healthy as I wanted it to be.
In your opinion, why is cannabis such a male-dominated industry and potentially unsafe space for people who do not identify as men?
I cannot speak to what’s happening in every other state, but the California cannabis industry looks the same to me as the tech industry and the upper echelon of the entertainment industry. It is predominantly white male investors. Any place where people can put a bunch of money, they will.
When we go to meetings, when I speak and pitch to investors, nothing has changed. It looks exactly the same. Where there is power and money, there are white dudes from Stanford. Where there are white dudes from Stanford, there are unsafe spaces for women; they don’t have sympathy for our experience, and things can get weird.
When you’re in these situations with people with a lot of money and power, we want our highly interactive brand to be a way to engage and change the culture. We’re hoping to give people who are not men some power in cannabis through our work and the work with our community. We want to hold the industry accountable and to make positive, inclusive changes from the inside.
Grlcvlt’s Quiet Time cannabis tincture. (Photo by Anna Demarco, courtesy of Grlcvlt)
From your perspective, how can Grlcvlt and cannabis as a whole help dismantle the patriarchy?
If I can get into the same rooms where these men are, I can create superior products and engage with my customers in such a more in-depth and authentic way.
Once we have some of that power, and we get some of that money, our goal is for our next products to be developed with solely women farmers, women producers, POC producers and farmers. This is how we can empower other marginalized groups of people.
We hope, in the future, to set up a village savings and loan fund where members of our community can use money in the case of an emergency. We can give back to our communities and organizations.
What does the future hold for Grlcvlt’s cannabis line? Are you anticipating new products you can tease for our readers?
With this tincture, we really tried to toe the line between the wellness category and the party category. This definitely goes more into the wellness category. Our next release will be more overtly fun. In addition to being do-gooders and social justice assholes, we also like to party. You can still get super high and party on the tincture, too. That’s the thing I like about it; its potency is well-balanced and easy to dose.
Is there anything else you’d like the MERRY JANE audience to know about Grlcvlt?
I would really love, if this sounds appealing to anyone, for people to keep in touch with us. Be a part of this world. If you buy a tincture from us, send us a DM on Instagram and tell us how you like it, how you use it, and how cannabis helps you.