The Parks and Rec Phenomenon

February 2017

In 2010, the poetic noble land mermaid Leslie Knope (of Parks and Rec) created a new holiday to celebrate the significant women in her life. Galentine’s Day, which quickly became the subject of a multitude of twitter memes, is to be celebrated each year on Feb. 13th. This year, Galentine’s day-inspired social events were held in various cities throughout the country, with the proper amount of breakfast foods and mimosas. The NYC chapter of Geek Girl Brunch — a social club for women that identify as “geeky” — held their own celebration, honoring Ms. Knope and her female fans everywhere.

Ashley Warren, a 29-year-old office manager and an appointed officer of Geek Girl Brunch — NYC, planned an interactive discussion at Strand Bookstore, featuring a panel of “four intellectual women with stories to tell and professional experiences to share.” Ashley refers to the four women she selected as her own personal galentines.

Ashley noted that this was Geek Girl Brunch’s first ever Galentine’s Day event. She also speculated reasoning behind this year’s increased popularity of the holiday.

“I think people are now inspired to acknowledge strong women with the new administration. That’s definitely why we decided to do this with The Strand. We also hosted a brunch the weekend after the election. It was crazy emotional. Some people were sad. Some were angry. Some were defeated, and then we got our minds off of it and went to a light saber class afterward.”

On the night of this year’s Galentine’s Day, approximately 50 New York women (and four men) gathered at The Strand for Maison Kayser-catered macarons, friendly conversation and their choice of champagne, cider or white wine (a particular brand that the volunteer drink monitor could not pronounce).

“Welcome to Galentine’s Day — only the best day of the year,” exclaimed Ashley, petite and pale with a ’90s Sally Field haircut and dark-rimmed glasses, as she stood in front of the seated crowd.

She began to introduce her panel: Yissel Ayala, the vibrant, red-haired cofounder of Geek Girl Brunch; Che Grayson, a silver dreadlocked Brooklyn-based filmmaker, comic book creator, former TED Talker and assistant video producer at Teen Vogue; Jordan Dene, a clothing designer and founder of her own clothing line (Jordandene), who was sporting a “Pawnee Goddesses” t-shirt; and Robyn Warren, a robust, curly haired health educator and founder of a personal training brand, Geek Girl Strong.

The panel answered questions that came from both Ashley and members of the audience. Topics ranged from which Harry Potter house they would be sorted into to the classic mimosas versus Bloody Marys debate to personal tips and tricks for Microsoft Excel.

Aliza Weinberger, a 26-year-old NYC native who was attracted to the event due to her love of Parks and Rec, asked the four women what motivated them to “take the plunge,” or start their own business.

Robyn responded by describing her life as a health and physical education teacher in Washington Heights before becoming a fitness coach. “I was talking to a lot of my female students and realizing they no longer wanted to be really good at kickball because they felt that they had to pick what kind of girl they wanted to be. I had girls that didn’t want to put their book down to do jumping jacks. And I was like ‘I get it, but you can do both. You can be really cool, really strong, really athletic and also really like anime. It’s okay.’ And that’s how I formed Geek Girl Strong.”

A later question asked by Ashley prompted the women to elaborate on challenges they were forced to overcome in their business endeavors.

Yissel outlined the difficulties she faced just four years ago when creating Geek Girl Brunch, a New York-based international organization with chapters in the U.S., Canada, the Caribbean and Europe. “There’s no guidebook on how to start an international business. We had to write the guidebook ourselves. Suddenly we were event planners. We were HR. We were running our own websites and living in Excel sheets — all things we had no experience in beforehand.”

On the same night that Yissel was discussing her business endeavers, women were gathering in Boston to attend the Bos Lady Project’s female mingle with crafts and cupcakes. They were gathering in San Francisco, where the Women’s Political Committee hosted a Galentine’s brunch with mimosas and card-making, and in the Meatpacking District, where Blake Lively and L’Oreal came together to plan an event with fortune telling, temporary hair dye, candy necklaces and rom-coms on repeat. Websites like Buzzfeed and Bustle were posting how-to’s informing readers of ways to make the most of this sacred holiday, and The Atlantic was publishing a feature story on the Parks and Rec phenomenon.

The right side of the third floor room that housed Geek Girl Brunch’s event featured a white bulletin board filled with pale pink hearts.

“Leave a note for your best galantine” was written in red letters at the top of the board. Guests were given muffin-shaped sticky notes and told to write their best Leslie Knope-inspired compliment in one of the many colorful gel pens supplied.

The compliment contest winner?

Written in dark purple ink, the chosen acclaim read, “You are the sunshine rays that permeate from the supple glowing skin of Queen Bey. May you forever shine like the goddess that you are.”

Leslie Knope would be proud. Except for the fact that there were no waffles.

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