DO YOUR PART SCHOOL OF DOODLE
The internet has been a notoriously dismal place for teen girls, but all of that changed when School of Doodle came along. School of Doodle invites the world's young women to find community in each other, be as creative as they want, and give back to the sisterhood, all without the pressures of having their lives on display
At a School of Doodle workshop in Nassau, the Bahamas, the docket of things to cover was not slim. Samia McClain, a 16-year-old Bahamian who was largely in charge of getting the workshop off the ground, explained that this day of creative expression for girls was intended to scratch away at the “little things that make us angry.” What could that be for a teenage girl in 2016? “Namely, colorism, micro-aggressions, the culture of misogyny, unequal rights for women in our constitution, gender roles and a seemingly oligarchical distribution of wealth,” McClain writes. Oh, no big deal. We’ll tackle them by next Monday.
The long list of injustices that young women face in the world doesn’t scare any of the mostly teenage contributors, ambassadors, mentors, or members of School of Doodle, a relatively new space for young women to build community with each other in creative disciplines. In fact, these girls see each one as a welcome, surmountable challenge: “I get to help build young women to be better versions of themselves, and by extension, help build better citizens and do what schools have failed to do,” McClain explains.
So what is this harmonious utopia for young women’s empowerment and where did it come from? Is it really a school? Is it all about doodling? Well, no, not exactly. It’s an online space for posting and sharing creative expressions–whether visual art, poetry, music, anything that comes to a teen girl’s mind. It exists both offline and online, and its membership continues to grow. Logan, who has said that the first few months of the project were “amazing, exhausting, humbling,” decided to launch the idea two years prior, with a Kickstarter that raised over $100,000. The school “doors” opened in April of 2016, and it immediately cemented connections between members and ambassadors from all around the world. “It has been important to us from the beginning that Doodle be allowed to breathe over the summer, and for our most loyal girls to build it,” Logan said. “We have girls all over the world participating in our workshop program; [we have] a big initiative launching in India headed up by a 20-year old girl who contacted us via Facebook; 12 editors out covering everything from the Democratic National Convention to the Olympics on Snapchat.” It’s incredible what a group of girls can do when they are given the space in which to do it. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that Kim Gordon, Yoko Ono, Wangechi Mutu and a whole host of adult mentors are spurring the girls on.
“I know firsthand how important this site is because it encourages female positivity and community–something that is very lacking in today’s society,” Zoë Rabbani, an ambassador and editor based out of England told me over email. “As [School of Doodle] is also female-based, I feel that it’s very removed from the pressures that many young girls face on social media.” What is stopping girls from posting their artwork and expressions into the public eye? “If you look at Tumblr or Facebook, there’s an element of competition. However, on Doodle I feel like everybody’s very positive and supportive and just generally happy to be a part of such a kind community,” she says. “This has manifested as a result of the strong foundation and set of beliefs that Doodle was built on to begin with–to support each other as sisters.” There are parts of School of Doodle that are teen-girl-only, a private community in which the girls are trusted to thrive. This pushes away the pressure to be performative or self-promotional, if a girl doesn’t feel comfortable doing so.
“This has manifested as a result of the strong foundation and set of beliefs that Doodle was built on to begin with–to support each other as sisters.”
That sisterhood Rabbani speaks of was supported from the start by a series of workshops all around the world, a so-called Doodle Workshop Tour. Nineteen-year-old Rhiannon Blossom–a multidisciplinary creator whose focus is on lifting up the voices of queer and non-binary youths in the Vancouver area–took part in the tour, visiting everywhere from London to LA to Nassau, where McClain and her partner in crime, Simone Cambridge were stationed.
“We had posters of inspiring women around the space to decorate, face-collages using cutouts from Dazed magazine. I led a panel with local creatives; we had a live performance and a short film screening,” Cambridge said. “Connecting with girls and women that I can relate to through School of Doodle really encourages me to achieve my own goals.” Blossom told me she felt the same. “As someone who is young and 'looks like a girl’–whatever the hell that means–everything you do is scrutinized, nothing you do gets taken seriously,” she says. “School of Doodle gave me a sense of value and importance.”
So how will School of Doodle continue to encourage young women to feel valued and important? How will the girls carry on their early legacy of doing their part? Logan, for one, says it won’t be too hard. The girls themselves have been at the forefront of this community-building from day one. “This generation–aka Gen Z–are incredible,” she says. “They are passionate, committed, ambitious, optimistic, and most importantly, pissed. [That’s the] best combo I know for real change.” Can real change be achieved simply through an online arts community? “These girls are ready to roll up their sleeves and start fixing today's many, many wrongs. Less talk, more action. Daisies in combat boots. That is what they are.” The stronger the connections, the better the likelihood that they’ll have an impact.
That’s why the rallying cry of School of Doodle is the frequently-emphasized slogan, “BE LOUD.” To each girl, it means something different. To Cambridge, it means to “express yourself honestly and unapologetically.” To McClain, it’s “an utterance of empowerment and a bit of a mantra to simply put on your brave face.” Amanda Gorman, an 18-year-old published author who is the first ever Los Angeles Youth Poet Laureate, gave me three different answers before finally choosing a definition. “I get it intuitively now because I’m at School of Doodle, but rarely do I have to externalize it,” she explained after throwing out her first two answers. “'Be loud’ means being yourself to your fullest extent,” she said, confident in the interpretation she finally reached. She repeated it, with more certainty: “Being loud means being yourself to your fullest extent.” There was no doubt that the rest of the Doodle ambassadors would–without wavering–agree.
Dayna Evans is a staff writer at the Cut at New York Magazine. She has previously written for Gawker, the New Yorker online, Jezebel, Serious Eats, and has appeared in the pages of Flaunt magazine, among others. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.
Megan Cullen is an Australian photographer and filmmaker based in Los Angeles. Her visual approach offers a candid point of view through her straightforward shooting and editing style. Blurring the lines between fiction and nonfiction, her works are experiments in ambiguity as well as documentations of modern life.