All-girl virtual classroom School of Doodle has launched with lessons from Miranda July, Yoko Ono and Samira Wiley, and aims to put the next generation of women ahead
“It's funny – because whenever I share this on Facebook or Instagram, there's always one fucking man who has to be like ‘where is this programme for dudes?’ I'm literally like ‘(you were) born as a guy – there's your programme. The world is literally this for you so shut up.” Nineteen-year-old artist and all-round creative Rhi Blossom is talking about School of Doodle and she’s not holding back. Run ‘by girls for girls’, the school is made up of 80 teen ambassadors, including Blossom, six teen editors and 32 teen content creators. It’s an online platform and community, that was Kickstarted into life by founders, creative entrepreneur Molly Logan and film producer and philanthropist Sybil Robson Orr, at the end of 2014.
After reaching its goal, the virtual school, launched early this month, is dedicated to providing a safe, supportive space for fostering creativity amongst teen ‘girls’ – that is, anyone identifying as a girl or as non-binary. “We're so used to boys being called on in class and being given that attention – they have no issue taking it because they're so used to being able to take it. We're used to that shit, we're used to being told to shut up!” adds Blossom
Doodle is all about teaching teen girls both cognitive and non-cognitive skills to help them get ahead in the creative world. “Rather than trying to change the world to support girls, it’s more efficient to support girls so they can change the world,” Logan explains. “Systems are slow to evolve, so we vote for girls building their own!” The concept is part of a larger trend that has seen women creating their own spaces and communities to learn safely, comfortably and most important to display their talent. It also comes with the idea that knowledge doesn’t have to be paid for. Through programmes and workshops run by professional creatives, girls can gain high-levels of technical knowledge from others willing to share their skills for free. Doodle counts many amazing, professional, creative women like Kate Nash, Pussy Riot,Yoko Ono, Miranda July, Kim Gordon and Cass Bird as supporters of the project. These women are the ‘teachers’. Where else can girls be given access to these sorts of people in a safe and inclusive space?
Logan’s initiative is simple. Instead of wanting to see boys’ schools letting girls in, Doodle was created to give girls a space to learn. “When teens, and girls, in particular, enter high school, their confidence begins to wane, leading to a ‘Confidence Gap’ in women. And, forget post-high school! Most of our systems – educational and professional – reward us for being safe, echoing the status quo and not standing out,” she says. School of Doodle turns that school of thought on its head. You aren’t told to be quiet here. “The sooner we begin fortifying girls and giving them the tools to build their confidence, the better chance they have of succeeding in the future on their terms.”
What makes Doodle unique is that teen contributors are treated as professionals. “No one had ever taken me seriously, no one had offered to pay for my work, are you kidding?! You're writing or doing art or whatever for exposure,” says Blossom. Contributions are paid for, workshops are provided for free and girls’ achievements gain virtual points that add up to rewarding IRL educational experiences – like internships or one-on-one tutorials. The girls are able to demonstrate how capable they are – and their work is showcased to prove it. “Girls are at the heart of School of Doodle. Girls and their right to have a space that takes them – their voices, opinions, and ideas – seriously,” muses Logan. For Blossom, it’s a programme that cares about girls and listens to them. “As a teenager, I'm so used to professional people not wanting to listen to me, just because of the way I look, because I've got nose piercings because I look young.”
It’s no secret that ‘girl power’ is an extremely attractive commodity to the commercial world right now – how many independent organisations have become channels for promoting products and brands? But Logan is adamant that Doodle won’t fall prey to those trying to cash in on this because of its very nature as a free service. “Doodle is run by teen girls. It is launching in their capable hands. Our governing structure is 100 percent girl controlled,” she explains. The founders are there to mentor and empower those involved, but the girls are trusted to make the decisions themselves.
But in saying all this, while it appears that Doodle is exclusive to women, its ultimate aim is to bring about a truly inclusive society where girls are able to play a fulfilling and equal part in it. For now, though, the most important thing for Blossom has been creating a worldwide network and seeing the effects of the programme in such a short space of time. “It’s just incredible how much this project is already impacting people,” she marvels. And while her opening sentiments might feel like she’s championing an all-girls-club, for her, the future of women’s education requires everyone, including men, to fully support it. “I guess the hardest thing is getting certain people to grasp the project and understand what it is. Especially men. We need them to be our allies and to support as well; because at the end of the day we're going to need a whole community.”
School of Doodle will launch in London on Saturday 30 April at London's Protein Studios with the support of Dazed. Rapper Chippy Nonstop will be performing, amongst a day of talks, panels and workshops from creatives like Art Baby Gallery's Grace Miceli, Girls Only’s Antonia Marsh, Polyster’s Ione Gamble and Keash Braids. Check the Facebook event for more details and upcoming announcements here, and see what went on at previous workshops