Glacier Girl with Katharine Hamnett in Grace Miceli’s ‘teenage bedroom’ installation – School of Doodle workshop at Protein Studios, April 2016
Teenage girls are very hard done by. Society is obsessed with telling them that they are wrong, and that their interests are stupid (see every target of public ridicule, from One Direction to Kylie Jenner). They are not listened to, they are sidelined, they are often not encouraged, and most of all they are not taken seriously. It is really difficult, as a teenage girl, to want to put yourself out there, and to be confident in the things that you like and that you create. It wasn’t all that long ago that I was a teenage girl and I know that I did not put myself out there all that much, and am still not always that confident in the things I like and create. I was, in hindsight, much more concerned with peer approval and generally pissing about with my mates. I wasn’t doing anything notably cool, I certainly wasn’t very ~woke~.
Almost a decade(!) after I first became a teenage girl, and pushing three years since I stopped being one, I feel like a lot has changed. Be that through the rise of the internet, a general cultural shift, or perhaps I’m just noticing it more now than I did when I was a teen myself, but teen girls all over the world are doing so much cool shit.
Last weekend, Katie and I dropped into a day of workshops run by School of Doodle. School of Doodle is a ‘free online high school for imagination’ – it is run by teenage girls, for teenage girls (but I think that people who don’t fit that demographic can still really learn a lot from it – I’d recommend signing up for their newsletter!) The workshop got me thinking a lot about teen girls – what I was like as a teen girl, and how I immensely respect and to some extent envy the girls involved and associated with the project for being so much sicker than I was (or am now, if I’m being honest). It was also what provoked this post, in which I intend to ~pay tribute~ to teen girls doing good stuff –
To begin with, I want to talk about Nazlie Najafi. I found out about Nazlie and her documentary Swing Wilder at the School of Doodle workshop. Nazalie is 15(!) years old and lives in Vancouver, and Swing Wilder is a short film featuring the stories of other teen girls from various backgrounds and with various experiences. Nazlie video-called the workshop after her film screened, and she came across so well spoken, so well-informed, and so assured of her thoughts, feelings, politics, and how she wanted to put them across. You can watch the trailer for Swing Wilder below, check out more of Nazlie’s work here, and follow her on Instagram here.
At School of Doodle I also learnt more about Elizabeth Farrell aka Glacier Girl. Glacier Girl is a 19 year old activist who campaigns on environmental issues in an accessible way. In her own words, she is ‘raising awareness about climate change, and adapting the aesthetic of ‘eco friendly’ to appeal to the iGeneration’. I am not as ‘on it’ as I would like to be when it comes to environmental issues. I try to do my bit (recycling, turning off the lights, eating vegan, etc) but it’s not something I’ve ever felt super passionate about, and that probably has something to do with the incredibly dull way that eco friendly has been marketed. Working with the likes of Vivenne Westwood, I think that Glacier Girl is onto such a smart thing by appealing to aesthetic in order to push an important message.
Varaidzo, a student and writer, represented online mag gal-dem at the School of Doodle workshop. I’ve been reading gal-dem for a little while now, so it was really cool to hear a bit more about how the site started (from literally nothing – no funding, just a small community and online movement) and grew to what it is now: a pretty big platform for women writers of colour to publish everything from topical think-pieces, to thoughts on fashion and music, to personal experiences and what it means to be a woman of colour. Varaidzo wrote this particularly hilarious piece about Drake being a beg, and spoke at the workshop about how, upon pitching it to other online sites, she was rejected because people might not ‘get’ the use of the word ‘beg’, yet when gal-dem published the piece it went down really well. You can follow Varaidzo on Twitter here, and gal-dem here.
I LOVE it when young girls are into politics. Growing up, none of my friends or family were very politically active and so I didn’t pay much attention to anything but the very basics of politics until I was of voting age / went to university, and I feel sad about that. 17 year old Alexis Moncada (or @lexi4prez) is really exciting to me. Lexi founded the @feministculture Twitter account, from which she posts about important, topical feminist and political issues, and which has an impressive ~200k followers and gets hundreds, sometimes thousands of RTs. That’s a lot of people being reached, and a lot of important discussions being started. Her outspokenness (and I mean that in a very positive way) has also brought a lot of attention to her personal account, which is great to follow for her own experiences and loads of information and opinion on (mostly) US politics, as well as the more general issues highlighted by Feminist Culture.
In UK politics, I feel super inspired by Abby Tomlinson. Abby started the #milifandom (remember that?) aged 17, brilliantly and endearingly combining teen fandom culture with politics. I followed her on Twitter because of that, and since have seen her on TV, write for national publications, face horrible backlash from tabloids and handle it better than most adults, and I continue to be both inspired and informed by her.
Barbie Ferreira by Petra Collins
The political does not stop at a direct interest in politics, imo. Model Barbie Ferreira (19) is making waves and waves and waves online with her body-positive, love-yourself attitude. It isn’t unusual for models to be very young, but I think that it takes a lot of confidence to speak up and call the industry out about some of the things that Barbie does (lack of size diversity, treatment of ‘plus size’ models, etc). As a young girl working in fashion, and especially as a model, who typically aren’t afforded any sort of voice, that is really really difficult to do. She has amassed almost 300k followers on Instagram and 75k on Twitter, but regular tweets from fans and followers telling her that she is the reason they love themselves, and that she is a role model, show that she isn’t *just* a pretty face (but also her face is literally perfect).
with Ellie at an i-D x River Island fashion week party
Fashion bloggers are sometimes teens too. As a blogger, I can hardly write an article on teenagers without mentioning (no longer teenage) ~wunderkind~ Tavi Gevinson, whose blog turned Rookie Mag came a little later in my teen life, but was still very aspirational and inspirational to me, and I know has been invaluable in shaping and informing many a girl since its launch.
I was a tender 16 when I started my blog, but I didn’t really have a clue what I was doing. My pal Ellie Connor-Phillips of Rose and Vintage, who is 18 and has already been blogging for almost 4 years, is another story. I seem to only see Ellie at fashion week, but end up spending large amounts of time with her because she is an absolute freaking delight. In the grand scheme of things, age means nothing and I do not mean to undermine or patronise her great blog, style, writing, photography and general class-ness. Her blog absolutely holds its own amongst those written by people five, ten years her senior, but every time I spend time with her I feel even better about her because of the fact that she is so fab so young. Follow Ellie on Instagram here, and Twitter here.
Chloe x Halle – Drop (from debut EP Sugar Symphony)
I also don’t think that the super-famous teen girls should be discredited, just for being super famous. Kylie Jenner might have an incredibly smart Momager, a powerful PR team, and a LOT of cash behind her, yet at 18 she is taking over Instagram, has revolutionised Snapchat and is building a literal empire empire based on lipgloss. Similarly, Willow Smith has the advantage of superstar parents, but nonetheless is 15 years old and is using her platform to speak out in support of things like black female empowerment, and challenging gender norms (alongside her teen brother Jaden). Similarly, Rowan Blanchard (who is only 14!) came from Disney but is an outspoken feminist, identifies as queer, speaks very eloquently on things intersectional feminism, cultural appropriation, and has likely enlightened thousands of kids, teens and also me through her Twitter and Tumblr accounts. I have also recently got very into Chloe and Halle, two ethereally beautiful teenage sisters (16 and 17) who started uploading vocal covers onto YouTube aged 11 and 12, and are now mentored by Beyoncé (yep). Chloe and Halle recently appeared in Queen Bey’s visual album Lemonade, and their debut EP Sugar Symphony (which they mostly wrote and produced themselves) is just out – you can listen to it here (‘Fall’ is a particularly enchanting track), and read more about the girls in this super insightful NY Mag article.
I think that we are firmly in the era of the teenage girl, and I am here for every second of it.