Clover Letter Is A Feminist News Platform Inspired By The Teen Mags Of Yesteryear
RIP Dolly Doctor.
Clover Letter is an online news platform designed to fill the huge gaping hope left behind by teen culture bibles like Dolly and Teen Vogue. With wisdom formerly reserved for the Dolly Doctor sealed section, Clover founders Liza Darwin and Casey Lewis have carved out a space for creative chicks to access news and exchange ideas. The daily newsletter and app advocates slow journalism and community spirit, with each edition tackling new teen issues and introducing new creatives. We chatted to Liza about the who, what and why of Clover, and asked a few of its contributors to share their thoughts about the future. Get aquatinted below.
Where did the idea for Clover Letter initally come from?
Liza Darwin: In a world flooded with Snapchat selfies and Facebook links, news gets a bad rap. Sure, we can all agree that it's important to stay on top of what's happening in the world. But at the same time, it's surprisingly tough to be informed, despite (or because of?) the voices, platforms, and let's be real, the distractions of the internet. Girls today have more access to information than ever before — more ideas, more modes of creative expression, and a constant feedback loop comprised of likes and comments. But it's not exactly a secret that social media and information overload has some downsides. The flood of perfectly filtered Instagrams is enough to make anyone feel insecure about themselves. What's more, the shouty nature of internet clickbait leaves us overdosed on celeb news and in need of a smart, feminist pep talk. With the overwhelming amount of content that comes with social media, sometimes you need to sift through the noise and go straight to what matters.
This is what inspired me and my friend, Casey Lewis. A decade's worth of work in teen digital media — at places like Teen Vogue, NYLON, and MTV — led us to realise there was nowhere online that both informed and empowered the next generation.
"I just want to wake up and have a good day — live my life to its fullest potential, if something bad happens then I look forward to "tomorrow"... But sometimes I forget that I need to put down my phone, take deep breaths, smile, not let my anxiety hold me back and enjoy today because one day there might not be a tomorrow and that's just life..." — Jacqueline Ashton
What subjects does Clover tend to cover?
Clover is a daily email newsletter and app that covers actually-relevant news and features that girls should know about. Think hard-hitting stuff like the US presidential election, women's rights, and world issues, but written in a decidedly non-boring way. (We swear!) Clover is also inspired by the teen mags that we grew up with, like Teen People, Jane, YM, and Ellegirl (none of which exist anymore). At the end of every letter, we include a short story in the form of an essay, a poem, or interview. These can cover anything from a bad breakup to mental health to feminism. The only requirement? It has to be something that other girls can relate to. Growing up is hard, and there's something special in knowing that you're not alone.
"So much about our world needs to change, but I've realised that if I want tomorrow to be better, I need to start by taking ownership of my actions and acknowledging my privilege. After spending a lot of time reflecting on my feminism, I created a set of goals that I titled "My Hows"; the first goal on the list is "How can I support women who experience more oppression than me?" I won't list off everything I wrote but this first goal is pretty exemplary of the list as a whole. These goals have drastically shifted my priorities as a feminist and as a filmmaker; I strive to tell stories that empower women from varied backgrounds and situations. But beyond that, I strive to create art that makes feminism accessible to those who would otherwise condemn it. I believe that creating art like this will instigate change to improve 'tomorrow'. Above all, I hope that in the world of 'tomorrow', feminism will not be a movement associated with exclusivity, fear, or hatred. Instead, I hope that feminism will be seen for what it truly is: a movement for freedom, for justice, for peace." — Claire Offenberger
You guys only launched last year, what has the response been like so far?
In just a few months we've grown to nearly 50,000 readers. We have subscribers from all over the world: in addition to the US, there's Indonesia, Scotland, Mexico, Canada, and yes, Australia too! We want to give all of them a platform to share their ideas, thoughts, and dreams with their fellow girls of tomorrow and the girls of today — where there's no judgement whatsoever.
"I am so excited for the future! This is my senior year in highschool and I can't wait to go to college and further explore myself and my artistic identity. My generation is so smart and beyond their years; everyone is doing amazing things and working hard. There are so many opportunities out there for young people right now and I am so lucky. At 17, I've had my work shown in three exhibitions. It's crazy! It's so inspiring and it definitely rubs off onto my own motivation to succeed. " — Lauren Tepfer
Can you tell us about some of the girls and collectives you've worked with so far?
Working on Clover has given us the chance to channel some of the absolute coolest and most creative voices around. We've found girls who run their own art organizations, like Teen Dream and Art Hoe Collective, and girls who arrange hangouts in their city, like Girl Power Meetups. Then there's individuals like Autumn, a teenage scientist, Wilhelmina model, and Stanford University freshman. She's one of the only people we know who you can find at a science fair and a fashion show on the same weekend. Or there's Ileri, an 18-year-old from Georgia who acts as the founder and executive director of Code Red Co., a non-profit that aims to break menstrual taboos and provide period supplies to homeless women. She does this in addition to studying at NYU, by the way. Bella Newman is a photographer who takes extraordinary photos of everyday people (aunt-slash-actress Jaime King is the exception here). And one of our contributors, Claire, is a rising film student at USC and screenwriter, whose mission is to empower women through her films. She also happens to run her own film company and is BFF (but like actually BFF) with Amandla Stenberg. While all of these projects might be vastly different, they each have a common thread of community and support (instead of tearing each other down).
"Tomorrow is unpredictable. Tomorrow I hope to use my voice and elevate the needs/concerns for those who can't . Tomorrow, my goal is to be a better version of myself. As a generation, I hope we can continue to be tolerant and respectful of our differences. Tomorrow, next week, next year, and forever, I envision a world of equality, peace, and freedom. " — Autumn Greco
What's the best thing about creating on the internet?
You no longer have to wait to graduate college — or even high school — to make your futures happen. Girls are becoming self-made photographers, artists, coders, activists, and more. Rather than holding off until they get a degree, they're using youth to their advantage and totally ruling it. After all, the power of the internet allows everyone to make content. You don't have to be a journalism major in order to write; you don't have to take photo classes to build a totally legit following. And having a side hustle that you're passionate about isn't just a creative hobby. For the future generation, it's a way to create the kind of career that you want to have. This DIY ethos is one that was ingrained in the old-school teen mags we obsessed over, and it's one that we incorporate into each and every Clover Letter. We want to start a smart kind of internet conversation, one where there's no hate or unnecessary snark. And literally everyone is invited to join.