Real Girls Media

Real Girls Media (RGM) is a media network that provides a new way for women—young and older—to reach out, connect, and share their experiences in a vibrant web community that enables women to publish their stories.
RGM seeks to connect the real voices of women from often marginalized demographics through an online community. “DivineCaroline,” the first of several websites within the network currently has thousands of stories posted from women across the US and globe. The site officially launched in February of this year. RGM will soon offer multiple sites and resources serving different age groups—including young girls.
YMR caught up with Editor-in-Chief Monique Peterson, who travels between Brooklyn, NY and San Francisco, CA, to discuss RGM’s network in its initial stages and how the youth media field can learn from their first giant steps.

YMR: How did Real Girls Media (RGM) come about?
MP: Our CEO, Kate Thorp had a vision for a way to meet the needs of the largest and fastest growing demographic online: women. The core mission of RGM is to provide a platform for women to have their voices heard. Women have been grossly underserved in the marketplace and we lead complex lives.
We did massive research on women’s needs, the way women communicate, the way women spend money, the way women gather and share information, and ultimately, what women wish they could experience on the internet if given the opportunity. The first of our Web sites,, is dedicated to adult women. Two new sites are in the pipeline that will be dedicated to younger women and girls.
We have an interest in how women use the internet, communicate with one another, and have a vocal platform. Check out to read about our founders who are Web 1.0 veterans and quickly raising the bar for Web 2.0.
YMR: RGM connects young women to share their experiences and publish “like real pros.” How do you reach these goals? What methods do you use?
MP: Contributing a story to the Web site is simple. It takes a moment to register, and upon doing so, members get a private “Studio” where they can manage information about themselves, collect favorite authors or articles, publish stories, post comments, and keep track of forums they’re participating in.
To publish a story, you can click a “Contribute” button, which will open a story editor page. From there, you can add a title, write in a text box or copy and paste a document into the text box, select a picture, determine where you’d like the story to appear on the Web site, and then click a “Submit” button for publication.
From there, the stories get uploaded onto the site and the author is notified by email when the story is published. These steps are all made possible by our amazing engineering team. Our technology allows us to make major changes to our site every 2-3 weeks.
Women can publish their stories on DivineCaroline where their voices are as equally accessible as professional editorial writers. Like YMR, readers can post comments and responses—building community.
YMR: In what news ways are Real Girls Media helping young women (and teenage girls) reach out, find out, and express themselves?
MP: Our site allows anyone to publish stories, articles, fiction, poetry, or musings. Readers generally will be able to see their stories appear on the site within a day of submitting for publication. Any woman can write a review of a product, place, or service, and post them instantly on the site. It’s about getting your voice heard.
Everyone is welcome to comment on stories and participate in forums. Additionally, every registered member (registration is free) gets a personal profile page where she can save her favorite stories, tell readers about herself, and also collect her own published articles (with a feature called “My Publicist”) and send them out as a calling card to others who might be interested in seeing writing clips. We also have a Message Center that allows readers on the site to contact other members and drop them a note in a private mail box. And this is just the beginning.
YMR: Does RGM connect young teenage girls with women from DivineCaroline? How does RGM benefit teen girls and young women?
MP: DivineCaroline has several partners and organizations whose mission is symbiotic with ours. Many of the articles we have on the site promote awareness of mentoring opportunities. When we launch our sites for younger women and girls, we will have more cross connections and opportunities with women and organizations that can support mentoring and career opportunities, as well as role models.
The platform for the younger demographic will be similarly structured to DivineCaroline. Young girls will have contacts through various partnerships represented on the site. Since young people can contact other members through the network via comments on articles or personal messages, they will become an important part of the online community.
Reaching out to youth interested in careers in technology or journalism (having a voice on the web) takes participation. There are different ways to participate in the RGM environment—one way is to become a user. A lot of writers have become prolific authors on DivineCaroline—and now they have a platform to do it. Youth can participate to get a sense of what it takes and what its like to be a writer and be aware of media in this environment.
Youth media can help address these issues by becoming part of our online community, becoming familiar with programs that empower girls, and teaching young women how to use the web to express themselves.
By participating, young women can make inroads toward jobs in technology or journalism. By using DivineCaroline’s My Publicist feature, youth can send a portfolio of their published stories to editors or youth media professionals in order to get an internship or showcase their expertise through their writing.
It has been interesting to see what women are sending to be published in DivineCaroline. They are writing about abuse, mental illness, eating disorders—topics that have often been silent, rendered stigma and taboo. This is similar to young people, who document these experiences in writing, radio, music and video. A community is ready to receive this information—and provide an important platform for youth to benefit from.
YMR: What can RGM offer to youth media professionals as a best practice/lesson learned?
MP: With the dawn of a new era in technology and communication, we are seeing a major shift in the way people get, share and communicate information. Specifically, we are seeing newspaper and magazine circulations drop, more people relying on the Web for news and information, and a surge of social networking sites. Anyone interested in the history and future of communications would benefit by seeing how technology is playing a role in the way news, information, and entertainment is gathered and reported. The rise of blogs and subjective reporting raises new questions about ethics and objectivity in traditional journalism. In many ways we are seeing a democratization of information. There are positives and negatives with every paradigm shift, and I think it is important to be continually aware of how the medium affects the message.
We are providing a new way to bridge marginalized communities to share perspective and promote change. We have an ever increasing ability to have a collective and vibrant voice and dialogue. It will be interesting to see how this grows. As we are in a vastly different place now than we were five years ago, we will be in a radically different place five years from now. As media professionals, we must be constantly aware of how media represents messages and how we interpret those messages, how we process that information as individuals and as a society—and as youth media professionals. Everyone has a different goal in mind, which affects how that information is processed.
YMR: How can youth media professionals assist RGM, be involved, and what else can they gain from RGM?
MP: We envision many inroads and bridges for mentoring, partnerships, and sharing resources among many communities that join our network. I suggest that youth media professionals join us, contribute, and participate. What’s to gain? Community, having your voice heard, reaching a wide audience, strengthening your professional experience, and tapping into a growing network of amazing women—young and older.
Monique Peterson is the Editor-in-Chief of DivineCaroline at Real Girls Media. She has written and edited books on film, television, animation, pop culture, art, sports, health, medicine, cooking, crafts, architecture, celebrity, science, sexuality, education, parenting, gardening, and history. Monique has been a lecturer at universities including Stanford and has been a broadcast journalist for Napa Valley’s KVON radio station.

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An Alliance for Young Women Who Rock

The Girls Rock Camp Alliance—comprised of representatives from across the globe who run rock n’ roll camps for girls—met for the first time last month to brainstorm ways to organize what has become a grassroots movement of burgeoning non-profits. The alliance is dedicated to empowering young girls through music-making as well as an enhanced understanding of gender and political identity. It is a great example for youth media professionals to learn from, as many of these campsites across the nation, and now the world, work to maintain a collective mission that unites and supports young women in music.
The founding member camps of the Girls Rock Camp Alliance (GRCA) are from the U.S.—Portland, OR, New York, NY, San Francisco, CA, Philadelphia, PA, and Murfreesboro, TN—as well as from Sweden and the United Kingdom. The alliance met in Portland, Oregon—home base for the Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls—the first rock camp founded in 2001. The non-profit was created in response to the social oppression female musician’s face, in which girls are not encouraged to play instruments and have female role models that share their same experiences. Unique to this non-profit are the hundreds of volunteers dedicated to the rock camp mission, so much so that they work for free during the summer (or throughout the year depending on whether or not local campsites have year round after-school programs like in Portland, OR) motivated by their deep desire and dedication to the cause of empowering young women.
I met with the GRCA in Portland, Oregon late February and had the opportunity to interview STS, a friend, colleague, and program officer at camp. She explains, “every decision [we make at rock camp] we put up next to our mission statement. We serve girls and follow an empowerment model that examines power. We are a community and resource that builds self-esteem and empowerment for young women through media education.” She continues, “Girls need to have access to music education and female mentors who speak to them as peers. At rock camp, we provide great opportunities for young girls interested in music and them to lead in their own ways in a safe and empowering space.”
Many of the 8-18 year old girls who attend camp every summer say that the week long experience changed their lives, opened their eyes, and encouraged them to better handle a sexist and ‘identity-boxing’ world. These girls often sign up for the Girls Rock Institute, an after school version of camp that occurs year around, and often make up the camps’ youth advisory board, who form internship programs, teach skills, act as role models, and build upon the camp community.
Having volunteered at the rock camp in Portland, Oregon and being a founding member of the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls, I know first hand what STS means when she explains, “camp is powerful—it is all inclusive, embracing, and [evokes] positive energy. It’s a punk, anarchist organization that values music, esteem, and life skills.” Rock camp thrives on sharing, collaboration, and giving back along with a very attractive do-it-yourself (D-I-Y) approach and progressive model of leadership, which has become a fast moving grassroots movement.
The energy and empowerment of rock camp in Portland has influenced the creation of several rock camps across the nation and over the world. Around 15-25 rock camps have existed to date—a number that is growing—which Portland’s camp saw as an opportunity to create an alliance amongst.
At the first meeting of the GRCA, the group wrote their mission statement, which defines the alliance as an “international coalition of organizations whose shared mission is to empower girls and women using the tools of music education to foster self-esteem and confidence.” To this end, the GRCA “promotes, strengthens, and expands services provided by its members.”
Overall, the alliance is a professional organization that provides accreditation, resources, and networking opportunities for its members, and promotes the establishment of like-minded institutions worldwide. The alliance works to provide support in the development and quality of programs, financial stability and transparency, and accountability to the rock camp mission.
Core Values of the Girls Rock Camp Alliance are the:
• power of music as a means to create personal and social change;
• efforts that actively expand opportunities for girls and women;
• positive approaches to fighting sexism;
• integrity, honesty and respect;
• appropriate sharing of resources, cooperation, and collaboration;
• using collective voice to further the mission of rock camp;
• importance of diversity and not tolerating racism, sexism, homophobia, or other discriminatory behavior or expression
The alliance believes in creating a learning community that empowers young girls, builds strong relationship among women and a network of musicians, fosters an environment for gender and social change, and values collaborative learning. As STS explains, “we do not want to homogenize all rock camps for girls but collectively recognize core values while valuing our differences. We do not want future rock camps to reinvent the wheel. We offer structure, curriculum, and ways to match the sparks and fire we’ve all experienced at rock camp.”
Professionals interested in creating a rock camp for girls can join the alliance to share leadership models, become a chapter, register to become a non-profit, and/or support a movement of empowering girls through D-I-Y music education. The GRCA is a success model for professionals in the youth media field to engage with. The alliance freely supports and encourages the development of programs that value girls, confidence-raising, and music as a vital medium to empower young people.
The goals of the GRCA, such as sharing resources (material, knowledge, and skill) and providing a model for all burgeoning camps, are important ones for youth media organizations and professionals to pay attention to. GRCA has made its own niche directly outside the youth media field, and ought to get incorporated into the great work the field continues to produce. Simultaneously, the field can learn a great deal from the progressive leadership model of the GRCA. The GRCA gives relevance to music in media, theorizing and practicing gendered and social change, and valuing youth voice, empowerment, and creative expression.
Learning upon the ways in which the Girls Rock Camp Alliance provide nonprofit umbrella support for each chapter at the grassroots level is a case study with solutions youth media organizations may draw from—especially those that value centralizing a sharing of resources, collective identity, and the ‘spark’ that keeps movements and effective youth media programs alive.
Ingrid Dahl is a founding member of the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls where she develops curriculum for workshops, acts as a band coach, and sits on the advisory board. She has been involved with the Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls in Portland, OR since 2004, where she incubated a collaborative workshop on identity, media, and feminism. She is the guitarist in the bands Boyskout and The 303s and plans to write a book on empowering young women through music.