Last week, Tavi was in my city and just the thought of it was almost too much to handle. It was like that time Crispin Glover was showing his weird movie/slide show at the theatre in my neighborhood, except this time I was just nerdily excited instead of actually a little scared.
You either know who Tavi Gevinson is or you don’t. By which I mean you’re either a young-ish, liberal-leaning woman on the internet with at a least vague interest in feminism and girl culture or you’re not.
If you’re suffering from a particularly strong case of maleness (and you haven’t yet been subjected to one of my patented “Let me tell you about this article I read on Rookie” monologues), let me explain. Tavi became famous when she was incredibly young because of her style blog, The Style Rookie. Although people noticed her cool outfits and hair, what was really remarkable were her articulate thoughts on fashion and feminism. When she was 15, she started the (fantastic, funny, smart) website Rookie. Rookie is, in short, a website for teenage girls.
None of this really explains why I, a 26 year old woman, and countless other women are so into this 16-year-old girl. The thing is, Rookie isn’t just a website. It’s the reassurance I wish I had as a teenager (and, actually, it’s a reassurance for me now). Rookie is written by actual teenagers as well as a whole host of really cool, smart older women (Anaheed Alani and Emma Straub among them). Rookie’s not didactic or moralizing; it also doesn’t shame girls who want to avoid risky things. Rookie never says “Don’t have sex!” or “Have sex!” which, in itself, is really rare for a website directed towards women in general, let alone teen girls. Rookie’s vibe is very come-as-you-are. It never tries to make girls feel weird or stupid and the only time I’ve ever been offended by it was when one of the writers bad-mouthed Columbus and made it sound like some tiny town with nothing to do (I will spare you the tangent I typed out, but rest-assured I LOVE COLUMBUS). Rookie is remarkably positive in a way that’s never cloying. Rookie always respects its readership. This isn’t just important in the whole teenagers-have-feelings-too way (although that’s obviously true), it’s important on a much grander scale. We live in a world where teenage girls (and, let’s face it, women too!) are routinely told, in word and action, that their feelings, thoughts, opinions and decisions about everything from their bodies to their sexuality to their futures are unimportant, silly, or wrong.
I think we all like Tavi Gevinson so much because she reminds us of the girl we used to be, or maybe just the girl we wish we used to be. I was smart and moody and prone to obsession and always, always, always writing in my journal when I was a teenager, but I was in no position to actually parlay that into a career, into a community the way Tavi does. It did not even enter my mind. Tavi is like us, but she’s so smart and so motivated so young, and that’s what’s amazing to me. I often forget she’s ten years younger than me because she has a ridiculous work ethic that I definitely didn’t have.
The reason Tavi was in town was that Rookie was having a Columbus meet up. It included a trip to Jeni’s, also known as the best ice cream shop in the world. Obviously I did not go to this. After all, I’m actually old. It looks like it was so much fun for the girls that went, though, and I’m just so glad a website like Rookie exists. Mostly, though, I’m pondering the most important question: What flavor of ice cream did Tavi have??
If you’re interested in reading more about Tavi, check out this incredibly thorough tour of her room, this interview with Claire Zulkey, or her TEDxTeen talk. I can’t believe how poised she is in front of a large crowd of people.
Both pictures from Rookie’s tumblr