Celebrating Our She-roes: Tavi Gevinson

It’s Women’s History Month and I can’t help but recall Maya Angelou’s famous quotation: “How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!”  Oftentimes, our she-roes are from bygone generations—trailblazers that came before and changed how we perceive and relate to the word around us.  Sometimes, however, she-roes emerge who are younger, and yet possess an expansive vision that can shift the cultural, social, or political dialogue in ways as of yet unseen.  Tavi Gevinson, the wunderkind fashion blogger and founder of Rookie Magazine is a She-ro certainly worth celebrating. 

At the tender age of 17, Gevinson has achieved international notoriety for ingeniously synchronizing fashion and feminism in her online publication.  With contributions from icons across the pop stratosphere (Judy Blume, Lorde, Ira Glass, Jean Grae, and Joss Whedon to name a few) Tavi and her team fulfill the critical role of providing sharp, worldly, and approachable content focused on issues impacting teenage girls and women.  Written in large part by young women, Rookie unpacks the adolescent experience in ways that don’t require near-impenetrable jargon (think “intersectionality”) to comprehend.  For example, each month’s “issue” has a theme; February 2014’s theme was “Escape” and featured articles on topics such as eating disorders, shame, and dying.   “Self-loathing is easy, once you get the hang of it,” wrote one contributor. “I was convinced that I was ugly and gross and that nobody would ever love, because I didn’t look like I’d just stepped out of a magazine.”  The author then shares several techniques that worked for her in processing her feelings of self-loathing, such as reframing her thoughts. 

Have no fear—not everything is heavy in Rookieland.  Readers (insiders call themselves ROOKIES) can enjoy more lighthearted fare (“DIY Pizza nail polish”) relish in inspiring stories of overcoming adversity (“I was a High School Dropout: A Non-Horror Story”) and maybe pick up some unconventional wisdom from the popular “Ask a Grown Man/Woman” column.  Perhaps it is because its diversity of content, seamlessly woven together, that Rookie has struck such an impressive chord.  Just as likely, Rookie’s surprising success maybe founded on its proffered sense of ownership.  “Hey ROOKIES!,” a sidebar reads, “Next month’s theme is LOST AND FOUND. We’re looking for writing, illustration, photography, video, collage, etc., on things we have lost and times we’ve been found; on being independent vs. asking for help; on solitude, pros and cons; shyness and the conquering of same; misanthropy and empathy and love and how they can coexist. On everything that makes us feel less alone in this world.”  A link to the submissions email address follows, allowing readers to shape the magazine’s thrice-a-day content updates (labeled “after school, before dinner, and before bed”).

Naturally, Tavi Gevinson and Rookie have drawn their fair share of criticism.  Detractors complain of the magazine’s pronounced nostalgia, its fixation on image, and its sponsorships from oft-questionable corps such as Urban Outfitters.  Yet, despite these shortcomings, Tavi has created a platform that undeniably counteracts some of the degrading and objectifying elements of pop culture while still embracing its more positive, expressive qualities.  Her vision, inclusivity, and courage to shed light on the experience of growing up female are, in the words of Dr. Angelou, cause for recognition and celebration.

Written by Rachel L. Brosamle, M.A.

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