Sometimes I think that I’m a “bad feminist” because of how little I know about pop culture. It’s kind of embarrassing, really. My exposure to television is limited to sitcoms that are at least as old as I am. I have all seven seasons of The Golden Girls on DVD, and probably have every single line of dialogue memorized. Also, because I’m a total square, I spent last summer watching reruns of Family Ties; though it’s not a very entertaining show, the idea of hippie parents with conservative offspring is fascinating to me. The ’80s were weird.
Anyway, that’s why I didn’t discover Rookie until December– three months after it launched. My friend Lucy shared an article with me titled How to Be a Happy Homebody. And reading it, I thought, “This is my life. Right down to the part about eating an entire box of Amy’s pizza by myself.”
Intrigued by the thought of what else I might find on the site, I started reading Rookie pretty regularly. Within a few days, I was totally hooked. It’s unique because it’s written though a feminist lens, but doesn’t explicitly say that it’s a “feminist critique of pop culture.” And there’s always something new: they update 3 times per day, 5 days per week. Posts follow a monthly theme; this month’s theme is “power.”
The best part about Rookie is that it’s a web site for teenage girls. I don’t know about you, but my teenage years kind of sucked. Luckily I had an awesome best friend with whom to commiserate, and a cool English teacher who wore Hawaiian t-shirts and took us to see a performance of The Tempest starring Patrick Stewart as Prospero.
But for the most part, it was lame as hell. And unnecessarily dramatic. And confusing. I was told to “be myself,” which, for me, just translated into believing every stereotype I heard and building my identity around the one that suited me best.
Rookie struck me as fresher and more honest than anything else marketed toward teens that I’d read online previously. A little research on its founder / editor-in-chief told me why.
Tavi Gevinson is sixteen years old. She shares a birthday with my younger cousin Renee: April 21, 1996. And that’s just crazy, because I distinctly remember the day that Renee was born. And I, at twenty-three, am not really old enough to remember the births of people who have accomplished a whole lot.
But Tavi has. When she was eleven, she started a blog called The Style Rookie, where she blogged about fashion and posted pictures of her own creations. Her work caught the attention of some pretty prominent people, and she was invited to Fashion Week.
I watched this interview with her about that, in which she discussed the experience: “People were confused about my being there for a few reasons… you know, they would talk about how inappropriate it was for someone my age to be at Fashion Week, but this is coming from an industry that fetishizes youth.”
In that same interview, she discussed her reasons for starting Rookie: namely that there just wasn’t a good venue for teenage girls to have honest conversations about important topics. She also acknowledged the flack she got from the hipsters who didn’t understand why she, born in the mid ’90s, would know anything about what happened in earlier decades. She pointed out that, hey, it’s the Internet. You can use it to learn about all sorts of things.
Which is exactly the philosophy she has applied to rookiemag.com. It’s more accessible than a printed zine, because anyone can reach it with the click of a button.
So you should, every day, no matter how old you are.
Those of you who are already familiar with Rookie understand the reference I made to it with the title of my blog post. Rookie has a series of posts whose titles begin with “Literally the best thing ever,” and then go on to list something important to the author of that particular post. Here’s a link to my favorite one as an example: Literally the best thing ever: The Golden Girls. (!!!!!!!!)
I’ll close with one of my very favorite things on the Internet, Tavi’s TED Teen talk, which she gave this past March. I could gush about how badass it is, but I think it’s more important to just let her speak for herself, especially since she has given so many teenage girls that chance by making Rookie happen.