By doing the strangely radical thing of taking teenage girls seriously with Rookie, Tavi Gevinson has created a platform entirely on her own terms – and everyone from Lena Dunham to Lorde wants to be involved with her inspirational publication. Having just wrapped her debut Broadway play and with plans to attend NYU in September 2015, the 18-year-old is redefining what a publishing powerhouse looks like in the digital age. We’ll let her explain more about her unique take on publishing in this extract from a head-to-head with The Hunger Games' Amandla Stenberg from our February 2014 issue:
Tavi Gevinson: Well, I am a feminist – I just think the label reflects my beliefs – but, you know, we say Rookie is a website for teenage girls, not a feminist website for teenage girls. That’s not because I’m not proud to call myself a feminist, but when you’re calling attention to a project, you can very easily be pigeonholed by choosing certain identifiers. And while I’m happy to talk about feminism and I’m happy that I’m a girl, I do sometimes feel like, ‘Why does everything I do have to be viewed through a lens of ‘feminist or not’?’ Like, can’t I ever do or create anything just as a person? That’s a privilege that men have over women and white people have over people of colour. There’s an interview with Patti Smith in which she says something like, ‘People have always asked why I don’t say I’m a female musician, but you wouldn’t say Picasso is a male painter, he’s just a painter.’ So it’s definitely difficult finding the line – I want to remove the stigma around the word ‘feminist’, but also feel integrated into a community that’s larger than a group of like-minded feminist bloggers. For example, I was so happy about the review of Rookie Yearbook Two in Slate where they said, ‘People say Rookie is good for teenage girls, but it’s actually just good.’
Amandla Stenberg: Yes, I read that article and thought it was fantastic.
Tavi Gevinson: I feel like maybe in the 90s, Rookie would have been shamed for trying to reach a lot of people or trying to be ‘mainstream’, but I’m so pleased that our readers are happy to see me promoting the Rookie yearbook on TV or whatever. What feels most productive to me isn’t to think so much in terms of how I can be alternative, but how I can be subversive in a way that feels organic, how I can connect with people, and how I can just be myself, which may be the hardest thing to be.
Amandla Stenberg: OK, I’m about to get real deep.
Tavi Gevinson: Please do!
Amandla Stenberg: I’ve never been a super religious person, but I went through a phase around the time I did my interview with Rookie when I was checking out lots of different religions. And I realised that I don’t believe in a specific god or religion, but my own religion is believing in the divine organisation of the world and how things ultimately work out how they’re supposed to.
Tavi Gevinson: Yeah, I think the point isn’t necessarily that you have proof, but that you choose to live by a set of guidelines. I mean, I was raised Jewish and had a batmitzvah and everything, but I do struggle with the idea that someone is in control of all of this. But I relate to the idea that there’s a way things just work out, and it can be extraordinary whether there’s some kind of organisation behind it or not. Does that make sense?
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