** Tavi Gevinson + Lena Dunham **
** Supercute **
Sitting down to write this, I am decidedly paralysed by the overwhelming feelings of gratitude, praise, respect, joy and community that spring forth whenever I try to describe Rookie. I don’t even know where my love for this magazine/movement/project begins. Does is start in grade school with the sleepover club that taught me about sisterhood? Does it start in the ninth grade when I battled anorexia and felt alone? Does it start in university when I read Naomi Wolf’s Beauty Myth and suddenly saw everything differently? Does it start with my first kiss? Let’s just start in New York.
A few weekends ago, I made an impromptu and whirlwind pilgrimage to McNally Jackson Books on Prince Street in Manhattan for the launch of Rookie’s inaugural yearbook, which is a lovingly produced record of the teen interest website’s first year. Between the bookshelves, a crowd of bright, fearless, excited girls and women wearing crowns, tutus and smiles sat on the carpet and waited. What followed was a teenage dream.
Readings by Rookie contributors Amy Rose, Emma Straub, Arabelle Sicardi, Hazel Cills, Jenny Zhang and Marie Lodi covered the gamut, from girl gangs and making-out to being yourself and coming-out. Guest readers Dave Hill, Lena Dunham and Sarah Sophie Flicker also wowed with essays on innocent high school love conquests, running away from home and being imperfect, respectively. Flicker was evidently emotional during her reading; and before passing the torch, she admitted to her nerves and explained her tears by saying that she felt so moved to be speaking to a sea of smart, expressive girls with an interest in feminism. She recalled how she had lamented the seeming crisis of feminism at her daughter’s birth five years ago; and then she closed by thanking Rookie’s founder and Editor in Chief, Tavi Gevinson, for reviving her faith in the movement. Lena Dunham also finished her reading by saying: “I hope that I have daughters and I hope that they grow up in a world where this exists; and thank you Tavi for doing this.”
Tavi was the last to take the microphone, and she read from her essay, “How To Not Care What Other People Think of You”. This is definitely one of my favourite Rookie essays, thanks to excerpts like this: I think a big reason why so many girls shy away from calling themselves feminists is that they’re worried they won’t be able to live up to this idea of a Strong Woman, and that there’s no room in this club for anyone who isn’t 100 percent comfortable with herself all the time. You can totally be a feminist who has insecurities. Feminism isn’t about pretending we all feel like Wonder Woman, it’s about being honest when we don’t, and having the conversation on why that is.
This brings me to the proverbial gemstone in the flower-crown-of-love that was the Rookie yearbook launch party. During the question and answer period, which started with a heated debate on the merits of Taylor Swift, one girl asked the Rookie team about an anti-pop-culture blog that she wants to start. She expressed her anxiety over the blog’s negative angle, and Tavi responded with a beautiful, simple thought that I’ll cling to forever: FEMINISM IS ABOUT LOVE. She sympathized with the blogger-to-be by saying that she understood how easy and tempting it is to get mad at the world and to criticize television, movies, magazines, politicians and the like. In the end, however, she made a moving case for positivity and acceptance by pointing to her Rookie team. After all, the brilliance of the magazine lies in its unapologetic, bedazzled worship of girldom in its many shapes and forms.
My love for Rookie is layered, but this steadfast acceptance of its audience is paramount; and I think it accounts for the website’s following of grown-women. I was a teen during the post-Sassy cultural apocalypse in which Seventeen and YM ruled; and now Rookie is helping me reconnect to that scared, lost girl who would have really benefited from articles like “How Not To Care About What Other People Think of You”, “Never Been Kissed”, “How to Bitchface” and “How to Make a Zine”. To that end, the common ground that adults, teens and girls find in Rookie is significant; especially when one considers that feminism has often been divided along generational lines. We all love, laugh and feel free in this clubhouse where discussions about masturbation, outer space, Joni Mitchell and sexual harassment can coexist with glitterbombs and sticker albums.
Between the program and the book signings, I was able to give hugs to two very special, inspiring and talented ladies: Sonja Ahlers, my friend and hero, who’s work as the Lead Artist on the Rookie website and yearbook is nothing short of absolute, pure magic; and Petra Collins, another friend and serious superstar who works for Rookie as a photographer. For the record, I’d like to say thank you to both Sonja and Petra for inspiring me nearly everyday; I’d also like to thank Tavi and the rest of the Rookie team for everything they do. Finally, I’d like to acknowledge all of the people in my life that help me live my new mantra: FEMINISM IS ABOUT LOVE.
** Me + Sonja **
** Me + Petra **
XO VANESSA XO