I have an 11-year-old girl. She loves animals, horses in particular. Last year, she put up posters of the boy band One Direction on her bedroom walls. She took them down two weeks later. The posters of horses, puppies, kittens and dogs have stayed. She has her own style and has begun a personal blog. (Her kelpie-cross puppy features a lot on the blog.) I don’t snoop but in my experience young teens do lots of commenting, posting of selfies, and phone camera pictures (always captioned) of what they and their friends are doing. They are, as marketing speak would put it, “engaged”.
Tavi Gevinson is a young American Teen blogger – she calls it “blobbing”. Tavi began her fashion style blog/b The Style Rookie in 2007. She was 11 years old. At 13, Tavi was in the Front Row at New York Fashion Week, and a contributor to US Harper’s Bazaar. In 2011, Tavi launched her online magazine for teenage girls and young women, Rookie. In its first six days, Rookie broke 1 million page views.
Rookie is billed as an “eclectic, intelligent, practical and heartfelt publication that embraces feminism and popular culture”. It “takes its readers seriously and knows how to be light-hearted”. (Birdee is the Australian online magazine that’s moved in on this space. WE Magazines, the publishers of The Hoopla, began the site for teenage girls and it has bold and confronting content. I’m not sure my 11-year-old is quite ready for Birdee but Rookie does get my vote.)
Tavi is now a 17-year-old public high school student living with her parents and two sisters in Oak Park, Illinois, and running her own media empire. Tavi is appearing at the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall on August 18 as part of Melbourne Writers Festival, August 22 to September 1, where she will also be appearing. Her three Australian appearances are sold out. They did that the day each went on sale.
Media requests for interviews with Tavi also “sold out”. Swamped in the first few days of the news Tavi was coming, the PR “had to cull them drastically to fit within her schedule.”
In fact, according to the PR, she had well over 80 requests by July 19. (If every person got 30 minutes with Tavi, that would be 40 hours of her visit right there. That’s a working week.)
Tavi often gets asked about her feminist principles. Perhaps it’s because she blogs about fashion which can appear antithetical to feminism.
In a recent interview with Australian Vogue on the subject, she said: "… I'm a feminist because I don't think being a girl limits me in any way. I think the reason that so many people shy away from the term and prefer to call themselves humanists or whatever is because they think feminism is all about women, but it's a lot about breaking down the social constructs and ideas about gender that oppress all of us, frankly."
She’s also quoted in Adweek (April 2013) as firmly believing: “fashion and feminism can be friends. I even think that fashion can be a tool of feminism and of self-expression and individuality and empowerment. But clearly there are flaws with the industry that still really grind my gears.”
When it comes to SEO assessment of Style Rookie’s early success, the numbers differ wildly. Some say it had ‘50,000 daily views’; others say ‘30,000’. That’s a lot of daily views which ever number you take.
The success spawned detractors. Some said, if Tavi was 23 or 33, and not 13, we wouldn’t care. But we do and should care. Tavi has opened a new market and provided us with a fresh and different voice. Others also wondered, out loud, ‘what would happen when she was an adult, and not a novelty any more’, and ‘how could someone with so little experience, etc, be invited to comment on, let alone attend, the shows’. Again, what does it matter? The last time I looked diversity and empowerment, especially among young women, was a positive.
If the numbers are any proof, the Teen voice in a wilderness of adults does count. (Those sold out Australian venues aren’t just filled with a whole lot of under 20-somethings.) Tavi, six years on, also has a mounting wealth of experience on which to draw, somewhat undermining the old ‘lack-of-experience’ argument her critics once espoused.
What happens to Tavi when Tavi is older is her business. For me, I’m happy I have somewhere I can go to see what interests and will interest my 11-year-old. It also gives me somewhere I can go where I won’t, in the future, be accused of spying on her because I’ve accessed her facebook, instagram, snapchat, or whatever else is around when she turns 13, without her permission.
Watch Tavi Gevinson's TED talk Still Figuring It Out. (Recorded when Tavi was 15, this TEDtalk has had more than 547,000 views.)