Rookie: A MultiMediaMag

Art Art & Lit Literature

Lauren O’Neill review Tavi Gevinson’s internationally acclaimed teen-oriented webzine

At eighteen, with my wonky, self-trimmed fringe, my penchant for David Lynch films and my feminist leanings, I belong to a spiritual (and international) sisterhood. We are the girls who sit at the front of lectures carrying boldly printed tote bags and brandishing Hello Kitty biros with fluff on the end, girls who are a little too into angsty teen TV shows from the ‘90s, girls who’d rather be sitting in their bedrooms listening to Stevie Nicks than doing basically anything else. Yes, those girls. Just over a year ago, my rag-tag community of crafters, collectors and creators was finally provided with a kind of home: Rookie. We flocked there in our sparkly droves, and it seems that the world’s attention has followed.

Rookie magazine is the brainchild of 16-year-old wunderkind Tavi Gevinson and runs this internationally acclaimed website for teenagers – and, indeed, anyone at all who is, like her, “still figuring it out”. She has become kind of a big deal. The press coverage she has received (just Google her name to find broadsheet columnists hailing her as Queen of the Blogs) has attracted audiences of all ages, races, sexualities, and genders to her whimsically designed, carefully curated and regularly updated site. It has become a mecca of pop-culture comment, advice vlogs (my personal fave is “Ask A Grown Man”, once featuring Mad Men dreambabe Jon Hamm) and crafty DIY columns, meaning that it’s totally not just for the weird girls with the frilly socks and platform trainers anymore.

Aside from the cool playlists and retro inspired fashion editorials, what makes Rookie really special is that as an artistic and literary medium it is completely unique. For what appears to be the first time, a positive space for young people (or the apparently all-grown-up) who feel lost, bored, or out of touch with their peers, has been created on its own terms, in the most accessible format the world has ever seen. Rookie is a site which promotes equality and acceptance (both of the self and of other people) through its artistic and literary output: its writers never pretend to have all the answers, and they contribute easy-to-read accounts of their personal struggles and successes so readers don’t feel they’re going it alone; its graphic designers create visuals which compliment the site’s ethos of offering an alternative to mainstream youth culture, showing that there are other ways of enjoying your youth (and indeed, your life) than listening to dance music and going to crowded clubs, but also accepting and noting that those ways are as valid as any others. In short, Rookie’s open, enthusiastic nerdiness and frank, honest writing encourages and allows its readers to be exactly who they want to be whilst also recognising that they might not be sure quite who that is just yet. Rookie is an artistic conversation, rather than a Teen Vogue-esque rulebook.

One particularly exciting thing that Rookie has achieved – and, for me, the best element of the site’s work – is that it has demystified feminism. Through the promotion of body positivity (features have titles like “Damn Girl Ya Look Good”), sex positivity (“You’ve Got The Power: taking charge of your sexual experience”) and female empowerment (“Be Your Own Boss”), the site has exposed many to the real, positive face of feminism for the first time, usually without even mentioning the oft-dreaded ‘f’ word that seems to have attained such a bad rep.

Though some critics have called Rookie “too white”, “too cis-gendered”, “too middle class”, or “too American”, the site has, in a year, become an artistic and literary phenomenon – it signals this generation as a wave of intelligent, aware and informed international citizens who have new things to say and new ways of saying them, whether through writing, drawing, photographing, playing music or other creative forms. Rookie recognises its shortcomings and Gevinson has stated that as an organisation it is committed to inclusivity and widening its reach as far as possible. Such issues are easily addressed and the criticism Rookie has received thus far is positive in that it acknowledges the cultural value and potential for widespread change that a medium such as this provides. Though Tavi Gevinson and co. may well be “still figuring it out”, they are, for my money, doing a pretty great job so far.