Don't just hate media—make media. On this episode of Popaganda, we spend time with five women who edit great magazines for young women. First off, Bitch's Andi Zeisler talks with Tavi Gevinson of Rookie. Then we meet up with the staff of She Shreds, an upstart magazine for female guitarists. Finally, we call up the editorial director of Canadian teen feminist magazine Shameless. All in all, the interviews show the ideas and challenges behind making media for young people, and how it's possible to get your own story onto the newstand.
Grown women, if Tavi Gevinson makes you feel old and unproductive, take solace in the fact that you're not alone. The now–17-year-old founder and editor of teen-girl website Rookie has been an industry force since she started her fashion blog, Style Rookie, at the wee age of 11. Since then, Gevinson has mashed up her interest in style with Rookie's focus on friends, on feminism, on nostalgia, on culture, and on all manner of interests that, while targeted at a teen demographic, resonate soundly across the board.
The second edition of the Rookie Yearbook(which Gevinson edits and art directs) was recently published by Drawn and Quarterly, so this fall has found her on the road for a series of standing-room-only events across this Rookie-loving nation. Gevinson also found time to make her acting debut, in Nicole Holofcener's Enough Said—notable not only for Gevinson's lovely, natural performance alongside Julia Louis-Dreyfus, but for being one of James Gandolfini's final film appearances.
Somehow, Gevinson manages to live a relatively regular life as a high-school senior, and last month, I met up with her for a post-class snack at a vegan restaurant in her home of Oak Park, Illinois.
I'm a feminist and a high school English teacher in the south suburbs of Chicago. Last year, one of the students in my class was inspired to start a group for girls at our school and approached me about sponsoring it. Of course I agreed! A few weeks ago, we tackled the topic of positive female role models in pop culture. The high school students came up with a list of eight current, mainstream "feminist idols" they and their friends look up to.
The list is a good insight into what interests teen girls these days, as well as hopefully a helpful resource. We talk a lot about degrading and regrettable portrayals of women in media, here are eight actresses and comedians my high schoolers are excited about supporting.
1. Emma Stone: My students loved the movie Easy A, a modern film inspired by Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. In it, Emma Stone plays a high school student who tries to bring the book into her real life. The movie definitely has feminist undertones, but Stone herself is a major feminist. In a recent interview she did with her boyfriend Andrew Garfield, she was asked who her style icon was. After Garfield said he never got asked questions like that, Stone piped up, "You get asked interesting, poignant questions because you're a boy... It is sexism." Way to call out sexist media, Emma Stone!
Well, what do you know? I was just gearing up to write a post about
the Bitch library's recent acquisition of a full set of Sassy magazines—the
first issue! the Kurt 'n' Courtney issue! All the issues!—which were a
gift from the fabulous Rita Hao, forever friend of Bitch and a member
of our National Advisory Board. And then the news came down the
Intertubes that tiny wunderkind style blogger Tavi Gevinson will be
teaming up with founding Sassy editor Jane Pratt to launch a new teen
magazine at some point in the not-too-distant future. According to a
somewhat vague post on Gevinson's blog, Style Rookie:
guys may know how I feel about Sassy. You also may know that I've been
babbling about how I think our generation should get one, too. Jane
Pratt, founding editor and then EIC of Sassy, also became aware, and
emailed me, and we've met a couple times, and it looks like we're going
to start a magazine for an audience of wallflowerly teenage girls.
(I am trying so hard to be cool and professional right now.)
(Trying. so. hard.)
Of course, it won't be Sassy (or the rebirth of Sassy, or Sassy
2.0) and nor do we want it to be. For one, you can't try to recreate
something that good. For another, while I can read old issues of Sassy
and relate, the world has changed a bit in the past 15 or so years, and
that whole Internet thing happened, and this world calls for something
different. Something that will use Sassy as a point of reference for
the whole teen-magazine-that-doesn't-suck thing, and something in which
Jane Pratt will take part, but something that is not trying to recreate
the other something a bunch of us love and don't want to see copied.
Disclaimer: I'm about to shamefully make a Huey Lewis & the News reference: It's hip to be...a perv? Well, Terry Richardson seems to think so. Ever since sexual abuse allegations against the hipster icon surfaced, the blogosphere has been commenting on the subsequent shit storms that keep popping up around this perv. So, it's about time that we deem Richardson a douchebag.