By Quinn Sluzenski
It is infuriatingly difficult to be taken seriously as a teenage girl. I have recently graduated from this age status, but I can still see the way the media seems consistently confused about this group of people. Teenage girls are silly, irrational, and obsessed with Harry Styles. Teenage girls are petty, self-obsessed, and all determined to be the “queen bee.” The insult of acting like a “teen girl” is slang for being immature, overly excitable, or too interested in Snapchat filters.
While we wait for the rest of the world to catch up, teenage girls have continued to live their lives and be what they want – whether that is brilliant, silly, creative, immature, enthusiastic, or quiet, since (spoiler alert) they’re just as diverse and variable as any other kind of human.
In a sea of adults trying to publish things for teen girls (read: sell things to teen girls), there is one publication that has become a shining beacon of the “made by, made for” model. Tavi Gevinson did what seemed impossible: founded an intelligent, entertaining, popular magazine written by and for teenage girls… at the age of fifteen.
It is hard not to be amazed by Tavi, who just reached the age of 21 (her birthday was April 21st) and is the founder and editor-in-chief of a successful online magazine named “Rookie.” She is also a Broadway, television, and film actress and has been profiled and featured in numerous magazines, TV shows, and podcasts. Her most recent endeavor was her first substantial entry in a medium that’s close to my heart: podcasting.
This podcast, simply called “Rookie,” like the magazine, is the culmination of all the work that Rookie Mag has done in the past six years. Each episode centers around an interview with an interesting person, like Lorde, Ibtihaj Muhammad, or Winona Ryder. Other features include “starter packs” to interesting topics, life skills, and real adults answering questions in the popular print-to-podcast segment “Ask a Grown.”
There are many remarkable things about the Rookie podcast. Tavi’s interview experience shines as she effortlessly chats with Olympians and movie stars. When she reads the end credits of producers and artists who make the show function, it is incredibly gratifying to hear how many are women, particularly in an industry where even female-led podcasts are often produced by teams of men.
What strikes me about it the most, however, is the extent to which the Rookie podcast incorporates its young female audience. Tavi began a recent episode by reading a review from a listener, which she praised for its excellent writing. Listeners are encouraged to send in clips of themselves asking questions for the “Ask a Grown” segment. Even topics that are mocked by some mainstream publications, like astrology, as presented as legitimate interests with bodies of history and knowledge. The message of Rookie is “hey, that thing you’re into? It’s worthy of respect, and so are you.”
I’m glad that Rookie creates this space in a world where teenage girls loving themselves verges on a radical act, and I’m excited to see more spaces and projects like this.