“Rookie” blogger expands empire, reaches out to girls with teen zine

Screenshot+of+Rookie+website+by+Jessie+King+Fredel

Screenshot of Rookie website by Jessie King Fredel

Jessie King Fredel, Staff writer

What does one do after becoming the 13-year-old darling of the international fashion world?

For Tavi Gevinson, the logical next step was the creation of Rookie, an online magazine for teenage girls.

New content goes up three times a day every weekday, with monthly themes such as “Girl Gangs,” “Secrets,” and January’s theme, “Up All Night.” Including advice, beauty tips, fictional articles, DIY (Do-It-Yourself) instructions, and book/movie/music suggestions, Rookie is the new “it” girl of the Internet.

The charm of Rookie centers around its anti-girl magazine stance: Refreshingly, it is not a glossy online version of Teen Vogue or Seventeen. Rookie feels more homemade and pertinent to real life; it also caters to a more alternative, independent audience.

Urban student Abigail Lowenthal (’13) says “a lot of times magazines can create a similar online feel … but they just don’t have the same honest and raw approach. It’s real girls living in real places sharing real interests.” Readers are encouraged to comment and to submit material to [email protected] for the next month’s issue (February’s theme is “Shrines”).

Gevinson, who lives in Chicago,  was inspired by older print magazines like Sassy, which she described in an interview with The Daily Mail as “lipstick feminism for teenage girls, covering sexist issues but not discouraging having fun with makeup or caring about boys. It included R.E.M. records as opposed to the perfume scents of today’s teen magazine pages.” Sassy founder Jane Pratt is listed as “Rookie’s fairy godmother” on its staff page.

While Rookie is not first and foremost a feminism magazine, it aims to address difficult topics in sympathetic and hip ways. Articles such as “We’re Called Survivors Because We’re Still Here,“ (addressing sexual assault) “I Was a Teenage Activist,“ and “Getting Over Girl Hate” read as if they could have been written by a cool older sister. Urban student Mabel Taylor (’14) says that “unlike a lot of teen sites and magazines, the pieces on Rookie aren’t preachy and they offer genuine advice from people (who are) qualified and understanding.”

Rookie’s reception has been positive. While Gevinson, who has been blogging since the age of 11, has 44,872 followers on Twitter, Rookie has already amassed 8,876 followers, a tangible example of its popularity.

Sophie Bedecarré Ernst (’13) reads Rookie every day because of its ability to “put some ideas from my head onto the page and make me feel that, really, we’re all dealing with the same things and that it is important not to feel so isolated, separate or different than everyone else.”
As Gevinson says in her opening letter (published in September and aptly named “Beginnings”), “Rookie is not your guide to being a teen. It is not a pamphlet on how to be a young woman. (If it were, it would be published by American Girl and your aunt would’ve given it to you in the fifth grade.)

“It is, quite simply, a bunch of writing and art we like and believe in. While there’s always danger in generalizing a whole group of people, I do think some experiences are somewhat universal to being a teenager, specifically a female one. Rookie is a place to make the best of the beautiful pain and cringe-worthy awkwardness of being an adolescent girl.”