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14-Year-Old Blogger on Why Girls Should Embrace Feminism

14-year-old Tavi Gevinson, who runs a popular fashion blog, talks about what feminism has to offer girls her age.

Tavi Gevinson started high school this fall. She also runs a fashion blog, StyleRookie, that gets a million and a half hits a month. I ask her what it’s like, as a semi-professional fashion critic, to walk the halls observing her schoolmates and their various fashion senses. Tavi says she knows girls in sweatpants aren’t trying to make a statement. “I think it would be sort of ridiculous if I was like, ‘Well, this person is really nice, but their t-shirt really puts me off.’”

StyleRookie stays fresh through multitudinous fashion seasons thanks to Tavi’s wry and frank writing. (One post features Tavi modeling freshly dyed blue hair. Her caption: “I was told I look like an Oompa Loompa during lunch and it made my day increasingly better.”) When I ask if her blogging style came naturally, she says, “It definitely took a while, I’m still working on that.”

Over the course of our conversation, Tavi reminds me of this a lot. She recently styled a shoot for BlackBook and was a guest blogger on Jezebel. She’s written for Harper’s Bazaar, she was recently profiled in The New Yorker, and she’s got 54,000 daily readers. But she’s 14, so fair enough -- she’s still working on it.

In June, Tavi gave a presentation at Toronto’s IdeaCity and focused her talk on Sassy, the now-defunct cult teen magazine that Tavi describes as “the best thing ever.” Launched in 1988, it had a lot going for it -- honesty, humor, covers featuring stories like “Smells Like Prom Spirit.”  But Tavi argues that its greatest legacy is feminism.

Too many girls of her generation, she says, shy away from identifying themselves as feminists for fear of association with negative stereotypes. But, explained Tavi at IdeaCity, “You’re doing something just by identifying yourself as [a feminist] because you’re changing the stereotype. You’re showing that a bunch of different people can be one.”

She says, “I have a lot of friends who are feminists but they don’t know it,” and she quotes the ever-vexing starter, “‘I’m not a feminist, but, dot dot dot.’ That’s a bummer, but they’re familiar with the stereotype more than they are the actual word…that’s why I excuse the initial wrong impression.” She goes on, “the really ironic thing is that, at school there are a lot of liberals, but they buy into that [feminist] stereotype and as a result can be demeaning. And I’m like, ‘Rush Limbaugh and other horrible people like him, who you don’t like, are the people who propagated those ideas.’”

She’s planning her own zine -- its first issue is not yet complete -- to be called Joey Ramona Quimby: “like Joey Ramone and Ramona Quimby [of Beverly Cleary’s Ramona series].” A sample of prospective content: “I took looks from the Fall 2010 season that reminded me especially of Kathleen Hanna and Courtney Love and Kim Gordon [of Sonic Youth], and I drew them wearing the respective outfits.” I ask her what she hopes her future girl reader will take from JRQ. “I hope she likes it. I hope it inspires her to make her own zine.”

Kathleen Hanna is an idol of the 90s Riot Grrrl movement and leader of Bikini Kill (the name of both Hanna’s underground zine and her band). She’s a hero of Tavi’s, and now a friend. When I ask Tavi about Hanna, she seems to get tripped up trying to express herself. “I don’t even really know how to explain it, I felt like -- I mean, it’s just, such like -- I just started high school, and the more that it goes on, the more I find the need to, like, really listen to her music.”

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