Hayley Van Allen '21
Queer Resources Columnist
The evening of November 7th, Scripps Presents held a conversation between editor, actress, writer, and fashion blogger Tavi Gevinson and novelist Jenny Zhang. The event was held in Garrison theater and open to students across the Claremont Consortium, as well as the surrounding community.
Gevinson is the founder of Rookie Mag, an online magazine created in 2011 for teen girls. Rookie publishes writing, photography, and other forms of artwork created by and for teenagers and young adults. Their pieces cover a wide variety of topics, from current fashion and pop culture to feminism and other social issues. In addition to serving as editor-in-chief for the publication, Gevinson has also acted in numerous plays on Broadway and voice-acted for a couple of animated shows. She is currently preparing for an anthology being published by Rookie in February of the coming year called Rookie on Love.
Gevinson and Zheng started the conversation talking about what it’s like to grow up in a time where everything online can be found again years later. The two referred to the phenomenon as “leaving a trail of your mistakes on the internet”. Despite feeling like she had said or done some embarrassing things that could be dug up from somewhere on the web, Gevinson managed to take a positive view of it. Although she prefers to avoid actively seeking out her old work, she still believes that it just doesn’t matter that it’s all still out there. She explained that because she doesn’t care what others were doing on the internet at age 12 or 13, she hoped that others also wouldn’t they care or judge her for what she was doing at that age. “No one learns anything from thinking I came out of the womb with a complex understanding of systematic oppression,” Gevinson said. She doesn’t mind that she’s made mistakes in the past because, according to her, mistakes are better for learning than success is.
As the conversation continued, the topic shifted to how Gevinson viewed herself in relation to politics and activism. Zheng asked Gevinson whether she considered herself to be a political person or activist. Gevinson responded that while she felt activist wasn’t the right label for her, she did consider herself to be a political person because when writing, there was no way to separate how you write from your moral biases, which are inherently tied to politics. She went on to explain that she couldn’t call herself an activist because activism required a taking a risk. There is no risk when speaking on contemporary issues if you are protected by your class and your status as a celebrity, so there was no way for her to be an activist.
When the conversation came to an end, Gevinson answered a few questions from the audience. She elaborated on her own writing process, saying, “you’re writing to figure something out, or express something, or live in it.” Gevinson also spoke to how she stayed motivated to work on things when there were so many talented people in the world. She said that it was hard not to compare yourself to how good other people are, but at the same time, it was a source of inspiration. She joked about “channeling excessive rage into creativity” in order to overcome the fear of not being as good. After the talk, Gevinson spent time signing copies of the Rookie yearbook and speaking individually with audience members.