Interview: Tavi Gevinson

By Sophie Rae

Tavi is a fashion blogger (Style Rookie) and the founder and editor-in-chief of Rookie Magazine, an online magazine for teenage girls. She is also the editor of “Rookie Yearbook One,” the recently released print edition of Rookie Magazine, available here .

How did you first become interested in fashion and blogging?
My friend’s sister had a fashion blog and I admired her confidence and was bored of the stuff I liked and how I dressed, so she showed me links and magazines and I wanted to be a part of that community!

When did you become aware that your blog was successful? What did that feel like?
It was pretty scary at first, since in the beginning it kind of only existed in this vacuum of other people who were doing the same thing I did, and I wasn’t prepared to hear from people who didn’t understand it. In a way I still keep myself in that vacuum, though I read Rookie feedback since Rookie is not about me doing my own thing but about giving the readers what they want to see.

Why did you decide to start Rookie? How is Rookie different from your blog?
I started Rookie because I was becoming a teenager and I felt like there wasn’t anything happening right now that I related to, and I felt like the things that are are pretty static instead of a real conversation, and I knew from the comments when I wrote about this on my blog that other people felt the same way. My blog has always been a place for me to figure stuff out at my own pace, write about whatever intrigues me and just chronicle my changing interests. Rookie is different because it’s not only also about our staff, but also about our community and readers, and serves a purpose beyond my own bubble of interests.

Have your thoughts on fashion changed since you first started blogging?
My thoughts on fashion and style change pretty often, and blogging was a really nice way to document all that. I know that I’ve always believed fashion should be fun and a tool of self-expression and self-love instead of a stressor.

What’s been the greatest challenge of your career so far?
Balancing everything is still a challenge, but it’s worth it.

What’s been your favorite experience?
I can’t decide! I really cherished the L.A. leg of our Rookie Road Trip, making an installation that was just our dream world and sharing it for a week.

What was the Rookie road trip like?
Sensory overload the whole time. It was really special to meet so many of our readers and get to have a really amazing road trip experience with friends at the same time.

How did the Rookie yearbook come about? For those that haven’t seen it, what is it?
The Rookie Yearbook is a print version of the best of our content from our first school year in existence, from September 2011-May 2012. I always had it in the back of my head that I wanted to do a print component to Rookie, and since we’re for teens, yearbook-style made sense. One of our editors is friends with Chris Ware, and he put us in touch with Drawn & Quarterly, who became our publisher. We spent May-July compiling, editing, and designing the content. I narrowed down the content along with our editorial director Anaheed, commissioned original works from Rookie friends, and acted as art director.

What are your top 3 things right now? Books, movies, music, fashion stuff, whatever!
Solange’s new music video for “Losing You,” Chris Ware’s new book “Building Stories”, and “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.”

What’s next for you? What are you working on right now?
Right now we’ve been doing events to promote the yearbook and bring all our readers and staff together in New York and Chicago. Toronto and L.A. are coming up.


Casting the Vote for Inclusion, Advocacy, and Alliance

By Ruthie O via Sadie Magazine

A few years ago, my roommate told me about some article floating around in the gay community. This article suggested that Republicans who support same-sex marriage should be rewarded with a public showing of support. By voting for LGBT-friendly Republicans, other Republican candidates, hungry for more votes, would also begin to support same-sex marriage. You are reading this right: the article was calling upon the LGBT community to rise up and vote Republican for the sake of the LGBT community.

I am here to tell you that this logic is crap.

The flaw in this logic is how this article defined the LGBT community. The writer seemed to forget that the LGBT community consists of women who need access to domestic violence services, undocumented immigrants who deserve a path to citizenship, and transgender folks who, in most states, still need legal protection against employment and housing discrimination. If the LGBT community was only made up of white middle-class men with easy access to health insurance, then the argument may have been sound. But, in reality, the LGBT community is rich with diversity, and therefore, rich with diverse needs. Therefore, voting for a candidate who would vote for same-sex marriage, but who also supports the widespread deportation of undocumented immigrations would not actually be supporting the entire LGBT community.

My ranting and raving against this argument came down to one point: to truly advocate for justice, we cannot only advocate for our own individual special interests. Instead, we must acknowledge the pluralism of our communities and demand justice for all of our brothers and sisters.

This article has stayed with me over the years. I am an ally, not LGBT myself, but I have seen the same problematic liberation strategy manifest in my own community: the feminist community. Throughout the years, I have observed how mainstream movements tend to move towards easy—and often exclusive and narrow-sighted— solutions, rather than transformational justice. And this is especially true during election seasons.

Single-issue voters identity a self-serving political cause that drives their voting decisions. For the mainstream LGBT movement, the issue tends to be marriage equality. For mainstream feminist organizations, this issue is often abortion (and now, inconceivably, birth control access). Abortion seems like the quintessential women’s issue; after all, it literally is all about the vagina. And yet, if we look at abortion as simply an issue of vaginal autonomy, we miss a huge chunk of the complex web of power and oppression that surrounds reproductive justice. By simply framing abortion as a women’s issue, we ignore the leagues of transgender men who are directly impacted by anti-choice legislation. Same with people with disabilities, who fear that the rhetoric of the “justified abortion” will lead to the elimination of their very community.

My main point is this: voting for pro-choice candidates, regardless of their stance on other issues, may end up actually hurting members of our own community—the people who are most often brutally silenced and neglected by mainstream political discourse.

I am not writing this to promote for the Democrat party; this is not about supporting one party or another. The two-party system is heavily flawed, and both parties center on economic policies that are hurtful to the poor and people of color. No, this is about discovering our priorities and our alliances. After years of soul searching, I discovered that I needed more from a candidate than a pro-choice stance. Now, I want a candidate who opposes war, imperialism, inhumane immigration policy, tax cuts for the rich, and the corporate takeover of our social, economic, and environmental wellness. I want a candidate who supports fully funded public education at all levels, the DREAM Act, protection for abused, undocumented women, and funding for services for people with disabilities. I may be delusional, but I want it all.

Trickle-down liberation doesn’t work; it never has, it never will. Sometimes, that means I have to vote for an obscure third-party candidate. Sometimes it means I simply skip that part of the ballot. I will not sell out my undocumented students or my transgender friends so I can have access to birth control. I refuse to accept the premise that my issues are the most pressing political issues today. I am still not sure who I will vote for this November, but this I know for sure: I am not willing to sacrifice the diverse and dynamic community I love for the sake of political expediency.


Women at the Western Wall

By Sophie Rae

This summer, I spent 5 weeks in Israel with the Bronfman Youth Fellowship, studying and traveling with 25 other Jewish American teenagers. I learned about many aspects of Judaism and Israeli society and politics, from Jewish philosophy to the African refugees in South Tel Aviv. One topic that was especially interesting to me was the issue of gender inequality in Israel, an issue that pervades many aspects of Israeli society and takes many different forms. While Israel is primarily a secular country, Jewish practice is overseen by the Ministry of Religious Services, which is currently controlled by Ultra-Orthodox (also called Haredim), rabbis. The fast-growing Haredi population makes up approximately 10% of Jews in Israel and typically do not accept the more progressive forms of Judaism that are more common in America, like Reform and Conservative Judaism.

I first became aware of gender inequality in Israel when we visited the Western Wall (Kotel) in the Old City of Jerusalem—the last remnant of the 2nd Temple. Arguably the most sacred Jewish site in the world, the Wall has been a site for Jewish prayer and pilgrimage for centuries. Today, the Wall is controlled by the Ultra-Orthodox.

Since 1967, there have been two sections, one for women and one for men. It is common practice in Orthodox places of prayer to have separate sections for women and men with a divider called a mehitza. But at the Wall, unlike at many more progressive Orthodox prayer sites, the women’s section is significantly smaller than the men’s section. While men praying at the Wall have plenty of room on either side of them, many women have to wait about five minutes to find a space at the Wall. When I asked a Haredi rabbi why the women’s side was smaller, he said it was because women go to the Wall less. But from the picture below and from my experience there, it was fairly obvious that there were just as many women as men there, maybe more.

Perhaps more problematic than the size of the women’s section, are the restrictions placed on women praying at the Wall. Reflecting Orthodox practice (which legally dictates what is permitted at the Wall) women are neither allowed to read from Torah, nor are they allowed to wear a prayer shawl (talit). They are also not allowed to pray aloud as a group (though the police have never arrested them for this). Unfortunately, these limitations do not acknowledge that many Jewish women who come to pray at the Wall come from other Jewish traditions in which women reading Torah or wearing prayer shawls is accepted. An organization called Women of the Wall, which began in 1989, is working to make the Wall more egalitarian by, according to their mission statement, “achieve the social and legal recognition of our right, as women, to wear prayer shawls, pray, and read from the Torah collectively and out loud at the Western Wall.” The organization holds monthly prayer services on the women’s side at the Wall; unfortunately, these women often incur very negative and threatening reactions from others at the Wall. When I went with my group to a Women of the Wall service, for example, a man shouted over the mehitza that the women praying in the service were worse than the Amalekites, a biblical enemy of the Jews– that they were the people that Jews were obligated to kill.

The threat that these women face is not limited to angry voices from other side of the fence; often, women who take part in these prayer services are arrested for wearing prayer shawls or singing too loudly. According to Vanessa Ochs, one of the directors of the International Committee for Women of the Wall, “The police are there to keep the women safe by keeping an eye on those who choose to cry out hatefully as the women pray. But the police are also the ones who decide if and when the women will be harassed and arrested.”

Just two weeks ago, four women were arrested at the Wall for wearing prayer shawls at a Women of the Wall service. Having attended a Women of the Wall service myself, I was very troubled by this news. The women who pray at the Wall are not disrupting anyone—standing at the back of the women’s section of the Wall, they sing quietly and respectfully, their voices drowned out by the singing of the men on the other side. They take their prayer shawls off when the police ask them to. They no longer read from the Torah. All they are doing is what is asked of them by their religion: to pray. The Wall is considered to be the holiest site for Jews and is thought of as a place to connect to the history of the Jewish people and to God. But in this place, women are silenced. As I stood at the Wall, watching a woman tie her talit into a scarf at a policeman’s request, I wondered how a place so unequal could ever be truly holy. How a person could ever really feel the presence of God in a place that discriminates against half the people in the world. Now, back at home in Brooklyn, I still don’t have an answer.


Zines: A History Lesson

By Alanna Why

Now that you are a bona fide zinester, let’s take a look at how zines originally started and developed. Fanzines are most commonly thought to have started in the 1930s with an early emphasis on science fiction. What most people generally recognize as the first zine, The Comet, was quickly followed by other publications devoted to similar material such as Time Traveler and Science Fiction. Zines like Scienti-Comics, a twenty page science fiction comic, followed in the 1940s, while underground newspapers like New York City’s Rat and Vancouver’s The Georgia Straight rose to popularity at the height of 1960s counterculture. Zines, however, really exploded during punk’s initial blast at the end of the 1970s. The punk aesthetic and ethos was crucial to the development of zines. Inspired by punk’s DIY philosophy, many realized that if they had something to say they could just write it down, photocopy it, and get their message out there. Some influential punk zines include the UK’s Sniffin’ Glue, Michigan’s Touch & Go, Los Angeles’ Slash and San Francisco’s Maxiumumrocknroll, which continues to be published today (they are currently at issue #352, an impressive feat considering most fanzines stop after issue #1!)

In the 1980s something new developed in the world of indie publishing: zines that were devoted
solely to reviewing other zines. Factsheet Five was one of the pioneers in terms of review zines and proved to be a great resource for zinesters in an age where the internet was just a dream (there are still several zines like this today, check out Zine World or Xerography Debt). Throughout the decade,
zines were given away for free, to friends, traded with fellow zinesters and pen-pals through the mail or sold at independent shops. Zines exploded for a second time in conjunction with the greatest by-product of the 90s: Riot Grrrl. Riot Grrrl gave women a voice for their frustration, confusion and alienation in the male-dominated landscape of the zine and punk rock worlds. Several prominent women of the Riot Grrrl era made zines, including Toby Vail (Jigsaw), Allison Wolfe and Molly Neuman (Girl Germs) and Kathleen Hanna (Bikini Kill, April Fools Day). Moreover, major contemporary feminist publications like Bust and Bitch originally both started out in zine form during the 1990s.

Zines, however, have seen a decline with the rise of the internet. For most people, it simply isn’t
worth it to spend hours handwriting, photocopying, stapling and folding a zine that might only reach thirty people when they can simply blog about it for free to a potential audience of millions. Moreover, trading zines with pen-pals has virtually become non-existent due to the death of the mail system and letters as a whole.

But not all hope is lost! The zine community still continues to thrive in the modern world, just in a
different way. There are still zine fairs, zine libraries and zinesters all around the world continuing to
contribute to indie culture. For example, Canzine, the largest zine event in Canada, features over 200
zine makers and countless workshops at its celebration of independent publishing each year.
Moreover, The New York State Library has a collection of over 10,000 zines. And lastly, We Make Zines, an online forum for zinesters, is a good example of how the internet can help the zine community. So keep calm everyone, support indie culture and read zines. Whether it’s the latest issue of Doris or a copy of Kurt Cobain Was Lactose Intolerant, there really is a zine for each and everyone.

Alanna is 17 years old and lives in Ottawa, Canada. She makes the zines “Puker Nation”, “Backwaves” and “Scoopin’ Times”.


The Affordable Care Act: Why All the Ladies Are High-Fiving

I know this is old news by now, but I think this is a really great article and wanted to share it all with you all anyway! –Sophie 

By Julia Gazdag via Hello Giggles (published on August 7th)

So what’s the big deal about this new part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), aside from proving, once again, that some conservatives can’t handle big-science words like “menstruation” being uttered on the Senate floor? Well, for one thing, it acknowledges that women have actual health-care needs. More importantly, it does something about it in a very real, useful way. After all, for most of medical history, “the body” was actually just the male body, so things like ovaries and breasts and uteri weren’t really paid attention to all that much. For anyone appalled by the language in that previous sentence, I would just like to say: ovariessssssssssssssssss.

You would think that since women are the ones who make babies, the bodies and organs with which they make this happen would be valued enough to be cared for and not, I don’t know, stifled with all sorts of legislation. I don’t know if you’ve ever applied for individual health insurance, but just having that second X chromosome jacks up rates. If you’re planning on having children anytime soon, that’ll cost you an extra arm, leg, and firstborn child unless you can guess Rumplestiltskin’s name. Your ovaries are just too darn expensive!

Finally, last week, some sense was introduced into the system via the ACA, when its women’s health coverage bits kicked in. For 47 million women this means they can afford regular maintenance of their lady parts without going into debt and stressing over medical bills endlessly. Suddenly, a mammogram is not the Marc Jacobs bag of cancer prevention!

If you’re like me, you like lists. Here’s one with all 8 (EIGHT!) new prevention-related services that the ACA has handed women, that were problematic at best to come by for a giant chunk of  American ladies:

  •     Well-woman visits.
  •     Gestational diabetes screening that helps protect pregnant women from one of the most serious pregnancy-related diseases.
  •     Domestic and interpersonal violence screening and counseling.
  •     FDA-approved contraceptive methods, and contraceptive education and counseling.
  •     Breastfeeding support, supplies, and counseling.
  •     HPV DNA testing, for women 30 or older.
  •     Sexually transmitted infections counseling for sexually-active women.
  •     HIV screening and counseling for sexually-active women.

Of course, religious institutions may not be comfortable with covering all of these services (like contraception-related anything), and they are exempt. I’m going to put away my own thoughts of judeo-christianity’s manifestation in this country and its attitude towards women and sex, and just acknowledge how open-minded and respectful it is of the ACA to purposefully stay out of religion’s business. This, of course, makes those fighting to make any of these services harder to obtain for women just look kind of silly. And by silly, I mean monumental jerks.

These services are vital for women. They protect us, our potential children, and enable us to be stronger and therefore contribute to society better. The biggest issue, of course, is contraception, because it always is. As religious institutions and houses of worship are exempt, however, hopefully we can move on to bigger and more relevant topics, such as, I don’t know, job creation and public safety.

One last note, just because it’s a personal pet peeve: the birth control pill needs a new name, you guys. So many women use it for non-contraceptive purposes that such a misnomer is detrimental to all of us. It’s a hormone pill. It treats ovarian cysts (eep), endometriosis (having your period on the outside of your uterus, crazy-painful), irregular periods and intense PMS. I don’t mean intense PMS like eating a whole pint of Cookie Dough. I mean fetal in a corner for days with blinding headaches and vomiting, which some women have and I can’t even imagine doing once, let alone every month.

Aside from the enormous amount of financial ease the ACA has just given women by making access to standard health care available, it also makes a huge statement. Everything, from covering PAP-smear and gyno co-pays to domestic violence counseling is sending the message that women are being taken seriously. The conservative right has been wreaking havoc on our rights in the last few years especially, pushing for invasive and unnecessary tests and, in some states, legally prohibiting doctors from removing a stillborn fetus (because animals do it), thus endangering the mother’s life. I can’t even make this stuff up, you guys, the basis for that law was literally that if livestock can do it, so can women. I don’t know about you, but I am not f*cking livestock, how dare you?

With that kind of attitude, it is a gigantic statement of support that the ACA is paying attention to what women need and making sure they can access it. In a Congress where medical terms like “vagina” and “menstruation” are met with balking, outraged reactions from the right, it’s clear that medical, humane health coverage is closely tied in with archaic patriarchal ideas of gender roles, which, frankly, won’t help much when a PAP smear could save your life but the co-pay cost has to go to feeding your kids. It’s nice to see that at least part of our government is being managed by adults.


Ryan and Akin: Two Peas in a Pod

By Becka Wall

Guys, forget Todd Akin. Paul Ryan is the real horror story for American Women.

At first, when the entire “legitimate rape” faux-paux of the century fell out of Todd Akin’s mouth, I was thrilled. I think I clapped and danced with glee (for future reference – my happy dance looks like Gob’s chicken dance in Arrested Development).

Political parties aside, I was just excited that we were finally – FINALLY! – going to have a real, open national conversation about rape and rape exceptions. And for a moment, we did. Mainstream media outlets looked at how rape is discussed around the world, the language we use around rape, incest and abortion. We talked about it as a contraceptive option (even if I hate the idea of circumstantial legal abortion – how about, what business is it of yours how I became pregnant, hmm? WHATEVER). President Obama even came out and strongly said “rape is rape”.

We’re talking about it! We’re discussing sexual abuse and violence, contraception, abortion – and the conversation seems to be going our way! Plus, even just talking about it PERIOD is a good thing, right?

But as the news cycle moved on to the Hurricane and the GOP convention, something MAJOR was able to escape the attention of the biggest news outlets:

When attention was first called to Akin’s comments, Republican politicians went on the defensive – particularly the party’s Presidential ticket. Paul Ryan came out saying that “rape is rape” in the face of comparisons to him and Akin – but what nobody caught was that Ryan turned right back around a couple of days ago, saying that rape is “just another means of conception” and that the method of conception doesn’t change the definition of life, and basically admitting that if he were numero uno up on that ticket, he’d be criminalizing abortion left and right. Which you could try to write off, until you realize – he’s going to be a heartbeat away from the Presidency.

Ryan and Akin are two peas of the same pod – co-sponsoring the Sanctity of Human Life Act, which would give legal rights to fertilized eggs from the moment of conception, and Ryan supported the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which allows exceptions only for “forcible rape” – and that’s just the start of a laundry list of items designed to make it more difficult for me to get an abortion if I need one. How is it possible that this hasn’t gotten more media play!?

 

It’s great that we’ve started up a national conversation around rape, and called attention to the disgusting opinions a bunch of dudes in ties seem to have regarding my vagina and uterus. But it’s not enough to only pay attention and dig deep for a couple of days – we need to continually call attention to these things. Because if we don’t, sadly, the news cycle will simply move on and the topic will fade away.

 

Becka also writes for her own blog, Becka Tells All and is the creator of Couch Potatoes with a Cause

 

 


How To Make a Zine

By Alanna Why

Ever walk into a record store and find a bizarre pamphlet with collages, crazy anecdotes or insane comics? Congratulations! You found a zine (pronounced “zeen”).  Zines are usually photocopied mini-magazines or booklets made by whoever wants to make one. They tend to be either autobiographical in nature or devoted to some sort of passionate fandom.

Anyone with a pen, photocopier access and a little imagination can make a zine, including you. LET’S GET STARTED!

PART #1: Content

Now that you’ve decided to make a zine you need to decide what to write about. Is there a particular local band you admire? Call them up and interview them! Do you absolutely love the movie Ghost World? Write about it! Do you like to draw? Do some doodles and make a comic! With zines, the only limits are the ones you put on yourself. Write about absolutely anything and everything you want to. It doesn’t matter if it’s a little bit out there, in fact it’s probably better. Go ahead and express yourself.

PART #2: Format

You’ve got content; now you need to put it all together. Formatting is critical for zines and there are a lot of different ways to do them.  You can make a mini-zine, a quarter-size zine or even a zine without staples (see video below). Whatever size you choose to go with, make sure you leave wide-enough margins around each page. This makes sure that none of your content gets cut off by the photocopier (I had to learn this the hard way when I first started to make zines). You also need to decide some other crucial details. Do you want to type your text out on a computer or do you have an old working typewriter up in your attic that you could use? Another way of doing text is to hand write it. This adds a nice personal touch to your work. Whichever way you decide to write out your text make sure it’s legible! There’s no point in spending a lot of time writing great content if no one can read it. Also note what photocopies well and what doesn’t. Pencil marks and highlighters do not photocopy well, but india ink, markers and fine-tip pens all do. Experiment with different mediums (pastels, crayons, etc.) to find out what works and what you like visually.

PART #3: Making Copies

This is definitely the trickiest part of making zines. Ask around and see if you know anyone that would be able to make some photocopies for you. If not, you’ll have to pay for copies. Find a cheap copy shop, make a couple copies of your zine and go from there. Be nice to the staff. If you’re having problems with the copier (this WILL happen) or are unsure about anything, ask them to help you out. Don’t be embarrassed if you don’t know how to make double-sided copies.  It’s always better to ask for help than to fumble around on the photocopier wasting your time and your money. If you’re making a zine that needs to be stapled you’re probably going to need a long-arm stapler (the regular sized ones will be too little). Most copy shops have one and they will most likely let you use it if you ask nicely.

PART #4: Distribution

Yay! You’ve made your own zine! Bask in your creativity and then give them to all of your friends. You can also sell your zine at either a local craft/zine fair or punk flea market. A general rule for pricing goes like this: the amount it takes to photocopy it, either doubled or rounded to the nearest fifty cents. As well, a nice thing to do is to simply leave your zine in public places for people to find. Leave copies at the library, the dentist’s waiting room, a vintage store, a record shop or on the bus. Someone’s day will definitely be better when they read about how much you love Buffy The Vampire Slayer and what your top ten albums of the century are. Now go get started on issue #2!

Additional Resources:

Stolen Sharpie Revolution by Alex Wrekk – This is a great intro to making zines, filled with tons of handy tips for novices and zine pros alike. (http://www.stolensharpierevolution.org/)

Global Mail’s “How To Make A Zine”- An extremely comprehensive (and free) guide to making zines. (http://www.zinebook.com/resource/zinetips.html)

Whatcha Mean, What’s A Zine? by Esther Watson – A solid book filled with handy resources and advice from long-time zinesters. (http://www.amazon.com/Whatcha-Mean-Whats-Esther-Watson/dp/0618563156)

Alanna is 17 years old and lives in Ottawa, Canada. She makes the zines “Puker Nation”, “Backwaves” and “Scoopin’ Times”.