Tavi Gevinson's BookCon 2015 Panel Was All About Being Empowered, And Ignoring Critics Who Think She's An Old Man

To say that teenage girls love Tavi Gevinson is the understatement of the century: judging by the line of ecstatic teens waiting outside Rookie founder Gevinson's BookCon 2015 Panel, they worship her. And as the 19-year-old showed during the hourlong talk, an event called "Girls Online/Girls IRL: Young Women in the New Media" also featuring Sophia Rossi, Ruby Karp, and Jamia Wilson, it's for good reason; Gevinson is one of the wisest and boldest young voices around, even if not everyone saw it that way when she first started out.

“At first, my blog [Fashion Rookie] garnered attention because I was so young," Gevinson explained in the panel, adding that “people thought that my parents wrote it or that I was an old man."

Many of the critics, she continued, questioned why she was missing school, or were skeptical about her success, and had no qualms about vocalizing their concerns. Yet as Gevinson's fame grew over the years and Rookie's following increased, the complaints began to cease.

"I feel like by now, no one cares," she said, before adding with a laugh, "or they think I’m an old man.”

Today, she still encounters haters, usually in the form of eye-roll-worthy comments by usernames like "DisappointedDad," but says that they're far rarer than they used to be, and that people are aware that Rookie is primarily "a space for young women." When disagreements happen, they're respectful.

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And for the few people who do decide to spew criticism? Gevinson just ignores them.

"Who cares?" She said. "There’s not enough time. You can’t care.”

Later in the talk, Gevinson spoke about Rookie's founding, which came out of a realization that there weren't many good feminist sites aimed at teenagers, rather than adult women. Running it, plus starring on Broadway, covering fashion magazines, and doing everything else, has been a challenge — Gevinson spoke about her need to have time to herself, saying that "you need to get fuel and refresh and remember what it’s like to be a person, especially if you’re trying to make work about being a person" — but she's proud of all the site has achieved. Over the years, she's worked to make Rookie an inclusive space for young girls, where they can talk about love, heartbreak, family, friendships, and more, without judgment.

"It's commendable when people can put themselves out there," she said, adding that when she has trouble voicing her own opinions online, she reminds herself that the regret of not publishing always outweighs the slight discomfort of being honest.

And, she said jokingly, she's looking forward to being older "so everyone I want to write about will be dead."

Gevinson encouraged her fans to not be fearful of getting their work heard, as any doubt they might have about their skills is likely not based in reality. Young women, she said, are taught to feel that they're not worth as much as men, but this clearly isn't the case.

“You have nothing to lose, and we all want to hear from you,” she said.

Image: Getty Images