Tavi Rorschach Test

A reader asked me to explain why I don’t like Tavi, and while thinking this over I wondered: Is it okay to not like her? By “okay” I mean, politically acceptable, if not politically correct.

I just don’t like her! Sue me!

Trying to examine the dislike is akin to examining why I don’t like cream cheese.   It’s an immediate reaction, a matter of taste. Does it have to go deeper, I’m wondering? Is it so weird to not like a precocious little teenager that it calls for analysis?

I once took issue with her over the notion that she should identify herself as being on the autistic spectrum. That didn’t go over very well. I don’t even agree with myself at this point. People are free to self-identify or not, as gay, autistic, bi-polar, what have you. I’m past giving a shit. Sorry! to everyone who took offense.

Here’s an idea:

I will use this photo to illustrate my opinion, Taviwise. She is a kid who finds herself   ironic. Her discussions of her schoolday strike me as full of self-irony disguised as faux innocence. Her stance of “Who me? I’m just a kid!” is contradicted by hiring a very effective publicist to put her in front of our eyes on an almost daily basis. She approaches these people to be part of their projects. She’s a brand seeking brand recognition.

In this photo, she was asked to model the Ralph Lauren breast cancer awareness shirt, and she chose to style it with the famous ribbon hat, nudge nudge, that bothered some fashion editor. She’s too young to reference herself, but she’s doing it anyway. It’s irritating.

I don’t even get why grown ups are supposed to want a kid telling them about fashion or anything else. If your all-time favorite TV show is “Daria,” and your all-time favorite magazine is “Sassy,” you need to stay in school and gain some perspective! Or get a show on Nikelodeon!

Remember when she turned down an invitation to be on Oprah, “because that’s just not a crowd whose eyes I want on me?” Oprah is just too pedestrian. Screw Oprah. Oprah wouldn’t get it like Rad Hourani or the Rodarte girls.

Is this a good enough explanation or am I just a big mean horrible old wrinkly meanie?

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96 Responses to Tavi Rorschach Test

  1. Cricket9 says:

    Yes, the “hating on” doesn’t want to go away – and I really truly hate it. As for Tavi – I think “mostly harmless”.

  2. damaia says:

    “But I have news for you: It’s much harder to be an adult without grown ups to blame everything on.”

    Not at all- when you’re an adult you can go see a therapist and blame your childhood for everything!

    I kid, I kid. …well, mostly. My 53-year-old father is still obsessed with somehow getting revenge on his long-dead 4th grade teacher for being tough on him and making him behave. My 52-year-old mother blames an abusive father for how she turned out in life. I don’t think grown-ups to blame everything on ever really go away.

  3. Lezzies says:

    @Natalie / Fashion Intel : As I wrote in my post, the feminism I follow is one that sees all oppressions as connected, which include class oppression. Feminism for me is not only understanding oppression against women, but also not oppressing people in other ways (class, race, sexuality, etc.) I hate white, middle to upper class, heerosexual women yelling about feminism and then going about doing equally horrible shit to other people.

    So yeah, tavi feels all the weight of oppression of being a woman, and yet…she feels none of that when she tromps around in her thousand dollar shoes.

  4. dust says:

    I try to look at Tavi as in what she is and what she does, not at what “obsessed” media is making out of her, and I must say, she’s doing fine. 14 or 84, age doesn’t matter and it’s not good to use it as a reason for disrespect. I also don’t give a shit that what she wears doesn’t make her tits bigger or legs longer, at least somebody out there is free from that sort of a struggle. Tavi can stay and grow and become whatever she wants to become, I’m happy to observe, if I agree or disagree with her ways, I’ll just comment on her blog.

  5. Cricket9 says:

    Lezzies, not to be picky, but do you also hate lower class white heterosexual women yelling about feminism and then going about doing equally horrible stuff to other people? If not, it seems somewhat unfair…

  6. Sister Wolf says:

    What the hell?? I just woke up and found that people are getting all snippy with each other! Let’s not be silly! We all like having discussions and being opinionated, that’s why we’re here!

  7. Sister Wolf says:

    Hortense – Come on. You know there’s more than hate here. There is plenty of love. Also art, philosophy, beauty, grief,, joy, and hideous shoes. I think I must have inadvertently hurt your feelings and I hope you’ll accept my apology. xo

    kiks – I love “giant androgynous waifs.”

    E – Well, yeah.

    damaia – Shit. That’s true, too. I guess I meant that from the perspective of a grown up looking back and being unable to unfuck up things. Such a powerless feeling for me.

    dust – Yep, she does seem to be doing more than fine.

    Lezzies – Would you like to write a guest post about feminism? I’d like to somehow provide a forum for both you and Fashion Intel to explore the subject and then let people comment/question/debate.

    Cricket9 – We must figure out a way to stop the “hating on.” What if we were to start saying “liking on”….would that work??

  8. Cricket9 says:

    I’m massively liking on you, SW!!!

  9. Desiree says:

    I want a Tavi as a pet. A wind-up one.

  10. Sheri says:

    I worry about her — I fear that she is so busy constructing a persona she’ll fail to develop a personality.

    Guess only time will tell. . .

  11. beige says:

    When I dressed like that as a teenager people thought I had some sort of mental problem.

  12. Lezzies says:

    Haha, what have I gotten myself into? I didn’t mean to offend (much).

    The issue around feminism is that it is not one monolithic thing, so then we get all uptight about how our definition is the right one…

    However, I would totally contribute to that debate. I would title my guest post “Why feminism and fashion don’t mix”.

  13. Nickie Frye says:

    At least she doesn’t dress immodestly. I happened on a blog the other day where the blogger was wearing nothing but a cropped shirt & underwear. WOOF! I definitely prefer the gray hair & wacky clothes.

    Also, maybe it’s good she’s so into fashion. There are a lot worse things to be into when you’re a teen, believe me. I hope my children find something they are passionate about as they grow up. Most kids these days are pretty lazy.

    I dunno. Maybe she’s not so bad after all. At least she’s not a lazy slut. Oops! haha! Just saying. 🙂

  14. erika says:

    I can see why you could easily find it annoying. It’s weird to have girls who are young enough to be my daughters go on and on about things that were popular when I was their age. Then again, my favorite band is Led Zeppelin so I guess it all makes sense.

    The appeal, people love youth culture and exploiting it for their own means. She is very very young. She will be dropped soon for a kindergartener.

  15. Jacqui says:

    This is how I feel about the Tavi phenom, and by that I mean the image presented to the world via her blog, and not the actual girl (there must be some distinction? I don’t know…I don’t have a blog.)

    Yes, she is absolutely a product of a point and click industry that loves a wunderkind and also loves the Next Big Thing, until they don’t love them anymore. Sure, people overstate her writing ability if they are comparing her to people far older and far more experienced. But there’s a reason, and the underlying issue is the part that scares me. As a writing instructor that has been fortunate enough to teach writing at a second tier, ritzy university, I can safely say that, flawed as it may be, Tavi’s prose level is far and beyond what people of her generation and a bit older are producing on the whole. If Tavi was writing in the 50’s, she’d be considered a writer of fine prose style, respectable but not exemplary. Today, anyone that can write a well-formed sentence and then manage to add stylistic flourishes here and there (and she does) is considered an above average writer, because the baseline, even among the young educated, is so direly low. I say this as a member of that very generation, and so when I see Tavi, I see someone who has managed to invest some time in reading and in honing her writing skills…which is sadly more than I can say for most college students. For most of corporate America, too.

    That AND she makes sentences that don’t end in that false question marks…when I was thirteen, half of my opinions sounded like questions because I didn’t have the balls to stand behind them with the kind of certainty it requires to commit them to the internet. She will regret some maybe, but I don’t think she’ll regret the balls. Do I want to dress like her? Nope. Do I want her to autograph my childhood barerttes? Certainly not. But I do hope against hope that her young readers don’t just write her off as anomaly genius and instead invest some time into their own writing skills. Diatribe complete.

  16. Marl says:

    No particular thoughts on Tavi as I don’t read her blog – but lots of interesting comments here.

    I’d love to read Lezzies’ guest post on feminism and fashion, though!

  17. Constance says:

    @jJacqui – The problem is, what she has to say is a reflexion of her years, the fact that is well written does not make her opinions more valuable or interesting,
    Taking the opinions of a 14 year old at face value is totally wrong, giving a 14 year a podium to speak about subjects she’s too young to understand is wrong.
    But it’s not her fault, the older people that buy into her discourse are the ones to blame.

  18. BethUK says:

    All teenagers construct shell personalities (I know that sounds weird but bare with me). These protect the burgeoning child/adult within. The one that is actually a bit scared of being rejected/laughed at and of all the other stuff that makes being a teenager suck. I know I had my shell and it was agonisingly self-aware, utterly ironic and frequently laughable.

    I don’t dislike Tavi but I don’t often read her blog. What does bother me is this faint sensation that she is being used by people. She’s becoming a commodity and that isn’t right.

  19. BethUK says:

    Bare with me/bear with me. I don’t know which seems less wrong anymore.

  20. ellio100 says:

    I think it’ll suck to be her in a few years. Her gimmick will have expired before she’s turned 16 and fashion being fashion, it’ll probably move on.

    As an industry fashion can be pretty creepy around teenage girls, so it’s nice to hear from one who isn’t photographed half-naked and who writes her own words. Yep, she’s 14 so those words aren’t going to be great just yet. (Thank god I couldn’t blog at that age.)

    It’s the award-givers and posers and people that invite her places and send her shit that piss me off — for a start it’d be easier to ignore her if they didn’t bother. It just seems a bit weird to tout her round like a gimmick/pet/purse and I can’t imagine feeling very comfortable being used like that. But everyone’s different I guess.

  21. the real andrea says:

    After reading all these comments, I had to comment again. As a mother of a child who was asked to model at a young age, I made the decision not to let her because I wanted her to experience her childhood as a normal kid, doing the things that “normal kids” do. As it stands now, because of an illness during her teen years, she ended up missing out on much of what teenagers do, and she feels bad about it. Unfortunately, you can’t go back and have those experiences later. If you miss out on them, you miss out on them. I suppose then, that some of this is her parents’ fault for letting her go to fashion week, speak at conferences, travel to Tokyo to be the guest of honor of Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons, become a Glamout woman of the year, etc, etc. At her age, 13 or 14, they are in control and they are letting her do all of these things (and accompanying her to all these things). I think that she is an intelligent girl, and she should stay in school, go to college, and then when she is done with her education, take on the world. If she’s good, she will be even better then.

  22. Katharine says:

    She’s just young. I get young, awkward, overly intelligent – which means easy to dislike. But I have the impression that her parents are doing their best to allow her to have these crazy experiences while still protecting her as well as they can from being chewed up – for which I congratulate them. Honestly, I’d include the publicist in that. Like it or not, her little obsession has evolved into something internationally known in fashion circles, and either they’ve got to take her right out of it (which at her age could only lead to resentment and possibly stupid rebellion) or give her some tools to deal with it.

    I wouldn’t say I like her, exactly – but I wouldn’t like myself, at that age, if I met myself, and I was similarly overbright and weirdly obsessive, albeit with different things. I don’t think she’s as interesting as a lot of the internet thinks she is – but who knows what she’ll do with all this, once she grows up? That’ll be the real test. She’s getting chances to live that few kids ever do, and for her, I’d say that’s miles more important than learning to be a cog at school.

    But there’s no reason everyone has to like her, or that jealousy of the opportunities she’s being given, through mostly luck and being in the right place at the right time, isn’t misplaced. But there it is. Life is unfair, and eventually she’ll learn that too. Or not. Some people never have to, and that’s as unfair as anything else.

  23. len says:

    I think you are over analyzing a few things. Maybe she wore the pink bow hat to reference a pink ribbon for breast cancer awareness.

  24. TheShoeGirl says:

    I’m with Natalie… what does wearing Miu Miu have to do with feminism?? Miuccia Prada seems like a pretty awesome female role model to me.

    Then again, I would never call myself a feminist. Maybe more of an anti-feminist since I design torture devices (aka high heels) for women and on top of that I can’t wait to pop out babies and slow down my career to do so. I also plan on spending a lot of time in the kitchen cooking and baking for my husband and said children.


  25. anqui says:

    I feel many people, myself included, might dislike or get a weird vibe from Tavi because she is that kind of precocious, a little obnoxious (pre) teen know it all. And because the hype surrounding this kid fashion prodigy- she hired a publicist!, she’s buddies with designers!, considers Oprah too plebeian!- is getting really tiresome.
    However, after having been around teenagers lately I feel she might be a good influence- at least style wise. Last year, I had a huge fight with a friend who bought her teen god-daughter a T-shirt printed with Paris Hilton’s ugly face. Other teens I know want to be sexy like the girls on the Jersey Shore or if they’re a bit more style savvy like the ones on the Hills. (Say whatever you want, at least I find the JS guidettes far more entertaining.)
    Tavi is well read, always seeming to try and improve her writting and knowledge and feminist or not -give her time, she is only 13, I think- I bet a magazine co-edited by her would be a huge influence on many teen girls. If it will only help make some “weird” dressing girl feel less of an outcast or others take up new hobbies, then this re-surrected Sassy would be a win. And precocious or not, Tavi is a teen and knows what teens want. After the years I’ve spent working in media I can at least tell that the big media bosses: editors, managers etc. usually have no idea what the youth demographic wants or needs.

  26. tartandtreacly says:

    When I was young, I was in the Young Communist League. Gorky was my favourite writer and my favourite pastime was lecturing friends on the bankruptcy of of Western culture. In senior year, a like-minded friend and I got in trouble for holding up a Soviet flag in our graduating class photo. When the same friend ran for school president, the campaign tagline we came up with was “Welcome to Flavour Country” over an altered poster of Che.

    I was SUCH an ass. My interests and affectations were no less carefully-cultivated than Tavi’s, but infinitely more annoying and offensive. So yes, I give Tavi a pass, because kids like to try on identities, and as identities go hers may be a little precious and twee, but it ain’t so bad.

    It’s depressing how commercialized her childhood and youth has become, but that’s the curse of the times. I don’t blame her for hiring a publicist and trying to maximize her opportunities – I mean, from a kid’s perspective, she must be living the dream life, eh? Hopefully she’ll remain clear-eyed about her future.

  27. tartandtreacly says:

    P.S. I’m not saying she’s the last word in fashion (I don’t think much of her style) or god forbid, les belles-lettres, but let’s not forget that wunderkinds have existed in a variety of fields and age means nothing.

  28. Aja says:

    The Shoe Girl, being a feminist simply means that you believe that females should have the same rights as males (which is something a lot of females still deal with . . . example, making less money in certain occupations). How pissed would you be if you made less money than a male shoe designer simply because he’s a male and you’re a female? That is still going on in a lot of work places and it’s really quite shameful. It has nothing to do with your life desires to have babies and what not. I want to do that stuff too (baking, not-so-much), but that doesn’t make me less of a feminist for it.

  29. HelOnWheels says:

    @tartandtreacly – LMAO!! Where were you mot of my teen life, when I was being spit on and told to go back to Russia for being an immigrant from the USSR??!!

  30. mimi says:

    anyone who says feminists can’t wear miu miu shoes (@Lezzies im looking at you) is missing the whole point of feminism. please dont give feminists the bad stereotype of being unshaven, dont care about fashion, manhater.

    whatevs. i like tavi. wouldn’t be friends with her but i like she’s a little go getter. too many self-absorbed teens out there today.

  31. Sister Wolf says:

    I just had an epiphany. I wouldn’t like her if she were 30. I don’t like her aesthetic or her writing, unless I need to like it “for a 14 yr old.”

    Has anyone out there read Neon Bible by John Kennedy Toole (Confederacy of Dunces?) he wrote it at age 16 but it wasn’t published until after he died. Brilliant writing, brilliant observations, and you don’t have to make allowances for age.

    len – Hahahaha, that’s an analysis that escaped me.

  32. Jacqui says:

    @ Constance- Completely agreed that it would be dangerous and silly to take the opinions of ANYONE face value, regardless of age. I’m not so much commenting on her content but on her command of English and her confidence, which are both, in my opinion, commendable albeit mostly in contrast to the norm. I’m all about people having any podium they like to speak…granted, she may be too young to understand the full baggage of being an internet personality, but I don’t wish to assume that or condescend to her…it’s her choice, she’ll live with it and it’s her parents’ responsibility to promote discretion.

    I realize a lot of impressionable young people may read her blog and take her opinions as bible, but young people (older ones, too) do that with everything (music, magazines, Glenn Beck, blah blah) so if Tavi is really their biggest influence, worst case scenario they will start listening to too much Hole, read some Murakami, dye their hair lavender, and ask their poor parents to buy them Miu Miu shoes and Pop subscriptions (to which said parents will respond “no”). None of this is to disagree with you, more to clarify my point about why she doesn’t bother me, and why I sporadically check her blog. She’s harmless, and I hope, as I’d hope for any kind person, that she’s able to use this as a stepping stone, and that she doesn’t get lost in the fickle shuffle of the fashion world.

  33. Are Tavi and Beth Ditto the same person? (I loathe Beth Ditto, btw)
    Tavi, however, I find strangely fascinating. I wonder what she’s like REALLY, if she really is like this or if she shows the savvy needed to know that kook sells. Either way, I marvel at her. And wonder if she’ll become the new A D R. I hope not. I’m too exhausted for that.
    And total respect to her for turning down the chance to be on Oprah. Just proves how awesomely cool she is that she doesn’t need Oprah. And I’m not joking. I love how much fun the kid is having.

  34. annemarie says:

    jesus, i’m a bit late coming to this BUT…

    1) As a writer, Tavi is a natural. There are a huge amount of mediocrities who have blogs because they wish to foreground their writing, and some of these people have come here to proffer their two cents on Tavi’s lack of talent. I would call that ironic if I didn’t know that that was an incorrect use of the word ironic.

    2) Aside from being very bright, which is not her fault, I don’t think Tavi ever postures as anything other than a normal teenager. It makes sense that her favorite magazine is Sassy and not Harpers.

    3) Do I want her telling me about fashion? No! But I don’t really want anyone to tell me about fashion because fashion doesn’t count as information or knowledge. It’s just entertainment, with a leaning towards art. That’s all. Yeah, a 14 yr old can certainly tell me about that if they want. I don’t care.

    4) Yeah, your explanation for not liking her is good. You don’t have to like her. She’s on the bloody internet so she should grow a thick fucking skin. Anyway, surely this is nothing compared to the travails of high-school.

  35. tartandtreacly says:

    @HelonWheels: I see your Red Menace and raise you a Yellow Peril. I’m assuming you didn’t spend your teenage years in Canada. Toronto loves its lefties! (Or rather, it used to.)

    On Miu-Mius/Class Conflict XVVIII: That’s a pretty old-school definition of feminism. Like, from back when the word “intersectionality” was but a twinkle in a black/Third World feminist’s eye. I feel young women have a hard enough time identifying as feminist as is without having to worry about trading in their couture for sackcloth. Also, does privilege just apply to fashion? What about education? The arts? And other class-markers? And what happens when the person wearing the Miu Mius is, say, a coal-miner’s daughter? Is she still a feminist? Or a traitor to the cause?

  36. Sister Wolf says:

    tartandtreacly – Will you also write a guest post re your thoughts on feminism?? You and Lezzies have such strong and articulate opinions on this topic.

  37. Jaimi says:

    I don’t dislike her. I like bright kids. But I do find it strange how nostalgic she is for stuff that was around when she was literally still in diapers Daria was a show I grew up with and the fact that she is basically my cartoon double was nice. Someone I could relate to! Of course, it was just a tv show. It’s strange how people cling to pop cultural references, like it really matters and really defines their identities. Tavi is 14 though. It’s rather discomfiting when 20 somethings continue to rave about how “Sassy changed my life!” How dull really. So what if they featured Ian Svenonious as a Cute Guy of the Month! It was probably ironically funny to him, but I wonder how many girls actually went out and listened to Nation of Ulysses after that.

    Sassy magazine was always kind of wanky, I thought, having been exposed to it a few years after it folded and receiving a subscription to Jane Magazine. Or at least that’s what I gleaned from Ghost World.

    But I feel like this generation is pretty nostalgic in general (I’m probably in the same generation as Tavi, being 9 years older than her). There’s this general apathy, ennui, and constant self-awareness imposed by things like Facebook and adults on the internet constantly whining about the good ol’ days. I think people are aware how bland a lot of the music and general cultural offerings right now are, but don’t seem to have any idea how to change that, and thus continue reblogging the same old 1960s photographs of pretty hippies, professing their love for Riot Grrl music, and Sassy Magazine. As if things we like define us rather than what we do.

  38. Isabel says:

    I honestly love Tavi & her blog. We share a similar aesthetic taste, plus she’s really funny. Of course, you’re not entitled to care but I would like to defend her. Especially the point you made about “she’s too young to reference herself.” She’s not referencing herself by wear the same hat twice! It just matched the pink of the pony logo really well, is pretty much it.

    Anyways, love your refreshing perspective as always but I had to pipe up.

  39. Felicity says:

    I enjoyed reading your thoughts here and I love your “cream cheese”analogy. I don’t like her either, but I can’t quite pin point exactly why. Part of it is that I get a really fake, manufactured vibe from her. She reminds me of Lonely Girl of youtube. She had a really popular video channel, then it was revealed that all of her videos were written and produced by Hollywood people.

  40. Rob K. says:

    I liked her, but then I was reading the Vanity Fair with Cher on the cover (no judgements, please) and Tavi was in a giant 10 page ad for AOL! What the FUCK. I can sort of understand shilling for designers and whatnot, but AOL? Her Oprah comments read as sort of disingenuous when she is in a fucking America Online print ad. I think your comments are pretty perceptive — at this point she’s a brand. Yeah, there’s a teenager behind it, but the brand is what you get. It’s creepy.

  41. Dru says:

    Felicity- A lot of people did think she was some kind of blogging version of JT Leroy at first, but she’s never sounded anything but, well, her age.

    Rob K- why would anyone judge you for reading a magazine with Cher on the cover? Cher is awesome. Also, an AOL ad? People can change their minds, but you’re right- she is turning herself into a brand, though it seems she is smart enough to know the difference between herself and it.

  42. inj says:

    i don’t get the idea of feminism really….all i can say is i can support girls being who they are for themselves and nothing else. but if you like fashion….for something other than impressing others, then…..arent the miu miu shoes part of feminism?

  43. inj says:

    lol damaia well said.

  44. petra says:

    There are children in our world blessed with a remarkable talent.
    Tavi does have a talent. She is a very smart young copycat.
    It will take a long time before she has developed her own style.
    The international well known fashion designers are craving for attention. And she is part of that craving…
    Thank you for you interesting view on Tavi……
    (again we are talking about her; and that is exactly what she wants…)

  45. Alana says:

    Nothing in her writing opens up a new thought pattern.
    If we were all as ironic as her i’m sure she would lose interest in that style fast. Or maybe she would simply compete to be most ironic by wearing a 20 foot tall pair of bunny ears.
    Her pictures are tolerable, her writing is stale.

  46. you know what it is!! black and yellow, haha just kidding but this is a really good blog. Keep up the nice writing. I was quite impressed!

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