The Future is Ms. is an ongoing series of news reports by young feminists. This post is made possible by a grant from SayItForward.org in support of teen journalists.
Em Oddesser, editor-in-chief of Teen Eye Magazine, began her editorial career at 14 when she created a Tumblr account. “I was getting bullied a lot in middle school,” Odesser, now 17, told Ms., “so it started off as posts saying ‘fake friends!’ and evolved into a fashion blog.” In due time, it became a full-fledged feminist magazine.
After Oddesser connected with fashion-inclined Tumblr user Zach Cannon on the platform, the two teens co-founded the magazine together, originally posting about the latest trends and covering events like New York Fashion Week. After Cannon’s departure two years ago, Odesser renovated the site’s content to be more feminist and politically bold. The magazine covered topics varying from cultural appropriation to Black Lives Matter to the Dakota Access Pipeline. Odesser also made sure the editorial staff was all women-identifying or non-binary.
The Riot Grrrl Movement of the 90s helped shape Teen Eye Magazine. Oddesser took a year to listen to only female-produced art and began bopping to bands like Bikini Kill and Bratmobile. Posters of the metal feminists who dominated this counter culture line her walls.
This month marks the five-year anniversary of The Punk Singer, a documentary about the face of the Riot Grrrl movement, former Bikini Kill lead singer Kathleen Hanna. Riot grrrls like Hanna self-produced diary-esque zines with explicitly anti-establishment themes; while these original zine makers took an anarchist approach to changing the status quo, teens who follow in their wake, like Odesser, produce content that provides an alternative platform to intentionally compete with major outlets.
“Most professional platforms talk about our generation, but don’t include us in it,” said Odesser. “We want to prove that teens can be just as analytical and creative and palliative and awe-inspiring as anyone else.” Teen Eye magazine has an international reach and covers art, culture and fashion, with all contributors being under 19 years old. The New York-based publication has been viewed over 850,000 times.
Janell Hobson, an associate professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies at the University at Albany, State University of New York, thinks initiatives like Teen Eye showcase how this generation of young women has been equipped with the right tools to make such transformative content. “We are definitely seeing a new movement,” said Hobson. “Young women have benefitted from being exposed to the language of feminism. They’re writing about 21st century concerns and then influencing the culture at large.”
Hobson’s words are reflected in teen publications across the country, including Forthwrite Magazine, an online publication prioritizing feminism-oriented content from a teen’s perspective. “If young women can see that their voices are valuable and that the world needs to hear them at this age,” co-editor-in-chief, Alexandra Miller, 17, said, “it’s only going to lead to a lifetime of them feeling like they are worthy.”
Forthwrite publishes news articles, opinion pieces and creative works. Pieces include “Let’s Get Rid of the Burn Book Already,” by co-editor-in-chief Jenna Browne, 18—a call to action encouraging young women not too see other women as competition, but as allies. The all-female editor trio, Allyson Roche, 17, Browne and Miller have spoken with CNN’s Dana Bash and Brooke Baldwin, asking career-focused questions on behalf of young girls looking to go into journalism. However, their publication also covers issues varying from the opioid crisis to ISIS involvement in the Philippines.
For many online teen-produced publications, international contributors add credibility to their work. Compared to the Riot Grrrl movement, where teens mailed each other their DIY booklets, these online zines take advantage of the Internet’s reach. Crybaby Zine, for example, publishes content by teen contributors from Israel, England, Canada and Pakistan. In a recent post on their blog, editor-in-chief Remi Riordan, 18, interviewed The Bleeding Knees Club, an indie rock band from Australia. The piece explored the concepts behind the band’s creative works and fleshed out the personalities of the members.
Riordan seeks to expose her audience to new ideas and encourages them to think differently. “I hope they learn something,” Riordan says of her readers. “At least in the print magazine our essays, a lot of the time, you can be educated through them.”
These new online publication stick to their roots when it comes to celebrating the voices of young women. Artistic freedom is key even for the journalistic themed magazines, including The Highly Independent, created in response to a school’s restrictive student newspaper environment.
“We don’t shame voices and we don’t censor voices,” said co-editor-in-chief Proof Schubert Reed, 15, about her New York-based publication. “We encourage teens to share their stories, and we don’t put people down for not having the greatest quality writing or for not being qualified enough or for not talking about the quote on quote ‘right thing.’”
In the spirit of Bikini Kill: When these teens write, we read “revolution.
The Future is Ms. is committed to amplifying the voices of young women everywhere. Share one of your own stories about your path to empowerment at SayItForward.org.