I've watched Rosianna's videos since the moment my mother gave up banning YouTube in our home, which, given my
ridiculously stubborn persistent nature, was fairly early on in my teenhood.
Rosianna is the creator of The Ladies Survey, a questionnaire that made the rounds online each year and encouraged female content creators to go deep on representation and harassment and their favorite fellow-creators, which shaped a lot of my Internet consumption throughout high school. She helped me figure out how to build my online home. It takes a special kind of person to show you the parts of the Internet that make it a place you like to be, and for me, Rosianna is definitely one of those people.
I wanted to start off, I'm not sure how long I've watched your videos. A long time. But for people who haven't, what is your job description?
I mean, it changes a lot. I would describe it as, YouTuber and then producing partner to John Green. The other side of that is like freelance creative consultant person. Freelancer.
You started out as John Green's assistant, right?
Yeah, I started out originally working two days a week for him and then I was like his second assistant. He had another assistant at the time, but I eventually took on an executive assistant role, a PA standing in for him in meetings and things. Then it grew to producing partner and then some other stuff within the company. I don't know, it changes a lot. It's great.
And then you eventually started The Ladies Survey, which invited female content creators to talk about life as a lady on YouTube, and the Internet at large. What made you decide to start that conversation?
The Ladies of YouTube survey started at a time when people weren't talking about that stuff as much. It's amazing to think of it now, because now you have so many amazing women doing wonderful things to advance women through YouTube and the internet. There was a time a few years ago when that conversation wasn't really in the forefront, or was happening in lots of whispers in corners. We weren't speaking up about the darker side of harassment and sexism online.
It was confusing. I was really struggling to find ways where I could effect some change. The only way that I felt like I could talk to people about it was through YouTube itself and trying find a way to have the conversation more broadly and include as many members of the community as possible.
It's so cool — I'm 19, so I grew up as YouTube grew up, and I can remember those pre-Rookie days when feminism wasn't something people really talked about online.
That's exactly what it was! It was pre-Rookie.
It was a very small corner of the Internet and I remember when the Ladies Survey would come up I'd be like, "Oh my gosh. I love this time of the year!" Now it's like that all year. It's wonderful.
It's really cool. I've been asked a lot, "When's the next one?" I kept meaning this summer and last summer to do one and the time ran out. The thing is, as much as I so want to and probably still will keep doing it, there isn't the same sort of urgency for it because those conversations are happening elsewhere and people are feeling powerful enough to make their own surveys or have that conversation other ways.
I can remember being younger and things like sexism and online harassment feeling very ineffable. Because I didn't have the words for them, I almost was like, "That's not really happening." Now that girls can talk bout it and say things about it through all these different platforms, it's so much easier to connect.
It makes me so happy. Vocabulary is a huge part of it. Being able to say there is a word for this way that I feel and also understanding where our language is insufficient and how much of it comes back to words that are male at the heart of it. All that sort of stuff. Girls age 12 and 13 understanding that is amazing. It makes me so happy.
You have this style of video where you capture little moments of your life and transform them into something really contemplative. You take a Taylor Swift concert and you globalize it and give it some broader context, and I wonder, did that come from you documenting your life? Or is it more like your life and your work online feed each other?
I think they feed each other a bit. I think that there is an element of that that must come from experiencing things with the knowledge that I'm going to share it. So much of that was just through years of watching YouTubers myself, especially the vlogbrothers.
I have also learned over the years to become a bit more outward facing and that it's probably also a confidence thing. It's learning that your experiences, while they are uniquely yours, can also kind of be universal in a lot of ways. What you're saying isn't irrelevant just because you think it might only happen to you.
Even if I know that all these other people are excited about something like Taylor Swift, I'll think, "Is there something particularly weird or, I don't know, unusual about me for feeling this?" I'm kind of letting go of that fear and channeling that in a way to say, "Let's talk about what people aren't really talking about or this feeling that I haven't really heard people talk about or this thing that I can't quite capture and work." And in talking about it a bit, the comments section and the discussion that comes up around it, that will be able to capture more accurately what I'm trying to say, especially through experiences that are both similar or different from my own. I think that there's a lot to be going for opening up those conversations. Now when I create these kinds of videos, I think I'm more aware of or wanting to open up.
I can remember when you posted a video talking about filming without wearing a bra. I remember watching that being like, "Oh my gosh, I feel that same way about not wearing a bra. Am I presentable?" It feels so good to see someone not even have an answer for you about it but just talk about it.
It's someone else asking the question. You think you're so weird for even thinking about this thing or feeling this way and I see so much of that in general human experience of shame, but it's also very particular to women. Women are supposed to feel so tiny as to occupy as such a small space in this world, so it's like we have no room for their feelings or their questions or something for them to in any way curious. I think there has been a lack of voice of all the strange things that women think.
We think that no one will care. We have a lot of shame built up around talking about the very small pleasures — things we see as "feminine" — like women giving room tours online and stuff. I was obsessed with the teenage bedroom, and still am and with creating a space like that. That's a very feminine thing, and it's something I didn't think I should ever actually talk about with other people.
It's so interesting.
With room tours and beauty videos and cooking videos — they're all these very domestic things. They're such a rich part of our lives but we feel like no one will care. We don't feel like people will notice, when actually there's this huge community where everybody is just fascinated with those ways of documenting your life.
It's also like there's something very academic about it as well. Looking into all these young women's rooms and looking into the things that they've chosen to surround themselves with, it's just amazing to me on how many levels we dismiss with these experiences. I don't know, it's amazing to me how deep it's run, but we ourselves see these things as just a really superficial thing. I'm curious about that form of documentation on so many different levels, but I also want to see what clothes they have and there's nothing wrong with that too.
The final, big thing that I have here in my notes, underlined three times, is Hermione Granger. I know how important she is to you — she is to me, as well. I think she's huge to our generation because we all grew up with her.
Honestly, when I sometimes think about Hermione, I start crying.
I do, too!
It's easy to understand why, really, when you think of it in terms as you were saying — she's been in my life since I was 6 years old. Six was when I first read the first book. My dad brought it home and I was like very skeptical of it. This doesn't look like a book I'd enjoy, I was thinking, because it had a train on the cover and I was like, "My dad likes trains but I'm not really that chuffed about trains." I read it and I was really captured in the story, but when I finally met Hermione it just became, "That's me. That's why I feel like. That's how people treat me as well." I was very much the know it all –– I still am.
There's an instant connection with someone who you see yourself reflected, but it's also an instant desire to protect someone when they're being like attacked or put under fire or criticized because you do feel like that's part of you, too. She's definitely the true hero of the story for me. She's thorough, she's careful, and follows the rule book and that's not boring of her. It's an interesting and careful approach to heroism. I think that there is something about logic being center stage and being put on the same level of bravery and friendship and standing up for people and being really fierce. Not taking shit, because she really doesn't take shit. I think that she encapsulates that more than any of the other characters in the book for me. I don't know, I just adore her. She's amazing.
Something about Hermione that has always been important to me is that Hermione actually does care quite a bit what people think of her. She doesn't care what they think of her values, but of her. She has a lot of insecurity and she puts a lot of her worth into how intelligent she is. It's done so well. It's done by someone who must have felt that way.
I was actually talking about Doctor Who this morning with the Doctor Who fan show that they record. They asked me which character I liked the most and which companions I like the most. I said Rose, and part of why I said that is because she is insecure, and her growth isn't in running away with this man in a TARDIS. It's through realizing that she always possessed the skills that she used to win these space battles and so on. She always had her skills. She was always skillful. She was never useless. She was never the things that she said to herself, and I think it's very true for Hermione, too. As much as she values books and reading, she was taught from very early on by the people around her to see that as something that marked her as defective and weird, and she comes to realize that that's her strength.
She's kind of stubborn about that. She's stubborn in the value of what she is good at. I think that's very admirable. It was never at any point that she kind of laughed at herself and said, "I know I'm such a nerd." No. She doesn't have to make exudes for it. She is unapologetically herself. I just love her.
I love Hermione so much. Hearts, hearts, hearts everywhere.
Let's just have a Hermione convention. We'll talk about Hermione all day long.
I would be 105% down for Hermione-con.