In the late 90's, gurl.com was an internet haven. Modeled after riot grrrl zines with strong emphasis on DIY and self-love, it was a gritty alternative to other teen girl sites. Celebrities were rarely mentioned and diets were considered personal decisions based on medical advice. Political awareness was prioritized over designer labels, but nothing was more important than supporting one another through self-care and exploration. The discussion forums were remarkable with intelligent conversation.
Miserable in my unstable environment and barely grasping feminism, I adored gurl.com. At 13 I'd been put on Prozac against my will and it only made things spiral even further; my research and discussion on gurl.com convinced me to fake-swallow the pill - the advisers and peers on there listened to me more than my mother and her shrink!! On top of all that, talking to others in my position made me realize I wasn't so alone: other girls had depression, preferred music from the 60's, weren't allowed outside of their houses, had crushes on girls, admired goth kids just for dressing goth, experimented with religion, etc. Although a few years went by before I got into riot grrrl music and feminist comics and zines, gurl.com at least provided me with the awareness that such things existed.
There were fantastic by-girls-for-girls comics. They illustrated what other teen girl media either ignored or poorly parodied: school cliques, the destructive and addictive inner voice of self-doubt, being torn between passion over something nerdy and wanting popularity, eating disorders and anti-depressants. One comic that I remember very vividly was about an outcast girl who glamorized her depression, convincing herself that she was really an outcast because of her cynicism rather than because of her shyness and extremely neglectful parents. Until seeing that, I'd had no idea that's what I'd been doing.
gurl.com also released this book, which I adored but wasn't allowed to buy. At least this is still available for teen girls today.
The site has changed a LOT. About 12 years ago, it began to actively compete with other teen girl sites with the strategy of emulating them. Having switched from desperate preteen to counseling young adult, I was very disappointed in the shift. User contribution had less influence and, besides, I was socializing more in real life finally. Today, gurl.com is closer to its original mission with realistic dating advice, comics, sex-positive and factual sex ed, and self-love. However, celebrity gossip and trendy fashion still hold sway. Nevertheless, gurl.com was very helpful for awkward girls in the late 90's and early 00's and I hope it can still do the same today.