My 5-Year-Old Inspired Me to Start the Magazine I Want Her to Read

Kazoo

My 5-year-old daughter, Ellie, likes to pretend she's from Saturn. In her mind, we're part of a "super-fast species," and we have the power to run faster than anyone on Earth. Of all the imagination games she likes to play ("I'm a bear, hibernating," "I'm climbing a volcano, and the rug is lava," "I'm a sloth, and you didn’t know I was living in this tree when you brought it home from the garden store," etc.), this is my absolute favorite, because in it, she gets to be brave, strong, silly, and smart, all the things I love about her.

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So, as we were walking home from her preschool together the other day, I was surprised when she asked, "Mom, did you know that space is for boys?" I had to suppress my anger.

"That's not true," I said calmly, adding in my most casual voice, "Who told you that?"

She kept walking with her head down, her polka-dot backpack slipping off one shoulder. I pressed on again. "Who told you that space is for boys?"

I have no idea why I so desperately needed to know the name of the little dream slayer in that moment. It's not like I was going to confront him before school as he's parking his scooter. After she divulged the information, which I promptly filed away in the part of my brain reserved for Ridiculous and Utterly Useless Grudges, I explained to her, "Honey, you can do anything you want to do, and be anything you want to be."

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Of course, sexism is as old as dirt, but it's so pervasive that we, as adults, have grown nearly numb to it. We no longer rage in the face of these little everyday slights; we sigh. We shrug. We yawn. But then you have a daughter and she faces it for the first time and she doesn't understand why, and it suddenly shakes you awake again.

Not too long after this walk-and-talk, Ellie and I went to the bookstore, where we bought a few Captain Underpants, and on our way to the checkout, we stopped by the newsstand to see if we could find a magazine for her to read. I was surprised -- and a little angry -- by what we found. I didn't see a single title for girls that didn’t feature a doll, a princess, or a little kid wearing makeup on the cover. Inside, there were stories on getting pretty hair and having good manners. As a mother, I wanted to give my daughter more. As a writer and long-time magazine editor, I knew I could.

So, I decided to launch my own print magazine for girls, ages 5 to 10. It’s called Kazoo: a magazine for girls who aren’t afraid to make some noise. The stories, science experiments, art projects, comics, secret codes, and mazes are all developed or inspired by top female scientists, artists, athletes, and more.

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The idea that girls can be loud, messy, smart, fast, fierce -- all the things they already are before they learn from their toys, clothes, and media the "proper" way to behave -- is still somehow a radical notion.

That's never been more apparent to me than this week, after I uploaded a video of Ellie doing science experiments, making art, playing with Legos, and running around in her superhero cape.

The video was meant to promote the launch of Kazoo -- and while it got a lot of positive feedback, I was stunned by the amount of vitriol it also inspired.

"Who cares what percentage of engineers are women who cares bout any of that crap," commented one woman on Facebook.

"Her girl will NEVER succeed in life, because anytime she receives less praise than someone else her mommy will tell her it's because she's a girl. She will grow up being ashamed of her sex. Tell [girls] when it gets hard to work harder," seethed another. 

To commenters like this -- and the many people out there like them -- acknowledging that the deck is sometimes stacked against girls and women constitutes useless whining. And yet somehow, in the same breath, they passionately advocate that girls should simply work harder than boys, if that’s what it takes for them to succeed. 

Truthfully, when I read comments like these, I’m not sure if the world is ready for a magazine for girls that doesn’t feature Barbie on the cover. But what I do know is that our girls deserve more from us than just pep talks on the walk home from school.

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For starters, we've got to be brave enough to simply acknowledge that sexism exists and has real consequences. Then, we've got to accept responsibility for the fact that every time we've shrugged it off in our own lives, we're not making it go away; we're just dumping it onto the shoulders of our daughters. Finally, we've got to give girls the tools to create, build, explore, dream, play, and ask questions, rather than rules on how they should behave.

Ellie seems to have long since forgotten her classmate's challenge to her space-loving self, but I'm pretty sure that’s not the only time she’ll ever be told in her life that she can’t, or shouldn’t, do something, solely because she’s a girl. But maybe next time it does happen, she’ll know how to respond, and she won't let it stop her from doing what she loves. 

Last night, between bath time and bedtime, she ran loops around our living room, whooping with every new burst of speed. When I asked her what she was doing, she told me she was being a "super-fast species" again.

"Do you want to play, Mom?" she asked. Yes, I answered. Her world is full of infinite possibility. That’s where I want to live, too.



Erin Bried is Brooklyn-based writer, a mother of two daughters, and the founder of Kazoo,  a new print magazine for girls that inspires them to be strong, smart, bold, loud, and above all, true to themselves. It’s kickstarting April 26 and, if successful, launching this summer.

Image via Erin Bried/Kazoo Magazine

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