To kick off the week leading up to Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life — the highly anticipated revival of the quirky, poignant mother-daughter series that everyone, it seems, will be cozying up to on the day after Thanksgiving (12:01 a.m. on Nov. 25, to be precise) — we’ll be celebrating some cool moms we know and the parenting styles that are uniquely their own, through a weeklong series, #MyMomStyle.
My 5-year-old daughter, Ellie, loves to climb trees, launch stomp rockets and, most of all, combine baking soda and vinegar until it bubbles over her giant plastic test tubes and onto the kitchen table. Her rainy-day refrain is always the same: “Let’s do science experiments!” As she pulls down her protective eyewear — bug-eyed goggles left over from an old Halloween costume — I tell her jokingly, “If you become an astronaut one day, stick to the moon, because Mars is just too far away.” When she laughs, she spills vinegar everywhere.
It was with her interests in mind that we went to our local bookshop this past spring to pick up some new books to read together. On our way out, we stopped by the newsstand to see if we could find a magazine to add to our haul. I was shocked by what we found. I didn’t see a single title for young girls that didn’t include a story on pretty hair or having good manners. What’s more, every cover I saw featured a princess, a doll, or a little girl wearing makeup. Ellie was bored. I was outraged: Is this honestly all we have to offer our daughters?
After all, the repercussions of this sort of messaging are real. For example, six in 10 girls stop doing what they love because they feel bad about their looks. And 75 percent of girls are interested in engineering and related fields, yet only 11 percent of practicing engineers are women. By adolescence, girls are less likely than boys to act, and feel, like a leader. I could go on (and on and on and on), but you already know how the rest of it goes.
For days after we left the bookstore, I couldn’t stop thinking, “Somebody should do Something.” And then I realized that if I wanted to change the message on the newsstand, that Somebody would have to be me. After all, I’ve spent my career as an editor and writer at some of the glossiest magazines in the country. I had the passion, skills, and connections. All I needed was an audience.
A few weeks later, I launched a Kickstarter campaign for Kazoo: a magazine for girls who aren’t afraid to make some noise, featuring science, art, comics, activities, and more — all developed or inspired by top women their field — and within 30 days, we closed as the highest-funded journalism campaign in crowdfunding history. Now, after only two issues, we’ve gained almost 10,000 subscribers.
Our mission is simply to reinforce in girls what they already know: They can be loud. They can be messy. They can be strong. They can be adventurous. They can be silly. They can be intellectually curious about science, art, engineering — anything. Everything! I created Kazoo to give girls the tools, and the space, to dream, build, explore, think, and ask questions. I want them to know that the world is full of possibility.
Ellie certainly knows it is. Just this week, in her gymnastics class, her teacher circled up the students and asked all the kids to announce what they want to be when they grow up. (I know this because these are the types of stories that always come spilling out of her at bedtime, final thoughts just before she drifts off to sleep.) “Every single girl in my class said they wanted to be a fairy,” she told me.
“What did you say?” I asked.
“That I wanted to be an astronaut, of course!”
I smiled, but she wasn’t happy. “I don’t like being the only girl who doesn’t want to be a fairy.” As I rubbed her tummy, I told her what any mother would: It’s not only OK but actually wonderful to be yourself (even though it can be hard sometimes), and being an astronaut would be so amazing! For a few minutes, we talked about what space might feel like, and then she rolled over and fell asleep. And I went back to my laptop to start working on our next issue of Kazoo, which will feature women astronauts who were once girls like mine — girls who wanted to discover space and knew they didn’t need fairy wings to fly.