‘Kazoo’ Is the Magazine Every Brilliant, Fierce Young Girl Deserves

Erin Bried’s daughter Ellie, hard at work.

Erin Bried was walking her five-year-old daughter, Ellie, home from preschool when Ellie turned to her with a question. “Mom, did you know that space is for boys?”

One of Ellie’s favorite games is to pretend that she and her mother are a super-fast, super-powered species from Saturn, so Bried knew that this “news” from one of Ellie’s schoolmates would have landed hard on her imaginative little girl. “I said, ‘Of course space isn’t just for boys. You can do anything you want; you can be anything you want,’” she recalls. “I couldn’t believe that at five years old, she was already being given this message about what she can’t do, where she can’t go, what she’s supposed to care about.”

Around the same time, Bried took Ellie to a bookstore in search of a magazine — Ellie’s an avid reader, so they often go on adventures to local bookstores, newsstands, and comic book stores. “I was shocked and appalled by what I saw,” Bried says. “All the magazines for girls had a doll on the cover, or a little girl in lipstick, or a princess.” The contents weren’t any more imaginative: articles on good manners and hairstyles. Ellie prefers pirates to princesses, so they left the store empty-handed.

Bried’s long career in the magazine industry had rendered her keenly aware of a void in the market for empowering, inspiring publications that cater specifically to young girls — and she felt compelled to act. “As a parent, you see it in the toy aisles, you see it on the TV screen, you see it in the movies: girls are being told that there’s one right way to be. I wanted to let them know that they have other options.”

Ellie plays with her eight-month-old sister, Bea.

Kazoo magazine is the result. A colorful quarterly, Kazoo will feature stories inspired and created by leading women in the arts, science, technology, sports, and more, all with the goal of encouraging young girls to play, experiment, make mistakes (and learn from them), and ask questions. There will also be a bounty of hands-on material for makers in the making, Bried says: recipes, experiments, mazes, and DIY projects for building things like whirligig helicopters and boats made out of twigs.

Bried mined her personal network for contributors, even cold-calling — or emailing, rather — several women she didn’t know personally. All agreed without hesitation. Kazoo’s inaugural issue will feature a drawing tutorial called How to Draw a Cat from MacArthur Fellow and Fun Home author Alison Bechdel (inspired in part, Bried says, by Ellie’s love of Bechdel’s cat, Donald, who once took a swipe at her). Other contributions include a comic from New York Times best-selling author Lucy Knisley, a color-and-glitter-by-number project from artist Mickalene Thomas, a recipe from James Beard Award-nominated chef Fany Gerson, a short story from author Doreen Cronin, and a story on the Perseid Meteor Shower from cosmochemist, Fulbright Scholar, and Guggenheim fellow Dr. Meenakshi Wadhwa.

A panel from “How to Draw a Cat” by Alison Bechdel.

“I want girls to see strong female role models all around them, because they don’t out in the world,” Bried says, citing male domination in politics, STEM, and the arts. Even children’s books contain three times as many male characters as female ones, she says. And when exposed to media that reinforces antiquated societal messages about how “proper” women should think, act, and behave, “they start believing maybe they’re not as good at science as boys. They start thinking their bodies aren’t okay the way they are. I want them to look at the pages of Kazoo and see all these different possibilities.”

The hunger for media that celebrates, rather than curbs, possibilities for girls and young women is reaching critical mass. The recently-launched School of Doodle, for example, invites young women to boldly and creatively share their experiences. Books like Hello Ruby and Rosie Revere, Engineer seek to motivate young girls to pursue their STEM aspirations. Organizations like Out of the Binders and Girls Who Code unite professional women in male-dominated fields. Ultimately, Bried sees Kazoo as an essential tile in that expanding mosaic of content aimed at reinforcing what girls already know about themselves — that they are strong, powerful, and capable of anything.

“I want Kazoo to help shore up that foundation,” she says, “so that by the time they are teenagers, they don’t doubt themselves for a second.”

Rebecca Hiscott