Listening to Girls has been our foundation ever since we started.
Way back in 1992, I felt a lot of anxiety remembering my own struggles in my tween and teen years. My twin daughters, Mavis Gruver and Nia Kelly, were at the beginning of that stage.
I hoped they wouldn’t face the painful and confusing disconnections from self that I had. And I worried that I didn’t know how to help them face it if that happened. When I searched for practical, accessible resources to help me as a mom, I found virtually nothing.
Now, in 2023, we serve girls and gender-diverse youth ages eight to fourteen with the award-winning, ad-free New Moon Girls magazine. Also important to us is giving their parents, teachers, extended family, and allies resources for adults who care about girls.
Here’s the story of how we traveled together from my heavy anxieties to the current day.
The Book That Helped Me Understand
I read about the short 1992 book that changed my life and inspired New Moon Girls magazine, Meeting at the Crossroads: Women’s Psychology and Girls’ Development.
The authors Lyn Mikel Brown and Carol Gilligan are feminists and were researchers at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. They and a small group of others conducted a longitudinal study of about 100 girls between the ages of eight to sixteen.
They wanted to learn about how these girls changed and developed psychologically during those years. Their research was groundbreaking, as all the previous research on pre-teen and teen psychology had studied only boys.
Linda Rossetti, author, Dancing with Disruption, available May 5, 2023, reviewed Meeting at the Crossroads in NovoFemina and said,
“In a nutshell, the authors explore a troubling fact: “adolescent girls and adult women silence themselves or are silenced in relationships rather than risk open conflict and disagreement that might lead to isolation.” (Crossroads, pg 3)
Connections with others, or relationships, are a “central organizing feature in women’s development.” (pg 3)
The book is thoroughly researched, well-written … and tough to read, probably most interesting to those with young teens in their lives. It organizes around vignettes taken from multi-year studies of 2nd through 11th grade girls. What the authors learn through their work is fascinating and disturbing. For example the authors’ research revealed that….
- As girls move from 8 year olds to 11 or 17 year olds they are more “willing to silence themselves rather than risk loss of a relationship.” (pg 62)
- Overtime girls replace their voices with foreign voice-overs of adults..girls replace their feelings and desires with the wants and expectations of others.” Expectations of friends? Adults? Others? (pg 86, 88)
- Girls act to “reduce conflict in relationships. Girls associate arguing with disconnection and relationship with ‘getting along better with people.’ This reveals a fine line between genuine relationship in which a girl speaks and also listens to others and false relationships in which she silences herself because she is afraid of what will happen.” (pg 91-93)
- There is a tendency as “girls become young women to dismiss their experience and modulate their voices.” (pg 217)
- “It was the adult women in their lives that provided the models for silencing themselves and behaving like ‘good little girls.’” (pg 221)
Wondering What I Could Do
I realized at age 39 that I wasn’t alone in having stuggled with overwhelming restrictions on my sense of self. The patriarchal culture of 1960’s America required that of adolescent girls.
My next response was to realize that my fears of what could happen to my daughters during their adolescence were valid and not just a projection of my own struggles.
I started looking even more urgently for additional research, programs, or anything that could help me. I wanted to learn how to ally with my daughters to help them resist the clipping of their wings by the larger culture.
The universe popped an idea into my imagination about six weeks later. I felt inspired by my experiences during adolescence and by reading Meeting at the Crossroads: Women’s Psychology and Girls’ Development.
It was the vision of a magazine for girls who want their voices heard and their dreams taken seriously. I described it as a “junior Ms.” magazine. It would be created and edited by girls with content by girls. My role would be as an adult ally to help the magazine become a reality.
Within five minutes of receiving this idea from the universe, I knew that I wanted to try to do it. Even though I knew absolutely nothing about publishing a magazine. I figured that together the girls and I and my journalist husband Joe, could learn how.
A Magazine Listening to Girls
Would girls want to make a feminist magazine? So I brought this idea to Mavis & Nia and their close friend Sarah. Their first response was underwhelming, to say the least, “What do you mean, ‘start a magazine?’ We don’t know how to do that! And neither do you.”
But when I changed the question to, “Would you want to read a magazine run by girls – where girls share their real lives and problems, their dreams and their challenges?,” their ideas started flowing fast.
Starting New Moon Girls
Then they recruited twenty more girls to join the first Girls Editorial Board. These girls worked with me and Joe and other adult volunteers in our living room and attic in Duluth, Minnesota, to invent the departments, themes, and features that still provide the framework for each issue of the award-winning, ad-free New Moon: The Magazine for Girls and Their Dreams. Now the name is New Moon Girls.
It set a new standard for high-quality media by and for tween and teen girls. We were the first, and still the only, child-created publication to win the prestigious Association of Educational Publishers’ Golden Lamp award as the best U.S. children’s magazine.
Strengthening Girls to Resist Popular Culture Propaganda
Girls feel torn between what they dream and desire for themselves and what society expects of them. Bombarded by “perfect girl” stereotypes and hyper-sexualized images, girls try to cope by taking their authentic selves underground and setting aside their earlier ambitions. In order to survive these pressures, they lose touch with themselves.
But there is hope. A variety of research shows that girls can use emotional support, self-knowledge, self-acceptance, self-expression, and healthy resistance to stay deeply connected to their true interests, abilities, hopes, and dreams.
Our members do this every day. They help each other express and value their unique talents in the pages of New Moon Girls magazine. They empathize and problem-solve with each other, learning how to connect meaningfully even when their lives, beliefs, and opinions may be very different.
Still Changing Girls’ Lives for the Better
Our members grow into young women who pursue their dreams and ambitions, even against heavy odds. We hear this every week from NMG alumni in their late teens, twenties, and beyond, who thank us for the unique magazine and community that was there for them when they needed help to stay connected to themselves.
We’re still passionate about reaching girls everywhere who need the inspiration, connection, and support that New Moon Girls brings.