“You have to see it to be it.” – Billie Jean King
With two girls in middle school, Sarah Beach noticed a profound lack of resources to help her daughters see what their futures would look like. While Lucy and Daisy are intelligent, energetic, and capable young women, Sarah quickly learned they had set ideas on what their futures would look like. They already thought there were some things they couldn’t really do because they are female. They had absorbed the message that society had been sending them their whole lives that women tend to behave in a certain way, do certain jobs and like certain things.
Lyn Mikel Brown, Ed.D.’89, agrees that middle school is tough, especially for girls. A professor at Colby College and author of several books on female development, Brown says there is a “kind of increased perspective-taking that happens at early adolescence, where girls start to see how others see them and the importance of performing as the right kind of girl.” That means that the confident, spunky, bossy, wonderful girls that they may have been when they were 8, 9, or 10 years old “isn’t okay, and what they thought was true is no longer true.”
In the midst of trying to figure out who they are and the ways to best fit in, girls are often inundated with different types of media that tells them how to appeal to their crush, what to wear, how to wear it, what to eat, where to go, and who to be. Instead of focusing on women and girls breaking barriers or living aspirational lives, many mediums instead are focused on fashion, celebrity news, and body image – all rich with gender stereotypes and shallow, often limiting, depictions of what girls should aspire to be.
In our interview last week, Sarah shared her story, “When we started looking around at magazines for them, we found that they focused on crushes, fashion, and trends,” Sarah said. “My girls have more substance, their friends do too. They can do and be anything. At this age, they don’t know they need role models, but they really do.”
That frustration coupled with the desire to help her daughters reach their full potential led Sarah to found STRONG. The Magazine for Girls. “They deserve to see strong female role models in all walks of life, so they can see that there are women out there who are taking their place in the world alongside men, running businesses and countries, and making the world a better place. They need to see examples of people like them, who have refused to be put in a box by society and who are following their dreams and succeeding,” Sarah wrote on STRONG’s website.
Now in her second year of publication, Sarah provides her girls with the examples they need and opening up a world of possibilities for other young girls nationwide. Her journey hasn’t always been easy, but it has been worth it.
“I had writing experience, but no magazine publishing experience. I launched a Kickstarter campaign, and got to work building an army of supporters.” Sarah said. “While I had to learn a lot right off the bat, I’ve since met some incredible people. I’ve interviewed some amazing girls with positive attitudes, and the journey has really been about talking to and meeting incredible people.”
Shortly after launch, Sarah was also diagnosed with breast cancer, but managed to carry on producing the magazine, almost single handedly, throughout her treatment. “It’s so important to me to get this magazine into the hands of girls around the country. At a time in their lives when they’re really trying to figure out who they are going to be, our girls are currently being bombarded with magazines that feature articles such as ‘What Does His Text Really Mean?’ and ’The Best Summer Swimsuit for Your Body.’ Such magazines can be fun, but they can also be incredibly damaging, and our girls are worth so much more than that. With STRONG, I want all girls to be STRONG enough to be the best version of themselves, and not who society ‘thinks’ they should be. My aim is to represent ALL girls in our pages.”
Sarah has managed to keep STRONG advertisement free, and each issue features news, book, music, and TV reviews, and often focuses on other hard-hitting issues. Each issue is also filled with great role models, ordinary girls doing extraordinary things, and other inspirational content. Regular features include:
Growing Up In – STRONG speaks to girls growing up in different countries.
STRONG Body – A focus on nutrition (healthy recipes) and exercise, and a touch on pertinent topics such as vaping with in-house pediatrician.
STRONG Mind – Issues girls face, from mental illness and depression to dealing with friendships, peer pressure, and divorce.
STRONG Career – STRONG talks to women about their careers and how they got to where they are.
STRONG Skills – A look at everything from self-defense and first aid to time management and budgeting.
Little Miss Fix It – Guidance on fixing a puncture in your bike tire, installing smoke alarms, troubleshooting Wi-Fi, tying knots for every situation, etc.
Sarah has also launched STRONG Ambassadors, a group of 11 exceptional girls to become the magazine’s brand ambassadors. The group meets (via video call) every month and works together to bring ideas to life in their communities–ideas such as drives to end period poverty and events to raise awareness of people with disabilities. STRONG Ambassadors share and replicate ideas and facilitate them as they organize these empowering events.
“I just really believe in STRONG, and want it to become a household name, in every library across the country so every girl can access it,” Sarah said. “My aim is to inspire and empower teens and tweens and help them build a healthy, connected life. We want to help the whole girl. It’s not just a magazine, we want to help these girls grow up confident and be whatever they want to be.”
To learn more about STRONG. The Magazine for Girls. go to www.strongmagazineforgirls.com.