Hi - I'm Nancy, founder of NMG.
It’s very important to me that this conversation is happening and a huge thanks to @Seb for your excellent post to bring it up. I'm sorry for taking a while to respond. I had a nasty cough virus and did as little work as possible the past couple weeks. I didn't want to make just a quick and short response because this is important to @Seb and to me and to nmg.
Staff haven't thought before about not using the words girl and girls when talking about our members. It might be surprising now, but when we started NMG the word “girl” and its variants was often used as a belittling insult, conveying a sense of weakness, powerlessness, frivolousness, incompetence, or unimportance, no matter who it referred to. On the internet, when people searched the word girl or girls they nearly always got porn sites as the answer to their search! Many people told us we should not use the word girl or girls then because it would make our magazine seem childish and silly and sexualized.
That made us angry! We disagreed and decided it was important and symbolic to fight the stigmas wrongly attached to the words girl and girls. We were determined to reclaim the word girls to mean powerful, proud, wise females who weren’t adults yet. We were and still are fighting for the respect due to those people. We also fight for the respect due to all people, in their infinite variety of backgrounds and identities.
Now we’re thinking about it because of your post and want to invite you and all our members to figure out ways we might change the magazine and at the same time make sure it survives for the future. Figuring out what to do brings up some big challenges for us as an organization that I’ll talk about in a bit.
NMG was created by girls, women and one man - my husband Joe - in order to bring respect to girls’ voices, to listen to girls, to take girls’ needs seriously, to celebrate girls, to show dignity for girls and girlhood and to make the world better for girls. We started in 1992 and our focus was very much on helping girls challenge sexism and other isms. We started NMG because we couldn’t find any media that did that. Almost all social norms and all kinds of media did the complete opposite by sexualizing girls, objectifying their bodies, stereotyping them, having much lower numbers of females than males in all kinds of media, judging them harshly, severely limiting their opportunities outside traditional roles, and spreading very low expectations for what girls could achieve and contribute in the world.
Also from the beginning, we welcomed all readers, not only girls, but boys, and even adults. Our writers and artists were all girls and women. This was very important to us because at that time there was hardly anywhere girls were published telling about their experiences and wisdom, hopes, dreams and needs as girls, in their own words. We think the world still needs much more of that than it has - it’s still way out of balance with the majority of published writing and other media like news, films, video, podcasts, being created much more by males than females. Just look at the oscars and at journalism awards for a couple examples.
Seb mentioned not seeing anything in the mag about Almost all of the magazine’s content comes directly from our readers. We depend on our readers to tell us what they’re thinking about, hopeful about, concerned about, etc. At the beginning we had no realization that kids in our age group of 8-14 could have a gender identity of transgender, non-binary, or genderqueer, and others. We literally never heard about that from our readers, which isn’t surprising - it was a very closeted time even for adults, and those terms were not known by a lot of kids in the 90s and early 00s.
Our readers did write to us from the beginning about sexual orientation and the experiences of having lesbian, gay and/or bisexual parents, siblings, family, etc. We published those stories and Ask A Girls when we got them, and we still do. We don't get a lot of them so they're not in every issue or even most issues. Every time, those articles caused some parents and groups to cancel subscriptions, try to get their school or library to cancel NMG, etc. But that didn’t stop us from publishing them. Rush Limbaugh and Focus on the Family, both extremely right-wing, targeted NMG on the radio and in mailings in 1995 that criticized us for “promoting lesbianism” to our readers. We felt proud to stand up publicly to that bias and support girls and women who personally faced the bias.
Now, as Seb pointed out eloquently, it's a different world and time. Girls, boys and kids do think and talk about their gender and pronouns. That's a great thing. So for the magazine, we want to have an open and ongoing discussion of ideas from Seb and other members and readers about how we can do that so everyone feels welcomed by the magazine. Seb gave us ideas to start with in their post. We like the idea of using the words readers and members in the magazine, along with the words girl and girls. We think it's important to keep girl and girls in our mix as that is how many of our members identify. (We don't like to call anyone users because to us it feels like it reduces people to consumers.) We’ll start asking all our mag writers which pronouns they would like us to use when referring to them. We also changed the “About Us” form in the online community a few days ago so online members can tell the pronouns they prefer.
We look forward to hearing from more members about all of this and will also do what we can to get response from our magazine readers and our magazine members, the people who pay for the magazine and keep it alive and surviving. When you have ideas for the magazine, we LOVE to hear them - send us an email anytime to email@example.com. The most helpful ideas include details about what kind of article you would like to have considered for publishing in a future issue. It can be something about you and an experience you've had, or a dream you have for the future, or a topic for Voice Box, or for the Body & Mind or any of the regular departments.
Thanks again for posting this Seb, and everyone who also has posted about these topics. We always want to hear what's important to you all. Love, Nancy