The Wingspan

Centennial High School's Daily Online News Source

The Wingspan

The Wingspan

2023: The “Summer of Girlhood”

This summer, women and girls reconnected with the idea of girlhood by proudly embracing the music and media that defines it.
Fans attending Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour
Source: Business Insider
Fans attending Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour Source: Business Insider

“Give me back my girlhood, it was mine first,” declared Taylor Swift in her song “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve”; this summer, women and girls positively took their girlhood back. The months between May and August felt like something of a feminist revival—a revival of wearing pink, of scream-singing at concerts, and of understanding how joyful yet heartbreaking it can be to grow up female. It was deemed by many as “the summer of girlhood,” and girls of every age were able to take a fresh breath of the air that the world had forced them to hold in for far too long. 

From its very first show in March 2023, the U.S. leg of Swift’s Eras Tour initiated a surge of women and girls embracing their femininity––a trend that punctuated this year and allowed many to reconnect to the idea of girlhood. Junior Norah Cheung embraced the fun of clothing and styling as she took inspiration from Swift’s albums to plan an outfit that reflected her discography, specifically the Midnights and folklore albums. She attended the concert with some of the close, supportive women in her life: her mom, sister, and cousin… as well as about 191,777 other people, most of whom were female. “It felt safe cause… Swifties are super nice to each other… the people I was sitting next to even, they were joining in on our conversations,” Cheung notes. 

Fellow junior Aditi Kashyap also saw Swift over the summer with her two friends. She loves the “versatility” of Swift’s music and believes that her songs’ messages about femininity, love, and heartbreak in all forms is what helps so many people connect with her. Being with such a large number of other women created a strong sense of community, despite the negativity that has been perpetuated online about Swift’s passionate fans. While people have gawked at and ridiculed women for their outfits, reactions, and excitement during the concert, many women rose above it regardless, drowning out the patriarchy’s constant noise. “Oftentimes, women are judged for having a shared appreciation for a niche topic and supporting artists—specifically female musicians—,” says Kashyap. “But I think the Eras Tour was able to show young women that they should be able to have fun and celebrate their hobbies without judgment from others.” To her point, Kashyap and Cheung did fully embrace the fanfare and emotions that the concert offered: they both detail making and trading friendship bracelets with other concert-goers, feeling elated after the event, and being empowered by the authenticity and power of Swift as a person. “Taylor Swift, she’s just…a strong person, she’s come so far from the Reputation [album] era when everybody was hating on her, and it just gave women empowerment to feel like, ‘oh, she can get back on her feet after what happened to her, I can too,’” says Cheung.

Even social media was buzzing with trends centered around girlhood, adding a sense of humor into the mix, yet serving it with a side of empowerment. The concept of “girl dinner” was one such trend. Women flocked to social media to display their eclectic mix of food that somehow created a complete meal; a handful of Doritos, a couple pieces of deli ham, some pickles, a piece of chocolate, and a Diet Coke all presented on a plate would constitute a suitable “girl dinner.” Some sounded the alarm that the trend was glorifying the unhealthy eating habits that are prevalent among girls, finding it dangerous to encourage the belief that eating the least amount of food possible is sustainable. Others, though, felt empowered by the trend. After a day of managing society’s expectations of smiling and taking up as little space as possible, it felt refreshing to simply eat whatever they wanted, however they wanted to, and to do so without the pressure of cooking a homemade meal each night like their mothers and grandmothers were expected to do. To share in that liberation with so many other women created a strong sense of community for many, as if each person who participated in the trend was exclaiming, “I do that! You do that, too?”

Girls of all ages dressed up to see the Barbie movie this summer.
Source: Yahoo!/Getty Images

Aside from the Eras Tour and internet trends, the release of the Barbie movie in July also bolstered a unexpected surge of feminine pride. The movie follows Barbie as she travels from the matriarchal “Barbieland” to the real world, where she discovers that things are not as perfect for women there as back home. During her journey, she uncovers who she really is with the help of a plethora of women and rejects the idea of perfection once and for all—a plot that not many were expecting from a movie about a plastic doll. Junior Rei Vlahov was pleasantly surprised by the plot. “I did not watch any of the trailers or anything so I really didn’t know what I was walking into, but after watching it I was like, ‘wow, okay, this is really good,’” she says, praising the highest-grossing movie of the year for the realistic portrayal of the challenges that females face. “They didn’t over-exaggerate it,” Vlahov states. 

Vlahov is not alone in her admiration. Many, including senior Melissa Garcia, agree that the film hit the acrylic nail on the head, relaying that she felt seen by the movie’s message, especially the reason that Ariana Greenblatt’s young character gave for no longer playing with the dolls: “[Barbies] make themselves super perfect… that’s not fair… it isn’t fair how most Barbies… [are] perfectly white or their body is perfect.” 

The double standard between “Kens” and “Barbies” also portrayed a feeling that women understand all too well. In the movie, the “Kens” discover the power of patriarchy and work to push the Barbies into stereotypical roles that women have historically filled, including housewives and maids. For Garcia, the portrayal (though dramatized) was an accurate representation of the patriarchal structure she herself experiences in society today. “There’s no role that we can force a guy to be… I feel like guys don’t understand that. There’s never a box that the guys can be pushed into.” Perhaps what made Barbie so impactful was the fact that it was one of the first times that the real-life experiences of women were so bluntly displayed to a worldwide audience; the pretty candy-coating of the pink-clad Barbies simply brought people into the theater. “I think it really just brought out what everyone has kind of been talking about,” Vlahov states.

Girlhood undoubtedly exploded this summer with women of all ages unabashedly relishing in the camaraderie of the sisterhood. As the bright colors of summer slowly fade into the muted hues of fall, one thing is certain: there is a new sense of joy for feminism in 2023. Kashyap astutely notes that “enjoying life experiences with other young women is an essential part of girlhood;” hopefully, this summer was only the beginning.


For more breaking news and photos, follow The Wingspan on Instagram and Twitter @CHSWingspan

More to Discover
About the Contributor
Abby Conrad, Feature Editor