"Did we ever really stop being drawn to sparkly things and friendship bracelets and, you know, caring about each other, or were we just shamed into thinking we did by a society that never wanted us to value girlhood or femininity in the first place?"
So the world has just worked out that something that resonates with 50 per cent of the population can make just as much bank as things made for the other 50 per cent. Shocker. This common sense fact that should have surprised absolutely no-one, because maths, means we’re living through a time pundits have labelled as ‘the Year of Girl (Economic) Power’, or ‘the Year of the Female Dollar’ – like women haven’t for much of modern history influenced most household spending anyway, even if we weren’t in a position to always earn it.
The shift that’s making economists feel like it’s suddenly raining bedazzled cash money now, though, is not only that we have record numbers of women in the workforce spending our hard-earned wherever the hell we feel like it (imagine what we could do if there was such a thing as affordable early child care, guys!), but that where we feel like spending it is in the direction of other women. Taylor Swift’s Eras is the highest grossing tour of all time, estimated to have generated close to $8 billion in US spending alone. Beyoncé’s Renaissance tour is likely to do
similar numbers. The Matildas semifinal World Cup match was the most watched sporting event in Australia since there have been ratings, with Matildas jerseys outselling Socceroos ones even before the tournament started. Barbie has made almost $2 billion (so far) at the global box office, making it the most successful film ever made by a female director, but, more importantly, the 20th most successful movie in history (again, so far). If that’s not a big, pink glittery sign that we need more women’s perspectives in leadership positions so they can help make more of these exciting new-fangled girl dollars (not to mention more female directors on big budget studio movies and women’s sport on prime time), I don’t know what is. And the best part is that these success stories aren’t just raking in the female dollar: the Tillies inspired equal numbers of girls and boys, men and women; Barbie tickets started off selling mostly to women, but soon moved to a more equitable gender split as word spread.
Beyond the cold hard cash, all of these things celebrate a new kind of feminism. One that happens to be more inclusive and transcendent of gender and age than anything we’ve seen before, and is also unabashedly feminine in its approach. Unlike 2013-
era Lean In-style feminism, we’re proving now that we don’t have to do it like the boys to get ahead. The Tillies won the nation’s heart not just by getting us further than we ever have in a World Cup, but by doing it with an abundance of, well, love – whether that was having players’ babies in the training camp, referring to each other constantly as a family or shaping themselves into an actual love heart on the pitch. Taylor’s tour has reminded the whole world not only of her peerless songwriting ability and stamina as a performer (three and a half hour sets!), but also inspired a renewed joy in friendship bracelets, sparkly dresses, knowing all the lyrics and sharing the rewards with the people who support you (reportedly giving her tour staff $83 million in bonuses). Greta Gerwig said of making Barbie, “I just wanted people to feel joyful.” Maybe I missed it, but I don’t imagine ever hearing James Cameron caring about his audience’s feelings.
It’s all so brazenly female, championing compassion, positivity, empowerment, and speaking to us in all our various multitudes rather than the cookie-cutter ideas of personhood we’ve been fighting for so long. And somehow, the rest of the world is surprised that all these good things are working. Meanwhile, over in the patriarchy, Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg are busy sparring over a made-up cage fight. Following Spain’s World Cup win, the male president of the Spanish Football Federation struggled to understand how he did anything wrong in planting an unsolicited, unwanted kiss on forward Jennifer Hermoso. The US Republican Party is about to put forward a man who has been criminally indicted four times to be the leader of the free world. And despite all this, the International Chess Federation has banned trans women from competing in women-only tournaments, based on the assumption that biological men’s brains are just better at some things than women’s. Excusez-moi?
Much has been made of the internet’s current predilection for girlhood: hot girl walks and girl dinners and that girl. It’s being framed as a somewhat perverse, pathetic means of escape for those wanting to avoid the inevitable march into invisible, irrelevant grown womanhood. But I don’t think that’s true. Did we ever really stop being drawn to sparkly things and friendship bracelets and, you know, caring about each other, or were we just shamed into thinking we did by a society that never wanted us to value girlhood or femininity in the first place? I think Harry Styles got it right years ago when he said, “How can you say young girls don’t get it? They’re our future. Our future doctors, lawyers, mothers, presidents, they kind of keep the world going.”
In honour of the culture shift happening before our very eyes, this issue is full of all things considered unashamedly hyper-feminine – from stacks of sparkle to Sofia Coppola to those groundbreaking florals for spring. But I reckon – as per the immortal words of Sharon Rooney’s Lawyer Barbie – that these things don’t diminish our powers, they expand them.
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