2023 Was the Year of the Woman that Redefined Feminism 

2023 was the year of the Woman. The US economy had three women in particular to thank: Taylor Swift, Beyonce, and Barbie. From concert tickets to movie tickets to all the brands hopping on the pink-infused, female empowerment train, Americans spent far more this year. Football fans, whether they like it or not, were also affected by the coined “Taylor Swift effect.” The NFL reached an entirely new demographic and saw an increase in ticket and merchandise sales. Not to mention a surge in viewership on Sundays in the hopes of a Swift-at-Chiefs-game sighting. People may be sick of seeing them on their feeds and in every other news article, but let’s face it: we owe it to these women for keeping the entertainment industry alive and the economy afloat. It also brought up something that’s been an overcharged topic within the last ten years: feminism. 

I can only talk about it from personal experience, though, so allow me to indulge. 

Personally Experiencing Taylor and Barbie

When I walked into the first LA night of Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour, I was immediately surrounded by a sea of pink and purple dresses, glitter, and fuzzy cowboy hats. Friendship bracelets. Hearts drawn around eyes. It was a sight to see, a beautiful sight to see. There were moms with their daughters in matching fringe dresses, dads with shirts that proudly stated, “Hi, it’s me. I’m the dad, it’s me.” A quirky take on Taylor’s lyrics from “Anti-Hero.” I so wished that I could have taken my two-year-old to one of the biggest nights in concert history.

Just as much as I wished I could take her to see the movie, Barbie.  And why? Because this is my kind of feminism. A popular 2023 meme showed Swift and Barbie side-by-side as the two mega forces carrying the economy on their backs. If you didn’t notice already, they both have something very in common: they’re women and they’re oh-so-feminine. And since 1959 (the year Barbie came out), and 1989 (the album that solidified Taylor Swift as a pop culture icon), girls have looked up to these beautiful, fearless, bold, and can-do women. One’s plastic, sure, but you get the point. Unsurprisingly, however, is that these two women have been viciously attacked by society, specifically, men. A majority of them, conservative men.

Now, before you think I’m about to go on a long tirade on the patriarchy, please know, I come from a conservative background. I am a wife and a mother, and I respect men, wholly. We need men, and we do need them to be leaders. I believe in gender roles (to an extent), but I am also a career woman with ambitions that go beyond my four meticulously decorated walls. If I had to put a label on myself, it sounds like a contradiction, but I’ll say it anyway: I’m a progressive conservative. 

The Bad Words: Feminism and “Progressive”

See, back when we used the word “progressive,” it wasn’t a bad word. Progressive was the mindset that abolished slavery; that allowed women the right to vote; it was what got rid of the Jim Crow laws. Progressive was the movement that gave women equal rights to work and pay. If anyone had a problem with that before, they didn’t by the time World War II came around and women were left to do men’s jobs. You may be envisioning Rosie the Riveter: a symbol of feminism, back when it was something we all liked. 

Nowadays, if you so dare use the words “progressive” or “feminism” in a conservative space, you’ll be met with eye rolls, snorts, and a vehement head shake from a 60-year-old man who swears he loves Jesus, but still wishes, and I quote, “Women stayed in the kitchen where they belong.” Now, don’t get me wrong. No one can run a household like a woman, that’s tried and true, but I actually think a lot of the qualities and attributes that we’ve defined “homemakers” as translate over to the workforce.

Organizational skills, time and task management, nurturing and training someone under you, heck, even getting dinner on the table by six p.m. just like you’d have that report on your boss’ table before you clock out. In each decade that goes by, women have never traded one occupation for the other, in fact, they’ve gone above and beyond, and said, “Well, sir, I can do both!” 

Women Are Capable of Many Things

“Girls can be anything.” The slogan that has lasted over sixty years now…unfortunately is a problem. They associate it with women having “too much power.” There is an extreme visual they get in their heads, of women suddenly not wanting to be wives or mothers. They want to be leaders, they want to overtake men, they want to emasculate them.

Conservatives had a serious problem with the Barbie movie because it seemed to portray Ken as a subordinate, a lesser man. When Greta Gerwig (a mother by the way) explained that the movie was entirely satirical and was mainly showcasing men as women have been portrayed for years, that made sense. Barbie lives in Barbie land: a girl’s world, so why should he be in charge? He seeks validation from Barbie just like every woman is portrayed in a movie to seek validation from their romantic partner. It was satire. A turn of tables. It was brilliant. 

The Impact of Barbie and Taylor

I, for one, am happy Barbie is around. I played with the dolls when I was a kid and honestly thought anything was possible: I could be a scientist, I could be a pop singer, I could be the President. And now as a mother, I want the same confidence instilled in my daughter.

In Taylor’s song, “The Man,” she lyricizes exactly how women feel today, that if she were a man… “They’d say I hustled. Put in the work. They wouldn’t shake their heads and question how much of this I deserve. What I was wearing. If I was rude. Could all be separated from my good ideas and power moves.” Taylor is at the top of her game, but only after having to prove and reinvent herself time and time again, only after having to deal with megalomaniacs like Kanye and Scooter Braun, only after having to re-record literally every song in her discography just so she could reap its rightful rewards. 

There should be nothing wrong with women succeeding, and nothing emasculating about women leading with their God-given skills even in, yes, once heavily male-dominated fields. 

There should be nothing wrong with true feminism, period.

Feminism is about choice

I’m proud to be part of a generation of women that choose careers while also pursuing marriage and motherhood. These traditional “constructs” are not barriers to success, and also, career and home life are not trade-offs. The problem is that we keep looking at the issue in extremes. It’s either a career or motherhood, the two cannot coexist. We should look at the issue with a pursuance of balance. Work and home life often balance each other out.

Talk to any stay-at-home mom, and she will tell you hers is a full-time job but there are days she wishes she could “take time off.” (Yes, she means from her husband and kids.) And talk to any working father and he’ll most likely say, “I wish I could spend more time with my wife and kids.” At the end of the day, it’s up to the partnership and what works best for them. So, if a wife and/or mom wishes to stay at home, that is her choice, just as much as it is her choice to have a career outside of the home. That is feminism. Both are equal. Both are empowering. Step one: Normalize both. 

Embracing femininity

I believe another piece to the problem is that we have sat back and allowed society to go on encouraging men to dominate. Every ad, slogan, campaign, TV show, film implies that men should be number one. Little boys have grown up in households not taught to do chores but taught instead to enter toxic masculine environments. Little boys become little men who think “doing anything ‘women do’” is a sign of weakness. We have trained men to have a lust for power but not for responsibility. 

At an organization where we often see that when a woman finds herself pregnant, she’s left by her partner or encouraged to abort, I shake my head and go, where are the real men? We shame women for choosing to abort, but we don’t put the same pressure on men whose lives can simply go on because when it was time for them to step up, they ran away. 

Feminism is not a bad word. Taylor and Barbie are not bad girls. They’re doing what they can to survive and thrive in a world that has thrown every obstacle their way.

When I left the Taylor Swift concert, I felt proud to be a woman. I saw the same look on girls ten years younger than me. They left with a stronger sense of self, bigger dreams, and a drive to succeed without having to trade in their pink or glitter for something more manly. I don’t think women need to look like or copy men and their behaviors to get ahead in this world. Women don’t have to “do what men do.” We can all­­––as unique individuals––just do what we’re meant to do, sans a gender clause. We can embrace our femininity while being absolute bosses. 

Redefining (Again) Feminism

As for Barbie, she chooses motherhood at the end…the potential of motherhood, rather. I would have thought that choice would butter conservatives up. Yet, they still found a way to shoot the film down because it dared portray a doll who entered our real world and questioned its authenticity. When Ken enters our world, he is empowered by the patriarchal system that runs our society, but sadly uses it to excuse his childish and condescending behavior. What was Ken then? He was insecure. Truthfully, insecurity is the culprit of greed and dominance. But secure men make space. Secure men want a woman who displays excellence to take the lead. That’s simply what real feminists want, too. 

Feminism is a call for equality, a call for the double standard to be eradicated. It always has been. It was never meant to be an extreme, radical, man-hating movement. Girls don’t want to run the world, truthfully, we’re past that. Girls just want an equal part in this world. And you may be thinking, “Well, you already have that, so can we be done with feminism?” So long as we live in a world where people have a problem with women being “too” successful or taking charge, we will always need feminism. 

Society and the economy have benefited from feminism, at home and in the world at large. We will continue to see progress, innovation, and beauty when we give women a platform to excel in their chosen fields. After all, it is our employment and money that helped us avoid a recession last year, so you can thank us for that. 

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