Updated: Oct 22
I declare 2023 the Year of the Girl. It's also the year I learned to cry. Both of these declarations came to me in a movie theater.
Twice in the last two months I've cried at an opening image so powerful it required no words. First, the Barbie Movie, with little girls smashing their dolls against rocks. Second, Taylor Swift's Era's Movie—which a fellow theatergoer dubbed "Taylor Swift for poor people"—with Taylor in a glittering bodysuit welcoming her thousands of fans to SoFi Stadium.
Let me clarify: I am not a Swiftie. While I really enjoy her music, I'd be hard pressed to name most of her albums. And I never played with Barbies as a kid. I was more of a Lite Brite fan myself.
Why, then, did these two moments bring me to tears?
Perhaps, it's because years ago, liking these two items identified you as a girl. One who acted like a girl and liked girlie things. You were emotional and sensitive. You liked pink and makeup and glitter dresses. These girls were seen as inferior. These girls had opinions that were fluffy and insignificant. These girls were teased and mocked. In a way, these girls were all of us.
As I watched a new narrative appear on the movie screen, I did so next to my two little girls. My daughters understand that you can be girly and powerful. You can rock a power suit and shake a glitter bikini. You can live in sweats and aspire to making art and still find your power. You can be, and you are, all the things that make girls unique.
As I watched girls around me dance with friendship bracelets, my daughters knew giddy and loud wouldn't be discouraged. They saw women and teenagers, moms and dads, all watching a young woman reaching the pinnacle of success by writing words and songs that center on the emotions we all feel but have rarely felt from media.
As I watched a silly, campy movie about Barbies come to life, I saw a version of myself that has been long ignored. A hopeful girl silenced with suggestions that her body mattered over her voice. Told her dreams were silly unless they included a husband and children. Instructed to look the other way when men demeaned her, and dictated to shut up when she became too loud about the things she found unfair.
As I watched little girls thrash their baby dolls against rocks, my girls saw something I never did. They heard a message that said this: don't change the parts of yourself that serve you. Don't quiet your voice and don't push yourself to perfection. They heard for the first time, "Do love yourself just as you are."
As I watched a movie with my girls, I cried. Not from sadness or anger or exasperation. I learned to cry because of hope. I see a better world for them happening in real time.
That is the power of the girl.