A thank you letter to the women of summer
The summer of 2023 went to the sound of  strong women including Barbie, Taylor Swift, and Beyoncé.
The summer of 2023 went to the sound of strong women including Barbie, Taylor Swift, and Beyoncé.
E. Johnson/Canva

This year, Saturday, September 23, marks the official end of summer. By now, the pools have been closed for a few weeks and the bookmarks in our beach reads have found new homes in school textbooks, but one thing has remained the same: I continue to belt out Taylor Swift’s summer anthem, “Cruel Summer.” Pressing the skip button on that song just seems…well, cruel, and as the lyric goes, these are “trying times,” and honestly, Taylor had it right, “summer’s a knife.” September 23rd does not just mark the end of summer, it also marks the end to “Barbie-Taylor-Beyoncé summer,” the “girl’s girl summer,” and the “#BillionGirlSummer.” So, as the air gets crisper and I flip the calendar to October, Taylor’s metaphorical knife presses deeper into my heart because this summer, for women in particular, has been nothing less than empowering, and I’m not ready for “Sad Girl Autumn” [a melancholy trend that started in 2021 with Taylor’s release of Red (Taylor’s Version)].   

To help me (and hopefully others feeling despondent about the official end of summer), I’m taking the change in seasons as an opportunity to reflect on all that Barbie, Taylor, and Beyoncé have done for me these past months, a sort of thank you letter to the women of summer 2023. Without further ado…


Dear Barbie, Taylor, and Beyoncé,

Thank. You. 

Going to see the Barbie movie was a family affair. (L. Spellman)

Barbie, to begin with you, never have I felt so proud to wear pink. Growing up, I have to admit that you were not my favorite, but back then you were just a doll to me. Now, I understand that you are an idea. You are the idea of womanhood. Barbie is “every woman” because Barbie gets the choice to be whoever she wants to be, and by the end of the Barbie Movie, you make the choice to listen to yourself, move to the real-world (Earth), and live life the way you want to. In an age where information increasingly dictates our decisions, your reliance on humanism, on trusting your human feelings (even though you are technically a doll), is refreshing. Whether saying “no” to a partner or “yes” to a career, people have the right to honor their individual wants and needs, and we can do that while respecting the wants and needs of others, too. In the Barbie Movie, the patriarchy assumed the antagonist role, but it was not because it was anti-women, it was because it was anti-individuality. The big screen portrayal of the patriarchy was done in an overt way; that is, men’s personalities morphed into patriarchy-approved qualities – the adulation of horses, of muscles, of playing guitar, of explaining movies, of trucks – essentially a population of machismos, but this was done because it made men feel powerful. Ken conformed to the patriarchy because it was his way of managing the control that he let Barbie have over him. Ken’s desire for Barbie’s approval erased his self-worth. By the end of the movie, Ken understands that a relationship with Barbie does not define him. He understands that the patriarchy can hurt men just as much as it can hurt women because in subscribing to the belief that all men should be masculine, men put themselves into one box. Just as women struggle to achieve unattainable standards and fit into every box (wife, mother, boss, pretty, polite, smart, caring, etc.), men struggle to exist outside the masculine box they are told to fit in. In both cases, extremist perceptions of a successful woman or man prove to be unfulfilling, and for both Barbie and Ken, it is when they adopt a growth mindset and allow themselves to be anything that they are happy. So, Barbie, thank you for teaching me that happiness is growth.   

A quick photo break before Taylor Swift performed the “Speak Now” era during her Eras Tour. (Swiftie fan in the row behind)

Taylor, your Eras Tour may be the closest thing that I will ever get to Barbie World. In a stadium of 80,000 accepting and kind and passionate Swifties, the majority dressed in pink or purple or sequins, I felt seen and I felt safe. From the moment that I signed up for the TicketMaster presale on November 1st, 2022, to the angst of waiting a full nine hours in the online ticket queue (thank you, Mom), to the eight months of anticipation that followed, I daydreamed of the night that I’d attend the Eras Tour, until, at long last, I heard the surreal sound of Taylor’s voice in live performance, validating all of my excited and overwhelmed feelings with her very first line, “It’s been a long time coming.” Three hours later, I had screamed with joy, danced until my feet hurt, and been moved in ways that can only be accomplished through live music. Plus, I witnessed a surprise music video reveal and Taylor Lautner doing a backflip (that sentence is bound to make sense to Swifties). Two months later, I am still daydreaming about that night. And in an effort to recreate its wonders, or at least enjoy it vicariously every weekend following that night, my mom and I relied on the Swiftie community members who live-streamed their time at the concert. Taylor, my mom has TikTok because of you. Whether listening to you live or live streamed or just through a car speaker, thank you, Taylor, for the best night of my life, and thank you for creating music that transforms every night into magic.   

Inside my car while listening to Beyoncé’s latest album, “Renaissance.” (E. Johnson)

Beyoncé, while I regretfully do not consider myself a part of the “B-Hive,” you are undoubtedly Queen B. In devotion to sumHER, I dedicated a full two days of driving time to listen to your album, “Renaissance,” in its entirety. Those sixty-two minutes of art pale in comparison to the fact that it had been six years since your last album. Beauty truly does take time. The sixteen songs beautifully intertwine with one another, and often, I found myself oblivious to a track change. Despite the sometimes uninspiring commute to school, the songs took me to the disco within the confinement of my Honda. Beyoncé, you said that your intention for the album “was to create a safe place, a place without judgment. A place to be free of perfectionism and overthinking. A place to scream, release, feel freedom.” Thank you for creating an atmosphere of self confidence that flourishes wherever a speaker is near.

While the three of you are artistic and business powerhouses alone, together, you’ve shown the strength of women to the world. Whether with my friends on social media, or over lunch with my 98 year old great-grandmother, I can – and do – talk about all three of you. You are universally heard, admired, and appreciated. All year long.

xx Ella

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About the Contributor
Ella Johnson
Ella Johnson, Staff Writer
Ella Johnson is a junior at Dowling Catholic High School. Within the performing arts program, she is involved in the fall play as well as Speech and Debate. She is also a part of Student Ambassadors, Student Philanthropy Council, and Ut Fidem. During the spring, she plays tennis at school and continues training year-round. Outside of school she takes piano lessons, an instrument she has played for nearly ten years. In her free time she enjoys continuously selecting the “next episode” button on any streaming service or delving into a good book. 

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  • M

    Molly PierceOct 5, 2023 at 11:26 am

    Ella – this letter of love to the ladies of the summer actually made me tear up a little… the community, the safety, the empowerment, creativity, and FUN that was the summer of the woman was something like no other summer had captured. I just enjoyed the heck out of your piece and know that others feel the same way. I’m putting $10 down now that the Time Person of the Year this year will be the Ladies of the Summer. Great job – Mrs. Molly Pierce

  • A

    AlicentSep 24, 2023 at 11:39 am

    I love taylor she is my Icon