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Opinion: This summer has been one for the girls

'Eras is currently on track to become the highest-grossing concert tour of all time...'

Earlier this summer, I was woken up far too early in the morning by a text from my best friend in Ontario: “WE GOT THEM!” 

By them, she was referring to tickets to Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour. For a show in Italy.

Is it a little unhinged to fly to the other side of the world to see a concert? Sure, I’ll admit that, even if the tickets are more an excuse to plan a trip with friends I don’t see nearly enough of than anything else. Still, whether you chalk it up to her unprecedented marketing prowess, songwriting talents, or the fact she’s released four new albums and three re-records since she last stepped onstage, this tour has snowballed into a cultural phenomenon I’m apparently willing to fly to Europe to be a part of—even if I’ve already seen most of the show on TikTok.

(Although I’d say the unwinnable battle to get tickets for one of six shows she scheduled at Toronto’s Rogers Centre in 2024 makes me think we made the right decision.)

I’m far from the only one willing to go to these kinds of lengths. Swift has built a cult-like community of mostly women—dressed up in their most bejewelled outfits, accessorized with stacks of homemade friendship bracelets—who pay a high price for the privilege of screaming along to her song lyrics in a sold-out stadium. A June survey from QuestionPro found between tickets, travel costs and other fees, concertgoers have so far spent an average of just over US$1,300 per show to attend the Eras Tour, with 91 per cent of respondents saying they’d pay the same rate to go again.

If that same spending pace continues through her entire run, “The Eras tour will have generated an estimated [US]$5 billion in economic impact, more than the gross domestic product of 50 countries,” according to the report. Some have even gone so far as to credit Swift for saving the U.S. from falling into a recession. 

Eras is currently on track to become the highest-grossing concert tour of all time, pulling in a record-breaking US$1 billion by next year.

It’s all the wilder considering six, eight, or even 10 years ago, I wouldn’t have paid a fraction of that, or probably even been willing to drive down the Sea to Sky highway to watch a T. Swift show. Her first three albums were an essential part of the soundtrack to my high school years, but my appreciation for her as an artist gradually fell off as I got older, my taste in music shifted, and she veered further into pop territory.

Beyond the fact that her singles at that time didn’t exactly align with the kind of music on most of my playlists, I’d be lying if I said it didn’t seem basic, if not entirely cringe-worthy, to count yourself a Taylor Swift fan in those years.

It wasn’t unlike other shifts that happened earlier, as a Disney princess dress-obsessed toddler with buckets full of Barbies turned into an almost-teenager who wore pink sparingly, thought anything too “girly” was inherently uncool, and made a concerted effort to balance stereotypically feminine hobbies with sports. The same kind of balance so many of us try to strike between caring enough about our appearance to be accepted, but not caring so much as to be considered vain. 

This summer has made me wonder whether those shifts were as much a natural result of growing up and changing tastes as they were driven by a general perception, at least from my perspective, of symbols Taylor Swift and Barbie—or even of largely female-driven industries like fashion or make-up, or rom-coms or reality TV—as frivolous. Fun, but entirely unimportant. (Obviously, enjoying these things doesn’t require having an “F” on your driver’s license, but still.)

It’s the kind of mindset made glaringly obvious in one well intentioned comment an extended family member made 15 or so years ago that stuck with me, for one reason or another. They asked when I would stop wasting the weeknights and Saturdays I was spending in a dance studio and start doing something more productive. I asked why they didn’t think my brother should stop playing hockey. He grew up playing at a high level, but by then, it was pretty clear an NHL contract probably wasn’t in the cards. The answer really didn’t matter, but the double standard did.

Fast forward, and I’m back on the Taylor Swift train, the Greta Gerwig-directed Barbie movie has earned almost $1.3 billion at the worldwide box office since its July release—solidifying Gerwig as the highest-grossing female director of all time, according to The Hollywood Reporter—and I think we can all agree we’re past the point of disparaging anyone for celebrating whatever it is they’re into. 

It’s exciting—and empowering, in a way—to watch these figures and ideas and concepts that, in the past, haven’t necessarily commanded society’s respect, at least commanding the economy. 

This summer has been for the girls, and I love to see it.