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1. The Curriculum Wars

What it is: Controversy over “banned” books and ideas reached a fever pitch this week when a Tennessee school district removed Maus from its middle school curriculum, and a Missouri district banned The Bluest Eye.
Why it’s not going away: Taking books out of school libraries and restricting children’s access to certain material is nothing new. But as reporting in the New York Times points out, politicians are now motivated to leverage these bans, which changes the power dynamics of how school boards make these decisions. It’s certainly tempting to get up-in-arms in favor of the material we want our kids to learn and against ideologies we want to protect them from. It’s important, though, to keep a certain level of perspective, especially in conversations with our teens. Restructuring a curriculum or pulling a title from school shelves isn’t the same as making a book forbidden. We also know that when books are “banned,” it often has the opposite effect as what is intended, as interest in those books increases and sales soar.

2. TikTok Wave Feminism

What it is: Discussions about “the male gaze,” “hypersexualization,” and “bimbofication” are becoming popular in TikTok conversations about feminism.
Why it’s taking off: The popularity of these videos show how hungry young women are for content that discusses their experience in the world and dives into the difficulties specific for girlhood. That means that these young women are getting an education on “feminism” at an incredibly early age. With that comes new definitions and some reinvention of tired, academic  language. Terms once reserved for women’s studies courses in undergraduate classrooms are now being thrown out in short form video posts that get hundreds of millions of views. Posts like the “bimbo manifesto” slyly suggest that perhaps focusing only on “vibes” and appearances is a way to escape the patriarchy. Teen girls want to have these discussions about what it means to be objectified. They’re trying to make peace with their bodies, knowing they will be perceived in negative and positive ways. That’s why it’s essential to be open to learning and talking about these theories, their effects, and how they align with biblical truths about being not just a woman, but a person in the world.

3. Brick and Uproar

What it is: Columnist Tish Harrison Warren, an Anglican priest, argued in the New York Times that it’s time to end pandemic-era streaming church services and get our bodies back into church pews.
Why it’s complicated: Many felt Harrison Warren’s opinion was dismissive of the concerns of the immunocompromised and elderly who are still at risk from COVID-19 and its complications. To be sure, “online church” has brought live worship into homes of isolated parishioners in a revolutionary way. For people with disabilities and those with chronic health concerns, having the option to livestream church services via Zoom or Facebook Live has meant they can participate in church in a way that they find meaningful. But as Harrison Warren points out, the purpose of church isn’t to make us feel perfectly comfortable or safe, but to provide a forum where our physical bodies are in the same space for a moment in time. To even have “virtual church,” she suggests, is to imply that meeting remotely is more than a weak substitute for gathering in-person. The piece and the subsequent outcry against it encapsulate the difficulties of “moving on” from the pandemic. Even for people who love Christ and want to be loving to their neighbors, it can be hard to see what the necessary next steps look like.

Slang of the Week

The vibes are immaculate: the way something is presented or feels is perfect. (Ex: “Threw on my new sweats with slippers and a crop top for this snow day, the vibes are immaculate.”)

Translation: TikTok Wave Feminism

In October of last year, there was a TikTok trend called “me before and after I stopped dressing for the male gaze.” According to @franksaystwentyeight, “The male gaze is a theory originating in film, but useful for interpreting art, photography, and literature, in which the presumed camera/audience is male and everything in front of it is designed for his consumption, including women.” The trend involved posting older pictures in more revealing clothing and then newer pictures in more loose-fitting clothing. Although some saw the trend as empowering, others criticized it as just intellectualized “slut shaming,” making women feel bad if they still wore clothes that looked like the first sets.

In some ways, bimbofication is a trend in the opposite direction. As the creator of the satirical “Rules for Bimbofication 2022suggests, “Don’t ask what misogyny does to you, ask what it can do for you.” In other words, spare yourself the energy of trying to prove that you’re a strong, competent, and capable woman to men who are still going to reduce you to your looks anyway—instead, just play into what they think. Then maybe they’ll become the butt of the joke without knowing it, and might even buy you something along the way.

Some laughed and saw the trend as “weaponizing feminine stereotypes against the patriarchy.” Others were furious, and couldn’t tell whether the post was satire or not. Commenters (language) said things like, “So it’s cute now to advocate for weaponized incompetence? I was under the impression that we agreed that was wrong and toxic,” “In no way is this empowering or positive; please tell me this is just a satirical bit and it isn’t actually how you go through life,” and then finally, “I give up on humanity.”

In a culture made by and for men, Jesus let women become his disciples (teaching them instead of encouraging them to embrace ignorance). He spoke to them in public in a culture that discouraged it (treating them as human beings instead of scandalous temptations). He even appeared to women first after his resurrection (lending them dignity in a way that no one else could have). The modern definition of what it means to be a woman can be a minefield of confusion, but here’s what we know is true: a woman is someone who Jesus elevates to equal status in our world, and treats with dignity and respect as an equal image-bearer of God.

Here are some questions to spark conversation about all of this with your teens:

  • What do you think about trends like these? Why?
  • Do you think trends like these are empowering to women? Why?
  • Do you think Christianity is oppressive to women or empowering? Why?