Can a video make you want to cry and cheer at the same time? Well, that was my reaction to this amazing video created by sixteen-year-old Autumn in reaction to a foolish and, dare I say, downright evil, article that ran in Teen Vogue magazine trivializing abortion.
In her video, Autumn discusses the idea of female empowerment, dismissing the claim that ridding yourself of the bone of your bone and flesh of your flesh is empowering. Even if, to some degree or other, you accept abortion, each one is a tragedy not a triumph.
You won’t be shocked to hear that I do not read Teen Vogue. Nevertheless, Autumn’s video led me to take a look at its webpage. Here is their tag line: “The rebellious, outspoken, empowering magazine that you need right now.” A quick look at the titles suggested that their definition of rebellious is walking in lock-step with academia, entertainment and most of the media. Outspoken, I grant them. Nevertheless, my biggest question had to do with the word empowering.
What I saw on their website was a fair dose of social and political indoctrination. I saw articles that will sow confusion in teen lives that have enough inherent confusion due to hormonal and psychological changes. I saw the expected amount of consumerism. I looked for empowerment and realized that I have no idea what that word means.
Is empowerment perhaps a substitute for self-esteem? The self-esteem movement has withered. Studies showed that criminals ranked higher in self-esteem than law-abiding citizens. So did American schoolchildren, who thought of themselves as proficient in math and English despite doing less well on tests in those subjects than schoolchildren from other countries. Those foreign students who did not consider themselves outstanding easily outscored the Americans. Self-esteem produced a cadre of people who spoke well of themselves rather than behaving in ways that would produce self-respect as well as generate respect from others.
Has the self-esteem movement morphed into the empowerment movement? Does empowerment mean being the best you can be or making sure that others cannot succeed? Is it defined as being able to do whatever you want no matter the cost to anyone else? Does it mean a hundred different things to a hundred different people or something completely different at a hundred different times?
Looking at Teen Vogue, like looking at so many other parts of our culture, can be depressing. Listening to voices like Autumn reminds me that there are many teens and young adults who are rebelling far more than a left-leaning, jump onto the latest bandwagon magazine is. They are actually willing to stand against the tide to fight the hedonistic, secular culture. They are articulate and outspoken messengers for empowerment in the best sense of the word.
If you know a teen whose life perspective comes from magazines like Teen Vogue, comedy apps and left-leaning teachers, make sure you provide a counterpart. Here’s one suggestion that will spark non-conformist thinking as well as opening up a valuable conversation.