Celebrating Easter on Social Media

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Today is Good Friday, and Easter is this Sunday. One of the most important religious holidays in the Christian world, and for non-Christians in a culture designed around this particular faith tradition, it’s a fun way to spend a springtime Sunday with egg hunts and candy. Easter tends to slip under the radar compared to some bigger, more emotionally loaded holidays like the ones we’ve covered in the past. But there’s still much to unpack and explore on this particular holiday, especially on social media. Let’s go on an egg hunt of our own and uncover some of the nuances and complexities girls+ contend with – and how to manage these feelings and experiences with grace and confidence year-round.

The Easter Dress and the Pressure to Perform

I was raised Catholic, and one of the defining events in the lead-up to Easter Sunday was going shopping with my mother and sisters for nice outfits to wear for the big day. It’s a tradition that goes back centuries, as new clothing was seen as a symbol of a fresh start and rebirth. But as MEDIAGIRLS has discussed several times, clothing is closely interrelated with several interlocking ideas about gender, class, and power in our culture. The Easter dress is a very visual status symbol, and on social media, visual signifiers of what you can buy and put on your body are always under discussion.

Easter dresses are known for being hyper-feminine, with soft colors, lace, ruffles, and other design features that are heavily female-coded in our culture. For some, myself included, dressing up like a proper lady of old or a fairy tale maiden was a fun part of Easter Sunday. But for other girls+, it’s a stark reminder of how far we still need to go in how we construct gender roles. Easter dresses are some of the first formal wear that Easter-celebrating girls+ engage with, and they’re often picked out by the parents before the child fully understands the cultural meanings behind them. As kids grow up and develop a deeper understanding of themselves, clothing is a key way they express their identities to the world. Further, Christian circles in America are infamous for strict gender roles, where “masculinity” and “femininity” are mutually exclusive bubbles, and any crossover or questioning of the boundaries is discouraged or even punished. We see this in our discussions of anti-transgender legislation, many of which have their roots in powerful Christian lobbyists.

There’s also a discussion to be had about Easter dresses as a status symbol, both in religious circles and on social media. The infamous “prosperity gospel” is a variant of Christianity that posits that how much money a person has during their life on Earth is a sign of how much the Almighty favors them and that they are destined for Paradise in the hereafter. In many ways, social media presents a secular version of this very fraught theological concept: how you look is an indicator of how much you are valued on a higher level, and the way to obtain this sign of grace is to use your time and money to present the best visual signifiers. It’s a constant race to look the best, so as to be seen by more people, so as to perform the “best” or most culturally rewarded version of yourself, which leads to spending more time, money, and effort into keeping up that appearance. It is a problem MEDIAGIRLS was founded in opposition to: girls+ should have the knowledge of how physical appearances and self-esteem are constructed in the online world, the freedom to present themselves authentically, and the courage to challenge these systems so everyone can be their authentic selves online. Girls+ who like to wear their Easter dresses have a place at the table, but so do those who don’t want to wear the outfits because it doesn’t match their self-expression or because they want to direct their monetary and social capital somewhere else.

Echoes of Anti-Semitism

Easter may be a mostly secular holiday with all the bunnies and eggs, but its Christian roots are still a key part of it, and not always in positive ways. Christianity began life as an offshoot of Judaism, and the central figure of the faith was a Jewish man. However, as the religions diverged, early Christians were eager to not only differentiate themselves from their sibling faith, but to present themselves as superior to it. The reason Easter is celebrated is that Christians believe that their most important religious figure, Jesus, caused consternation among the authorities of his day, was executed, and then came back to life. The reasons why the Roman government wanted Jesus dead have to do with a complicated web of ancient politics and challenges to the status quo, but anti-Semitism in its modern form really began when the early Christians decided to simplify Jesus’ death to an absurd degree. In this understanding, the Jewish people were responsible for Jesus’ death, and thus every single Jewish person, past, present and future, deserves to be treated with less than full dignity. Up until the 1960s, the Catholic Church held as official teaching that all Jewish people were equivalent to Jesus’ murderers. For centuries, the pretty pastels and optimistic words about renewal coexisted with brutal violence against Jewish communities. Stereotypes about Jewish people as inherently evil persist today all over our culture, from the fairy tale witches that are based on anti-Jewish caricatures to conspiracy theories about prominent Jewish people controlling the world espoused by sitting members of the U.S. Congress

Social media is a breeding ground for new generations of anti-Semitism, and the Easter story gives these new, hateful ideas room to cross-pollinate with their ancient forebears. Social media is infamous for so-called “ironic hate,” where a person is introduced to hateful ideas over and over, presented as a “harmless” joke. They repeat these ideas as a form of trolling, hoping to get a rise out of someone. But this endless exposure to the same set of ideas allows irony to transform into genuine bigotry and even violence. MEDIAGIRLS teaches girls+ to be mindful of the ideas and algorithms that build our world and to have the courage to challenge them when they arise. Learning to stand together against hate is one of the most powerful ways to apply this lesson and to make good on the holiday’s promise of second chances and a brighter future.

In Conclusion

Easter is a long, confusing tradition tied up with several centuries’ ideas about religion, gender, class, and more. As girls+  grow up, more of these complexities become apparent both online and offline. The art of growing up is not about ignoring these ugly realities but confronting them with courage and confidence. There is much to enjoy at Easter, and there are some powerful ways of channeling its messages of hope and second chances toward a better world. Ukrainian-Americans are reviving an Easter tradition as a symbol of defiance against Putin’s invasion. Trans people have discussed reclaiming the resurrection narrative as a story of growth and self-affirmation. Taking these old ideas and using them to guide social justice today is remarkably powerful, and it imbues a day of chocolate and flowers with lessons worth remembering all year round. We invite girls+ to seek these perspectives out, learn from the past, and pursue the world they want to live in.

Katherine Lynch is a student at Emmanuel College in Boston, Mass. She studies Communications and Media with a minor in Marketing. She loves to read, write, and learn about the world, passions she is eager to share with the MEDIAGIRLS community.

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