Parents: make sure your children get an education. Even if the alternative is becoming a reality show star!

Although I am perfectly aware that with two Russian planes shot down in a week, an ongoing war in Israel and the non-stop migrant flow in the now freezing waters of the Mediterranean, this is a small thing, but I think that you can never be too busy or overwhelmed with bad news to let the chance of advocating for girls education slip through your fingers.

This week two things happened that caught my attention: one (which I should I have been a castaway on some Pacific island not to hear about) is that Instagram star Essena O’Neill went ape shit crazy about how social media wants you to portray yourself as someone you are not.  My first reaction was: Really Essena?  You don’t say!  I really thought that all my friends that post masterchef-like dinners on Instagram cook dishes like that every single meal! I was so sure all my friends had become hot all of a sudden…

No, Essena, there’s a very good reason why Instagram comes with filters, and it is because you can edit your picture before publishing it to make your life (what you look like, what you eat, the place you live in) look like what you’d want it to be.  There’s almost no need to take 100 shots of yourself in a bikini to get the perfect belly, because with the right light Instagram does it for you.

I was just about to discard the crying teenager as an immature, yet rather likable, idiot when I came across another piece of news.  Italian gymnast Carlotta Ferlito comes fifth in the gymnastics world championship and instead of being happy to be the fifth best gymnast in the world she complains with her teammate, saying that “next time we should paint our skin black if we want to come first” (note: Simon Biles, gold medal in this championship is black).

Now, while Essena O’Neill is rather sweet in her awakening to real life, Carlotta is someone I would have loved to slap in the face, repeatedly.

But then I realized that the two girls have more than one thing in common: they are both teenagers, they are both stars (Essena has gazillions of followers on twitter and Carlotta is the successful protagonist of a reality show on Italian MTV) and they both dropped out/got special school programmes to fit into their career, not the other way around.

These two girls are the very bright example of what a life under the spotlight from a young age turns you into.  I am not against fame, I am not an angry feminist who hates pretty girls, but I really wish that parents (PARENTS, for Christ’s sake) valued their children beyond what profit their children could make them.

People without an education, in very many cases, and all the more so in a world that wants to APPEAR rather than BE, turn out to be more obtuse and racist because their entire world revolves around something ethereal and intangible like how many people follow or like you.  I am tired of defending people who don’t have an education because they didn’t want it although they had the chance to get it, I am tired to say “it’s fine, every experience counts”, I’m exhausted to keep hearing of teenage stars.

If we are so adamant to “let children be children” in developing countries, to grant them education and time to play, can we please stop judging the developing world with our neocolonialist eyes and start looking at our own societies as  structures that have deviated from what “the standard” should have been like?  Before we promote formal education in Africa or advocate against child marriage in India can we please make sure we are not trying to turn the now educated and unmarried African and Indian girls into the next generation of Essenas and Carlottas?


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