Julia @ 'School Girls; or, The African Mean Girls Play' - My body isn’t a commodity

What’s it about?

School Girls is set in Ghana and everyone is black and competing to be acknowledged as beautiful by the white world of the Miss Universe pageant.

My experience.

I’m gonna be quite frank: I did not want to see this show. I didn’t choose the show this time as we were doing a blind giveaway.

Being a white girl and coming from a well-off family, I told myself I was not gonna relate to a show about POC. I just went in assuming it was gonna deal with issues that have more to do with black girls — which it did — but to my surprise it dealt with some other pressing issues we can all relate to.

The show mainly focuses on how society has affected the black image. Paulina — who was very dark — had a lot of problems that stemmed from her skin color. She felt like everyone overlooked her growing up, so she got herself noticed by acting like a total bitch at school. Despite having a similar presence to Regina George from Mean Girls, whom she is obviously based on, Paulina had a way different life. She desperately wanted to leave her life, because her mother gave zero sh*ts about her, her father was absent and she thought she would probably live a meaningless life if she stayed in Ghana. Even if you had light skin, like four of the other girls, you still were not seen as equal to a white woman.

From firsthand experience, I can unfortunately confirm that’s true. I know that I have the privilege of messing up and getting back on my feet compared to the struggle a black girl would face if she did the same things. I’ve known so many black/POC girls that outshone me, but they were overlooked like Paulina because of the color of their skin. Even though we try to tell ourselves racism isn’t involved, it always is.

Then there was body image. Paulina constantly called out the character Nana for being overweight and associated that with being ugly. She would encourage her to starve herself whenever they were together. The other girls weren’t as fit as Paulina, but they were an “acceptable” size.

Body image has been something I’ve struggled with since I was a kid. I was the chubby girl that got bullied by kids like Paulina. As the years went by, I shed the weight. My parents starting restricting what I ate and I started going to the gym. I didn’t start to take it seriously until I took a health class and learned how much damage I was causing myself with my unhealthy eating choices. I’m one of those people who is terrified of dying, especially by disease, so I cut out all junk food and forced myself to eat healthy and exercise a lot more. All the years of bullying weren’t what made me want to lose weight; wanting to be healthy did. But sadly, that’s not the case for everyone.

Have you ever seen those angry fit people on Insta or Facebook? They make long ranting videos about obese and overweight people. Yeah, I fucking hate them. I had a crush on a guy once and when he shared a video like that I lost all interest.

I’m not in the best shape. My stomach is pudgy and I’m always conscious about it. I get the feeling like I’m not good enough because that piece of fat is there despite how much I’ve accomplished so far. But you know what? My body isn’t a commodity. Neither is a black girl’s body, or anybody’s body.

I wish we could just get rid of all the modeling agencies, the beauty pageants, all the Kardashians and all the Trumps. I just want to enjoy living without the constant thought of is my body worthy of being seen?

I guess I did connect with this show after all…


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