Jameela Jamil Is Fighting The Haters. And We Love Her For It

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5 min read

Jameela Jamil is one of the most talked-about people on the planet right now. And with good reason.

The British DJ, actress, model and activist is waging a crusade to help women “feel valuable and see how amazing we are beyond the flesh on our bones” through her @iweigh Instagram account, which at last count has more than 361,000 followers. 

I only discovered Jamil recently after my editor suggested I should check out her work and I must admit, I have fallen a little bit in love with her. 

She executed a public takedown of an Avon advertising campaign suggesting dimples on your thighs were anything other than totally normal. 

She’s also fighting the haters. Everyday she responds to tonnes and tonnes of Tweets from people who are taking issue with the fact that her feminism isn’t intersectional enough. She is being criticised for not covering every “inclusivity” base or representing every minority. Her latest campaign with Aerie, is being accused of not being quite good enough because there are still a stack of people who can’t wear the label because of its limited sizing (something the brand is working on). 

It’s a tough gig, being a famous, gorgeous and a crusader.

Jameela Jamil’s campaign fights all shame, be that detox teas, diet products, photoshop, ethnic erasure, gay erasure, disability erasure AND fat phobia.

And of course, Jamil also has a job to hold down, on the TV series The Good Place, which has been running since 2016 on NBC (also available on Netflix), alongside her various media and speaking appearances. She’s pretty busy. 

She executed a public takedown of an Avon advertising campaign suggesting dimples on your thighs were anything other than totally normal. 

She describes herself as a “FEMINIST-IN-PROGRESS” (her capitals, not mine), and her pinned tweet shows she is aware enough to know she doesn’t know everything. 

“It is never too late to check yourself and right your wrongs. I used to be slut shamey, judgmental, and my feminism wasn’t intersectional enough. Nobody is born perfectly ‘woke’. Listen, read, learn, grow, change and make room for everyone. We aren’t free til (sic) ALL of us are free.” she writes. 

We’ve written a bit on IL about how being fit and healthy, not just in body but also mentally, can help you live your best life. And I’ve touched on my own journey to a healthier and happier life. We know from your feedback and chats in our Facebook group that balance is important for you. 

But for Jamil, that gentle approach doesn’t cut it. She doesn’t even call what she’s doing promoting “body positivity”. Her brand of activism is broader than that because it “fights all shame, be that detox teas, diet products, photoshop, ethnic erasure, gay erasure, disability erasure AND fat phobia.” (again, from her Twitter). 

So why is she copping so much flak? Apparently she is too skinny and beautiful to be allowed to have an opinion. I’d also wager it’s because she is actually putting it all out there, daring to take a stand and make waves. 

The problem with conventionally beautiful women championing #nofilter, or advocating for photographs to be published without touch ups, or for ‘no makeup selfies’, is of course, the fact that they are already regarded by the media, society and Instagram, as physically flawless. 

I used to be slut shamey, judgmental, and my feminism wasn’t intersectional enough…listen, read, learn, grow, change and make room for everyone. We aren’t free til (sic) ALL of us are free.

It’s no lie that beauty is power. In our image obsessed world the way you look is no less than political currency. There is a silently accepted and understood code which places us all on a scale from too young to too old, too blonde to too dark, too natural to too made up (or filtered), and most obviously: too skinny to too fat. Unless you hit the sweet spot in the middle, forget ever fitting into that box. Yes, you might be ethnic, but you’d better not be too ethnic or you won’t cut it either.

From what I can gather, there are only a rare few of us who can accept we are not genetically supermodel material and move on with our lives. The rest of us spend what is frankly, a bloody scary amount of time grappling with how to look our best, age gracefully, stay fit (and I mean weight-wise, not health-wise, there’s a difference) and wear clothes that are fashionable and flatter us. We live in a contradictory world. We’re doing our best.

I appreciate the arguments about changing the discourse around what constitutes beauty (read here from Mia Mingus on the relationship between beauty and structural violence). I agree we should be moving towards a more inclusive idea of what beauty is. But we need to drive it ourselves. No academic body, media outlet or corporation can do it for us. We need to vote with our feet when we purchase products; check our self-talk and what we say out loud in front of our children, our partners and our friends. We need to build our confidence on the content of our hearts, substance of our souls and how kind we can be to others. 

And it doesn’t hurt to occasionally take down bulls*it ads that shame us.  

I’m also a pragmatist and a human being who is encouraged by seeing others take positive action. 

Asking Jamil to recognise her beauty, or calling her out for her genetics is not just unfair, it’s a form of academic and intellectual snobbery all of its own. To say what Jamil is doing is irrelevant or hijacking a movement, is to reduce her experience in this world. Call me cynical, but controlling who is allowed to be part of the body positive movement, especially if it means excluding celebrities, isn’t helping to build the audience and therefore the diversity of people aware of the movement. 

Simply, Jamil’s celebrity allows her to bring these ideas to people who otherwise wouldn’t engage with them. 

Excluding skinny women, models, or anyone who may fit a mainstream idea of beauty, from the movement to create positivity and inclusiveness on body diversity is a bit like excluding men from feminism, or stay-at-home mums from strides women are making in the workforce. Any movement for change needs to include everyone, not just those directly affected.

An articulate, ballsy and self-aware woman with a platform to create change and the ability to bring down ads that are designed to shame us? In my opinion we should be grateful she’s not just another Kardashian.

Would you vote with your feet and boycott products which beauty shame? Have you done this already? Tell us all about it in the comments below.

You might also like How To Stop Those Judgmental Thoughts Which Are Making You Unhappy.

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