I found an old diary I kept when I was fourteen. To my horror it was entitled Being Overweight. Dated the 7th January 2004, the first page is a lamentation on how much I hated my body. I was fat and I was going to lose weight. I had cut out pictures of bodies I found acceptable, stuck them neatly to pages with captions and detailed what aspects of their bodies I needed to achieve.
At fourteen, I had a distorted self-image. I had learned I wasn’t good enough. While I sit here at my big age on the cusp of an exciting new chapter in my life I know I haven’t truly unlearned the toxicity that lead me to believe that 1) I was fat and 2) that being fat was bad. I am a huge fan of hypervisible, self-proclaimed fat women. I seek out their affirmation of their size, their magazine covers, their beautiful wedding pictures, their shared sense of pride in who they are- but it’s theirs. My self-hate around my weight and size is so deeply rooted because before I was exposed to magazines and the wider media, I was taught at home everyday that fat was bad.
I wish when I was fourteen I had access to Jameela Jamil’s campaign “I Weigh.” Jamil aims to redress women and young girls’ focus on their weight by highlighting their personal achievements instead. So, I want to cape for her and support her in everything she’s doing because this positive aspect of her work is so personal to me. The problem is Jamil’s wider messaging is so exclusionary, so toxic I cannot in good faith ignore the damage her rhetoric does because one thread of her work is empowering. Take my hand, friend. Let me lead you on a tour of Jameela Jamil’s special brand of toxic feminism.
A segment of the latest episode of Krishnan Guru-Murphy’s podcast was posted to twitter with a video of Jameela Jamil rallying against “double agents of feminism” who are “still putting the patriarchal narrative out into the world.” This is a valiant cause until you scrutinise who it’s coming from and what this message is wrapped in. Jamil is correct, the Kardashian’s endorsement of Flat Tummy Tea is disgraceful especially because their bodies are not a result of anything other than a skilled surgeon but I question her consistent policing of women in her fight against the patriarchy. Jamil’s argument is that women are taught to trust women because we all share a gender and through that kinship patriarchy is able to Trojan horse the violent misogyny of body dysmorphia and eating disorders. Twitter maven Kirby identified her language as that of SWERFs (sex worker exclusionary radical feminists) and TERFs (trans exclusionary radical feminists). HANA says outright that Jamil’s arguments are a repackaging of radical feminism. Many of us cannot forget this is the same actor and activist who upon watching Beyoncé’s Self-Titled penned a blog post entitled “Booty and the Beast”- a piece of writing so patronising a film on misogynoir forms over your eyes as you read.
Jameela Jamil deleted the post but the internet, or rather Natalie, never forgets.
“...thanks to the volume of images of Beyonce behaving like a (Bloody amazingly beautiful) stripper… and the lengths she goes to to push the boundary… I don’t know where else everyone can go now? She’s done it all pretty much.” Jamil is simultaneously condescending and shames sex work. “What stimulates YOU beyonce? What do YOU like to see? What do you think women will find arousing to watch while they listen to your songs? What turns YOU on beyonce? Because so far it’s only your underboob I am marvelling at. It’s your buttocks spread apart by a pole, it’s you airhumping a piano… for a man who is sitting in a chair silently watching you.” Like, who tf were you even talking to? Is Beyoncé your mate? Beyond my reverence for the Queen, Jamil assumes so much about Beyoncé and her motivations. She views Knowles-Carter through a singular lens of antiquated, racist tropes. She denies the singers she names in this post- Nicki, Rihanna, Miley, Iggy- autonomy and agency over their decisions. The policing of women whose sex and sexualities are part of their business is a mainstay of radical feminism and implies that if these women would simply close their legs and do their work with their clothes on men will give up patriarchy. There has been no attempt at reconciliation, no atonement for the anti-woman diatribe she shared. It’s trash. Her views are trash and they haven’t change.
The same way she came for Beyoncé, she’s coming for the Kardashians. I don’t like them either but we must challenge half-baked pseudo feminism that targets women we don’t like- our faves will be next or have been targeted before in deleted posts. Jameela Jamil’s feminism is toxic because she is content to pick at women, low hanging fruit when the real work would be to challenge the socio-political systems and corporations whose work started long before the stars of today and will continue long after. And of course it is different now. Young girls are bombarded with a constant barrage of self hate but berating women for this is like being angry at the sun but shouting at your light bulb. This movement prunes the leaves of the patriarchal tree. When I was fourteen, it wasn’t pictures of Beyoncé or videos of Paris Hilton that led me to try to starve myself- it was the all-encompassing white supremacist patriarchy my mum had been infected by that she in turn infected me with. This interwoven system of prejudices had infiltrated my mind and is infiltrating the minds of the young girls she claims to be fighting for. If Jameela Jamil wants to be as revolutionary as she thinks she is, she would target those institutions. She would use her privilege and platform to lead a charge against those whose raison d'etre is the permanent subjugation of women. If Jameela Jamil was really about this activism life she would up lift the women who are equipped for this work and share her platform with them.
Jameela Jamil must recognise that if Kim Kardashian is a “double agent for the patriarchy” then so is she. If your feminist activism cannot exist without denigrating other women did you really wash and season your chicken before putting it on the grill? If your feminism is exclusionary, start again and come correct. This ain’t it.
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