Deputy Editor Kat Smith takes a look at Jameela Jamil’s latest project: measuring our value through more than just a scale
From T4 to Netflix, Jameela Jamil has enjoyed her share of success. Though her fame may stem from her presenting on TV and radio, as well as her acting on The Good Place, recently Jamil has hit the headlines for her activism for body image and her battle for women to be respected for more than the flesh on their bones.
After seeing pictures of celebrities with their weight plastered over them, Jameela Jamil retaliated by posting a picture detailing what she ‘weighs’ – her relationships, her job and also the elements of her life that aren’t so perfect. The response was so vast that she set up an Instagram to share the hundreds of submissions she received. After a matter of months, @i_weigh has 205k followers, over 2,000 posts and is growing every day.
It’s pushing back against the countless ‘fitspo’ accounts aiming to convince us that they are promoting body positivity through #strongnotskinny, booty guides and discussion of their own insecurities. In reality, they are firmly keeping the conversation concentrated on our bodies… and profiting off of it at the same time.
When the likes of Kim Kardashian post pictures of their bodies online, It’s been argued that she is merely celebrating her body and has a ‘right to be sexy’. When Kim has clearly had cosmetic procedures and displays the conventionally beautiful body of our time, Jameela Jamil is right to call her a ‘double-agent of the patriarchy.’ And when such successful women become defined by their aesthetics, hip-to-waist ratio, and cup size, it’s a problem. I am all here for body confidence, but the point is that we are all so much more than the flesh on our bones. When you relentlessly post pictures of your body while also urging your followers to buy appetite-suppressing lollipops, self-confidence is definitely not what you’re selling.
i_weigh’s home being Instagram is highly appropriate. The image-orientated platform is responsible for grinding down so many of our self-esteems and so is the perfect place for Jamil to push back. Studies have found that a 30-minute scroll on Instagram can cause a negative fixation on their appearance, with fitspo and celebrities also causing dissatisfaction. As Jamil says, we are surrounded by these images now, whereas years ago you would need to buy a magazine to compare yourself. Though eating disorders are the most extreme implication, even without a diagnosed illness body image can have an overwhelming effect on our lives when it’s forced to the forefront of our minds.
We are commonly fed the message that no matter our accomplishments in academia or work, no matter the strength of our relationships with others and no matter how happy we are, we can and should be always doing more for our bodies. We can always get closer to perfection. With the tsunami of workout videos, calorie counting apps and social media ‘influencers’, it is almost impossible to escape consideration of our bodies. We are invited to analyse other people’s bodies to distract from our own, with the latest bombard of hate at Tess Holliday’s Cosmo cover demonstrating how many people feel like they have the right to pass judgement on other people’s bodies. This does nothing for our own self-esteem, reinforcing that we should be self-conscious and that others have a right to attack us for our dress size.
There’s also something to be said about expressing gratitude for the good and acknowledging the bad in our lives when the internet puts such a filtered lens on reality. Even excluding our bodies, it’s easy to compare our lives to our friends, celebrities and influencers and feel dissatisfied when ours aren’t as shiny as theirs. Though many have spoken up about mental health and other struggles on social media, the overwhelming majority of images are portraying an airbrushed, flawless existence. Through i_weigh, men and women alike are sharing the elements that make them them, including the struggles they are enduring and the perceived flaws they have. These posts are a declaration that nobody’s life is perfect and that is absolutely okay. I hope that Jamil’s social media revolution will encourage us not only to celebrate our bodies but also the elements in our lives not normally broadcast on a rose-tinted Instagram feed.
Jamil’s good looks that generally accompany a career in modelling (tall, slim and in many ways, conventionally beautiful) may make her message feel inaccessible. And with the many successes she’s had so far in her career, she does seem to have it all. After all, it must be easier to preach about loving yourself, loving your life and not thinking about what you weigh when you don’t seem to have any issue with your looks… right? Maybe it’s easier to digest the message when someone less conventionally beautiful is communicating it. But Jamil has openly discussed her struggle with anorexia as a child, where she lost her periods as a child. She has stretch marks like the rest of us.
And while those deemed to be attractive enjoy a bias towards them, it’s still problematic for them to not be valued on who they are and their accomplishments but instead their cheekbones and hourglass figure. While beauty may be aspirational, being valued for only that is pretty soul-sucking as well.
I wholeheartedly agree with everything she says, which is rare for someone who started out in opinion writing… As a 20-year-old woman who’s relentlessly struggled with my body, it’s invaluable to have a successful, strong woman telling me that my accomplishments in life matter so much more. We all need to stop tormenting our minds and torturing our body in the pursuit of a body that is not only unattainable, but simply not worth it. Eating healthily and exercising to be healthy and happy is far different to obsessing over our bodies and doing anything we can to change it.
Jamil’s message is reaching wider than those following her Instagram account. With articles in the Guardian backing her comments, her face and accompanying message on the likes of The National Student and countless interviews across many media platforms. I look forward to the day these aren’t interspersed with ‘Lose 10lbs of belly fat in 10 minutes’-style workouts and diet plans, but at least the conversation is starting.