Jameela Jamil: a Force to be Reckoned With

Jameela rocking a killer green suit. Image from www.stylist.co.uk/

If you haven’t heard of Jameela Jamil, you’re missing out!

London born to a Pakistani mother and Indian father, Jameela began her career as a teacher, going onto become a presenter on Channel 4 program T4, later hosting shows on BBC radio 1, and most recently starring in American Netflix series The Good Place. But what really makes this woman a force to be reckoned with is her tireless activism for women and girls. Namely, breaking the moulds of unrealistic beauty standards produced and reinforced by the mass media, encouraging self love and calling people out when their behaviours are toxic or damaging.

Here are five ways Jameela is absolutely slaying at the moment:

1. Her Interview on ‘Ways to Change the World’

The podcast challenges beauty expectations by asking listeners to consider how much time we spend a day thinking about how we look and the effect that this has on our mental health. She contrasts growing up in the 90s where you had to actively seek out images of celebrities and ‘thinspo’, to mass media nowadays that facilitates the unrelenting exposure of these images. We are constantly bombarded with pictures of narrow beauty ideals across multiple mediums; photoshopped images, airbrushing, white washing, fillers, bigger bottoms, smaller hips, and the list goes on, to the point that girls are made to feel like there is no plausible alternative. This promotes narratives of ‘I must look like them’ to be beautiful in the pursuit of unattainable perfection. Jameela talks about her own journey of learning to love her body and is trying to encourage women and girls to do the same by not taking their bodies for granted: “I’m practising self acceptance”. 

2. Her ‘I Weigh’ Instagram campaign

This campaign unintentionally blew up when Jameela responded to a post that contained a photo of the Kardashians with a list of how much each of the six women weighed. Despite the Kardashian’s faults, such reductive images amount successful businesswomen who built a billion dollar empire to their weight. In a society where patriarchal standards of beauty still reign, Jameela says she wanted to combat feelings of self worth that are too often “valued on our aesthetic”. Such depictions of what is considered beautiful breeds self hatred and can greatly affect the mental health of young girls (and boys) who consume these images. Responding to the image, Jameela wanted to express to her social media followers that they are so much more than a number on a scale. Flooded with thousands of responses, Jameela turned the display of women’s passions and self worth above their physical attributes into what she calls “a museum of self love” (@i_weigh), which already has 141,000 followers. 

Image from Jameela’s Instagram www.instagram.com/jameelajamilofficial/?hl=en


3. She’s calling for more diversity in the film industry

Jameela talks about diversity issues in her experiences in the film industry, highlighting that the lack of female representation means women’s voices are too often diminished or misrepresented. She states she has often “felt cornered in [her] career” due to the lack of women on screen and behind the scene. Where women feature they continue to be pushed into roles of victims, helping the male character find his way, sexual conquests or any other stereotyped female role you can think of. This isn’t good enough. Jameela says she was repeatedly denied roles under the premise that ‘women cannot be funny’ and had to grapple with, along with most actresses, unfounded rejection. Additionally, Jameela said “people have made me look white” through photoshopped images in order to be more appealing to caucasian audiences. She goes onto say that diversity doesn’t stop at underrepresentation of women of colour, but women of a certain size and certain age are also repeatedly denied roles. ‘Diversity’ so often becomes ticking boxes and not real representation. An obvious example would be not casting actors/actresses who have experiences of living with a disability or not casting trans actors to play trans roles.

Jameela Jamil. Image from /www.digitalspy.com/tv/the-good-place/


4. Calling Kimmy K out for promoting a ‘flat tummy’ lollipop

Kim Kardashian posted an ad for what was essentially an ‘appetite suppressant lollipop’ on her Instagram where she has millions of young followers and Jameela called her out. Because of this Jameela was dubbed a ‘bad feminist’ for ‘bringing down other women’. However, as Jameela reminds us, calling someone out, regardless of their gender, when they do something that is damaging to women and girls is very much warranted. She highlights that women, like Kim Kardashian, can still be knowingly or unknowingly promoting patriarchal narratives and we can’t just ignore that because she is a woman. It is apparent that she’s not only selling us ‘flat tummy lollipops’, but is also “selling self consciousness” to young girls who see her as a role model. Having suffered with anorexia in her adolescence, a lot of Jameela’s activism focuses on becoming more aware of the mental health repercussions of influential marketing (and celebrity endorsements). After facing immense backlash Kim eventually took the post down, a small but important success to fighting the system.

5. Her series ‘The New Age of Consent on BBC Radio 

The episodes aim to get rid of fears and taboos around talking about sex and the importance of consent. Sex is such a big part of our lives and should be enjoyed and discussed as natural part of life. Sexual education in a lot of schools continues to focus on the biology of intercourse, so often ignoring important education about when no means no (which obviously is always). Jameela concludes the podcast with a call to action, encouraging women and girls to look beyond the unrealistic beauty images that are repeatedly forced down our throats by the mass media. To continue fighting to change the way we talk about women that reduces them to a number. To use social media for good to create movements and communities. To continue conversations about representation and diversity and the effect of unrealistic beauty standards on mental health.

We can all take a page out of Jameela’s book.

Image from www.huffingtonpost.co.uk

Alice Chambers

Alice is a volunteer at the Victorian Women’s Trust and a student at the University of Melbourne where she is studying a Master of Global Media Communication. Alice is passionate about gender equality and believes it cannot not be achieved until the struggles of all kinds of women are heard. She is also passionate about pizza and her dog Scout (if you’re asking). 

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