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Jameela Jamil just sparked an important debate on “cancel culture” in sexism

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Hollie Richardson
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Jameela Jamil

“If we cancel people forever, when they have demonstrated immense change and remorse, we devalue progress,” says Jameela Jamil. 

The Good Place actor and feminism activist Jameela Jamil knows how to get a conversation going.

Her I Weigh campaign is testament to this, which currently encourages over 700,00 followers to revolt against the shaming of women’s bodies. See also her frank and unapologetic post about why she chose to have an abortion when she was younger, shared in the wake of America’s recent abortion bans.

Now, Jamil is drawing attention to another topic to be considered in conversations about sexism: “cancel culture”.

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What exactly is cancel culture? Well, as Jamil wrote in an Instagram post: “If we cancel people forever, when they have demonstrated immense change and remorse, we devalue progress”. 

Permanently cancelling a person out for making a sexist comment means there is absolutely no space to let them learn and evolve. Whether you agree with this or not - it’s definitely something worth thinking and talking about as we continue to power through the #MeToo movement.

Her interesting comment came after speaking to Russell Brand for his Under The Skin podcast this week. Some followers were critical of Jamil’s decision to collaborate with Brand, as he recently made sexist comments in an interview with The Sunday Times Magazine. He revealed, among other things, that his wife Laura Gallacher doesn’t leave him alone with their two children because he is “not so good” when it comes to parenting duties.

But Jamil addressed this issue in the social media post.

“Some of you are very angry I have appeared on his podcast, but I did it because I’ve witnessed a tremendous change in him,” she wrote.

“I’ve watched him publicly own up to all of his mistakes, explain his mental illness, explain his behaviour to others, and use all of his mistakes as an example to help others avoid making those same mistakes.

“People with very big platforms normally just hide from their wrongs, but he’s running right at them and doing whatever he can to educate himself and other people about serious things that we all need to learn about.

“I believe in progress and not perfection, and I believe in the human potential for change and education, and I watch this person tirelessly try to make right what he has gotten wrong. Ricky Gervais said something along the lines of: if we cancel people forever, when they have demonstrated immense change and remorse, we devalue progress. I agree, it isn’t going to get us anywhere.

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“Too many people are ignorant and problematic, for us to have the luxury of writing them ALL off. We need to teach and to crack a window to allow in fresh air to clean up this world. People who make no change and no effort can absolutely fuck off forever, but those who can do a lot to help others, using their old mistakes as a teaching tool to create change, are of great value in my humble opinion.

“I really admire his work on addiction and mental health. I haven’t seen someone with such a big following spend this much energy on having those conversations with our society. I’m open to your thoughts on this and am sorry if any of you feel triggered by my decision.”

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After a fan on Twitter asked about referencing Ricky Gervais, Jamil replied: “Oh I think Ricky is problematic as all hell. I rarely quote him or agree with him on anything. But I agree with this point of his about cancel culture.”

Other followers were divisive when it to considering the idea of cancel culture in the context of sexism.

“I personally don’t feel like it’s ‘cancel culture’ to not want ppl who have done toxic stuff (again, talking broadly, idk what Brand has/hasn’t done) in the public eye,” wrote one Twitter user

“I don’t see the evidence that he’s changed and have never heard him address any of the truly toxic behaviour from his past. There is a mountain of it. This is so disappointing, as is the Ricky Gervais reference. Sigh,” added another. 

But a third stated: “Progress not perfection. Thank you ??. We do too often write off people who have made mistakes but where is the incentive for people to change if they’ll never be forgiven for the past? Love what you’re doing.”

“There are a shockingly few people who want social change who are willing to give second chances. People as a whole need to be allowed to grow and learn and change,” added a fourth. 

One thing that we can all agree on is that in order for progress to continue, conversations like this need to keep happening.

Image: Getty

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Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…

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