Some people have said that Jameela Jamil is “too skinny” to preach body positivity. This is her response:
Some of it is the usual misogynistic drivel demanding that Jamil stick to her day job and stop speaking out about anything that doesn’t involve The Good Place. You can safely ignore all of that nonsense.
But there have been others who have questioned the usefulness of Jamil’s campaign against body shaming, airbrushing and diet culture spearheaded as it is by a woman who is phenomenally and conventionally attractive.
Jamil hears these criticisms and, today, has responded in a passionate Twitter post about why she feels so strongly that she needs to take a stand on the subject of the continual shaming of women’s bodies. For Jamil, it’s not just because in the past she has been the victim of “public fat shaming from the press”, eating disorders, disability and bullying. She is pushing so hard for an end to body shaming because she wants “change for all.”
“I just want to make clear what we are doing at I Weigh,” Jamil wrote. “We are building a platform we will use to lift up actual activists from different marginalised groups. I am not trying to be the face of all of this. That would be frankly, f**king ridiculous. I’m just using the platform I am lucky to have, and the privilege I am afforded due to my job and my looks being deemed societally ‘acceptable’ to get the conversation to the people who can actually change the laws and change we treat people.”
Jamil added: “Fat phobia and ableism leads those with power to willfully ignore the voices of the most important activists. Because of my privilege, they are not currently ignoring me. I take it as my duty to use that privilege to push things forward for ALL of us.”
“This is not me trying to steal your movement,” she stressed. “It’s me trying to kick the gates open for it. I haven’t always been perfect at making sure everyone feels included in my feminism, but I am doing better now, and working at it every day. I stand with you. Not in front of you. Sending love.”
Jamil is referencing, here, the fact that early criticism of the I Weigh platform involved the fact that many plus size women of colour felt specifically left out from the channel’s Instagram page and images. Black women in particular felt excluded, a worrying moment of erasure considering it was plus size black women who led the charge in building the body positivity movement in the first place.
Jamil responded to this specific line of criticism in September 2018, apologising to anyone who felt that she had “in any way encroached upon your movement. “I am sorry. I am learning and I thank you for educating me. I hear you.” In her tweet today, she reiterated that her comments are addressed to plus size black women who “I continue to see are so left out of this conversation.”
“It’s my bad for not having understood your plight and fought harder with you sooner. It was ignorance, not lack of care. I stand with you now and forever.”
It is to Jamil’s eternal credit that she never shies away from criticism of her and her platform and that she actively engages, listens and evolves through feedback. She stands for something, yes. But more importantly she understands that the “something” part of that equation must always be in a constant state of growth as her awareness and knowledge grows. She admits when she is wrong. She takes criticism on board. And she moves forward. Take her Twitter bio as an example: “Feminist-in-progress”.
We should have many voices publicly decrying the insidious, persistent shaming of women’s bodies that is so depressingly prevalent, including Jamil but, crucially, not only Jamil. But we need her and others with a platform like hers - like Paloma Elsesser and Gabi Gregg and Virgie Tovar and Ashley Graham and Melissa McCarthy and Tess Holliday and Gabourey Sidibe and Danielle Macdonald - to be the first through the wall.
“She may not always get it right, but she always acts with heart,” Bownass wrote. “Should she shut up and sit in her corner, like women have always been told to? I hope she never does.”