“I know it’s hard, and it took me a bit of time to do it myself, but gosh it’s SO fucking liberating when you do.”
For decades, women have been sold the myth that we need to look physically perfect. That perfection involves everything from wearing the right clothes and making sure our make-up is en pointe to dieting to try and achieve the ideal body shape.
And that perfection also involves hiding our scars, whether that be stretch marks, scars from surgery, or from skin conditions like acne or eczema.
But now Jameela Jamil is taking a stand, urging us to stop hiding marks on our bodies just to fit into a narrow beauty standard.
In a tweet, The Good Place actress listed the various types of scars she has, and how she now no longer wants to hide them.
“I have such severe eczema all over that my legs are covered in huge patches of pigment loss from scratching,” she wrote. “I have a tonne of stretch marks, and because I have Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, *every* time I cut, I scar. I *refuse* to have these normal human marks weaponised against me.”
Ehlers-Danlos syndromes (EDS) are a group of rare inherited conditions that affect connective tissue, and one of the effects can be fragile skin that splits easily and scars easily.
Jamil’s words struck a chord, with dozens of people sharing stories and pictures of their own scars. Jamil later gave a “shout out to all the utter babes” who responded to her tweet and embraced their scars, adding: “I know it’s hard, and it took me a bit of time to do it myself, but gosh it’s SO fucking liberating when you do.”
But she also acknowledged that some people may not feel comfortable showing their scars, saying: “And HEY I get that some of you may not be ready to go without body make up. Because you’ve been taught to hate your natural body… which is devastating but so understandable in our current climate, but I’m not going to stop questioning and fighting the source of our shame.”
When asked what she thought of people who covered acne and scars with make-up, Jamil said: “I think we should all just be working every day towards being kinder to, and more accepting of ourselves. If we wouldn’t tell our loved ones to cover up their marks, then why do we tell it to ourselves? we must unpack this self hatred, find the cause, and destroy it together.”
Jamil is not the first person to talk about coming to terms with their scarring. Selena Gomez has spoken out about the surgery scar she was left with after she underwent a kidney transplant. Although she found it hard at the beginning, Gomez said that seeing her scar gives her a “sense of gratitude for myself”.
In 2018 a contestant on First Dates decided to show her keloid scars on the show. In an article for Stylist, Bianca said that wants to “encourage people to love the skin that they’re in, and to ignore people’s comments”.
And body confidence coach Michelle Elman, the creator of #scarrednotscared, went viral when a video she’d made where a group of women read her poem “Scars | Spoken Word”, which described the self-consciousness, denial and anxiety felt by those with scars in a series of hard-hitting verses.
Learning how to show our scars is difficult when it’s been ingrained in us that we should be ashamed of them, but the increasing visibility of people with scars is a step forward. Like Jamil, by continuing to talk about it we can interrogate and break down the structures that have sold us the myth of perfection.
For far too long, the representation of women by both mainstream and social media has failed to reflect who we see in the mirror, and its impact on our mental health is worrying. Stylist’s Love Women initiative promises to change that. As well as the launch of our Body Politics series, we’ve partnered with Dove, whose latest project (in conjunction with photo library Getty Images) aims to increase the supply of diverse pictures of women – which we will be using going forward.
Our editor-in-chief Lisa Smosarski has also made five pledges to Stylist readers:
- We will ensure the women you see on our pages represent all women – inclusive of ethnicity, body shape, sexuality, age and disability. When we create content and ideas, we will ensure that all women are represented at the table. We commit to featuring one fashion or beauty photoshoot a month that uses real, diverse women.
- We will ensure that we never sell an impossible dream. We believe in aspiration, but not in selling a lie. We will work with influencers, celebrities and other partners to encourage them to reveal their truths, too.
- We will celebrate the so-called flaws of women to prove the normality in all of our bodies. We will run videos, photoshoots and honest accounts of our bodies and how they behave.
- We will hold regular huddles with our advertisers and brand partners to challenge the way they portray and reflect women in their branding and advertising. We will call out and challenge brands, media and people who refuse to represent women with respect and truth. We will call on the government to support our goals.
- Through insight and anecdote, we will teach everyone about the issues facing women, what needs to be done and how we can all work together to resolve this self-esteem crisis.
Find out more about Stylist’s Love Women initiative here.