Listen to Jameela Jamil’s Brilliant Take on Body Image, Self Worth, and the “Double Agent of the Patriarchy” Kardashians
In a powerful interview with Channel 4 News’ Ways to Change to World podcast, Jameela Jamil (of The Good Place and actual heaven) discussed her issue with the Kardashians and what she sees as their toxic influence on women and girls.
She hasn’t kept this opinion to herself in the past. She’s called the sisters out over their public and profitable obsession with weight and weight loss, including marketing weight-loss suckers to very young and often already very slim girls. Jamil and other actresses, including Stephanie Beatriz and Emmy Rossum, also called them out for using “skinny” and “anorexic” and being “concerned” as compliments regarding how small Kim’s waist has become.
In this interview, Jamil referenced Kim Kardashian as just one example of what she calls a “double agent of the patriarchy,” a hell of a phrase. Jamil argues that the expectation that women should only ever lift each other up and never criticize each other, lest we be dubbed bad feminists, is dangerous.
“When someone is doing something that is toxic and damaging to people and they have a huge platform and they are speaking to loads of people, [if] that person is saying something that is dangerous, we should all be allowed to say something about that. I don’t think you can just attack that person, I don’t think that helps anything. I think you have to offer constructive criticism,” she says.
She went on to explain, “The double agent of the patriarchy is basically just a woman who, perhaps unknowingly, is still putting the patriarchal narrative out into the world, is still benefiting off, profiting off, and selling a patriarchal narrative to other women.” What she says these women are selling is a problem with our looks–our weight, our wrinkles, anything at all. Ultimately, they’re “selling us self-consciousness.”
“You’re selling us self-consciousness.” Jameela Jamil explains why she thinks the Kardashians are “double agents for the patriarchy”, in the latest Ways to Change the World podcast. pic.twitter.com/NWHfGH2wNs
— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) August 31, 2018
At the start of the interview, which you can watch in full up at the top of the page, Jamil describes her “I Weigh” campaign, which began as a direct response to the Kardashians. She says she was scrolling through Instagram and saw a picture with the sisters with numbers under each of them. She expected that to be their net worth and clicked on it, only to see that the numbers were their weights.
“Whatever you might think, whatever I might think about the Kardashians, these are six women who’ve built an empire and they are businesswomen alongside everything else that they are. It is so insane that in 2018, we are still writing down their weight across every single woman’s body.”
She said that the comment section was full of hundreds of thousands of mostly young women and girls, stressing about their own weight. And that after she’d clicked on this one post, the algorithm just started showing her more weight-related posts, weight-loss posts, “and then more and more things that were clearly describing a woman’s entire worth centered around her weight.”
So she says she decided to write what she “weighs” on Instagram. But instead of a number, it was all the things that makes her herself: her financial independence, her relationship, her friendships, her job that she loves, as well as the less-than-perfect things about her.
“All of these things make up who I am,” she says. “That is how we define men. That has now got to be how we define women.”
A huge number of people responded to the post, so many that Jamil had to start an Instagram account for the campaign, just so people’s posts didn’t get lost. It now has 113k followers. Jamil says people have accused her of just doing the campaign for her career. As she points out, though, she could be making a hell of a lot more money as a double agent of the patriarchy than she could in calling it out.
“People have made me look white in so many of the magazines and campaigns I’ve shot for… it hurts my feelings.”
Jameela Jamil says cultural pressures to look a certain way led to an eating disorder in her teens, in the latest Ways to Change the World podcast. pic.twitter.com/umHrXTzcQA
— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) August 29, 2018
Jamil also discussed her eating disorder, saying she didn’t eat a full meal or menstruate from the age of 14 to 17, which only ended because she broke her back and was forced to change her relationship with her body. When asked if she’s processed why she had that relationship to begin with, she describes “being bombarded with a narrative that had no alternative.”
“There were never any women who were celebrated for their intellect,” she says. “They’re not given any attention in the press. I wasn’t reading about wonderful astronauts or scientists or great musicians. I was just seeing highly sexualized popstars who were very, very skinny on my TV.” Those celebrities were constantly having their looks and their weight publically discussed, so what other message does that send to a young girl than that the only thing worth talking about is the weight of a very thin woman?
She also talked about how it’s not just weight that is pushed in this narrative, but also colorism. She says she’s been photoshopped to look lighter and have more “Caucasian” features. Usually, when celebrities talk about these sorts of issues, they say they’re used to it, but they worry about the message it sends to other people, especially young people. It’s surprisingly refreshing to hear Jamil say that for her, it’s both. It does hurt her feelings.
Airbrushing and changing my ethnicity is bad for my mental health, it’s not just bad for the mental health of the girls who are looking at it. It makes me dislike what I’m seeing in the mirror. It sends a direct message from the editor to me, and the person who photoshops my image to me, that I am not good enough as I am, that the way I turned up on that set that day wasn’t good enough.
Someone please get Jamil her own talk show, podcast, book deal–anything. I don’t think we can possibly get enough of her.
(via Jameela Jamil on Twitter, image: Todd Williamson/NBC)
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