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A New Way to Value Women: Jameela Jamil and #iweigh

In a new age controlled by social media, young women are being sucked into a crisis: in order to be valued in society, women need to look a certain way, regardless of their intellect and personality. 

According to Statista, young adults in North America spent an average of 170 minutes per day on social media in 2017. This outweighs the amount of time we should be spending on socialising, eating and drinking. It is not surprising then, that young women are constantly exposed to unhealthy body ideals through social media apps such as Instagram, Facebook and Youtube. Despite the fact that women and their perception of self-worth has often been a topic of taboo, Jameela Jamil, a former Radio 1 presenter, has decided to use her voice and raise awareness. 

During an interview with Krishnan Guru-Murthy on Channel 4 (a British broadcasting company), Jamil discusses the dangerous ways in which society values women and her current campaign: ‘I Weigh’. 

Jamil states that her campaign started ‘by accident’ on her Instagram after viewing a picture of the Kardashians. She explains that a few months ago, she came across a picture on Instagram of the Kardashians with a variety of numbers plastered over their bodies. At first glance, Jamil assumed that the purpose of this image was to represent the Kardashians’ net-worth (after all, these women had built one of the largest social empires all by themselves). However, as she began to read on, Jamil was shocked to find that these numbers represented how much the Kardashians weighed, followed by the question ‘which weight are you?’. Horrified, Jamil read thousands of comments from young girls showing concern about their own weight: comments such as ‘I am the same height as Kendall but I weigh so much more, I am so fat’ filled the comment section. Is this how young girls should be viewing themselves? 

As if this wasn’t as infuriating enough, Jamil then suddenly found her ‘Instagram Explore’ page filled with images and advertisements about weight loss. She argues that this is directly linked to the algorithm that Instagram employs to match new advertisements and posts to a user’s post history. Jamil argues that this in itself demonstrates that women are clearly defined by their weight in today’s society. From this, Jamil decided to let the world on social media know just how much she weighed and listed the following factors:

  1. Lovely relationship
  2. Great friends
  3. I laugh every day 
  4. I love my job
  5. I make an honest living
  6. I’m financially independent
  7. I speak out for women’s rights 
  8. I like my bingo wings 

Jamil also claims that this includes all the things that “aren’t perfect in my life”, yet all of these things make up who we are and our self-worth. Moreover, Jamil claims that this is how society defines men, thus we should be doing the same for women.  

After posting this to her personal Instagram account, young women around the world responded. Thousands of women were posting their ‘weight’ in the same way as Jamil to Instagram, encouraging other women (and men) around the world to discover their self-worth outside of aesthetics. Since the response was so huge, Jamil created a new Instagram page (@I_weigh) that now has over 150,000 followers and just under 2000 posts. Jamil claims that this page has grown out of “women and some men’s desire to finally be recognised for who they are and not what they look like”. 

Moreover, Jamil has also been recognised for opening up about her eating disorder as a teen and how she had battled with it. Born in 1986, Jamil describes growing up in the 90’s as incredibly toxic; the only way to be attractive throughout the 90s was to have no fat. Sadly, as social media has taken over, young women do not have to physically go out and buy a magazine to find unhealthy information and images of thin celebrities. Instead, we are involuntarily flooded with such images as we log onto our social media accounts multiple times each day. ​Jamil claims that between the ages of 14 and 17, she never ate an actual meal. This had knock-on effects, as she didn’t menstruate for 3 years because she was starving herself in order to fit the narrow expectations of society. Even though Jamil had multiple scholarships, she claimed that none of this was important to her because she felt like she would never be good enough unless she weight 6 and a half stone (just under 41kg). 

Jamil argues that anorexia is not only limited to genetic factors, but also external, social factors (hence why social media is so toxic for female teens). Moreover, Jamil argues that women are never celebrated for their intellect in the media. Instead, we are only subjected to sexualised female popstars who are incredibly ‘skinny’ and whose weight is obsessively talked about. 

It wasn’t until Jamil was involved in a car accident and consequently broke her back that she was able to overcome her eating disorder. Jamil claims that this accident ‘knocked some sense into me’ and taught her to respect her body for what it was. 

Perhaps more shockingly, Jamil claims that during her work on television and radio, her images were constantly altered in order to make her look ‘white’. Facial features such as her nose were changed to make it look more Caucasian, possibly to make her seem more acceptable for a Caucasian audience. Jamil argued that this was not only bad for her mental health, but also for her audience; no-one is good enough the way that they are. 

More recently, after a cancer scare, Jamil quit her job on Radio 1 and spent a year out in America. From here, she wishes to extend her campaign to consent and how we should be teaching kids in schools how unrealistic porn is; Jamil claims that Instagram is just essentially ‘soft porn’. Moreover, Jamil wishes to make an impact on the way advertising works in magazines and how they market and portray young and old women.

Ending this article on a more optimistic note, Jamil is now currently writing a book and wants to visit schools to help young people change the way that we look at women (not necessarily through attacking men) and to change the way we talk about consent. 

I hope that to those of you who are reading this article, you realise just how important and worthy you are as women in modern society outside of your physical appearance. The fact that you received a place to study at such a prestigious university is one of the many reasons as to why you are worth so much more than you weigh.

Don’t forget to watch the full interview with Jamil here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXzO0z6fmhI

And don’t forget to follow Jameela’s Instagram campaign page (@I_weigh) and maybe even share a post about how much you weigh! 


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