Why What Jameela Jamil is Doing Matters

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but currently, there is an exceedingly famous family of women who are extremely visible to the public eye. They’re known as the Kardashians. This is them.

They are reality TV and social media stars, known for many things- but a not-insignificant amount of their fame is due to the fact that they are generally Beautiful People.

 

This is Jameela Jamil, also a Beautiful Person.

Jameela Jamil is an incredibly talented and funny actress, currently starring as Tahani on NBC’s The Good Place, who has used her fame and platform for activism and empowering women.

 

I emphasize the attractiveness of both parties not to assign worth to them as people because of their physical appearance, but to call attention to the fact that this is something that is just true of celebrities in society today. We’re constantly exposed to Beautiful People, who are then filtered and photoshopped even further beyond the point of realistic expectations for real bodies. Social media takes these doctored images, puts them on contexts that no real human would ever be in all of the time and creates this beautiful and enviable fantasyland called an Instagram feed. These feeds show falsified and fake versions of people’s lives all the time where they’re always laughing and on a beach, with their tummy nipped in and not a single blemish in sight. I am not the first person to call attention to this, nor will I be the last, but it’s important context to set up what is happening with celebrities on their Instagram, and what Jameela Jamil is trying to expose.

 While it can be easy for some of us to sit back and realize the fact that nothing on social media is real, it’s not that easy for everyone to know. Honestly, I even forget, and I’m the one sitting here and preaching about it all. And not only is it easy for people to forget that people don’t usually post their real and authentic everyday selves on social media, but we’re exposed to it constantly. I’m sure that you also don’t need me to tell you this but again, context.  

 

Now, after all of that, to get into what Jameela Jamil is doing about all this.

While her beef is not exclusively with the Kardashians (Jamil has spoken up about other public figures such as Cardi B and Beyonce, just to name a few), I’m going to focus on them.

 

I’m sure we’ve all seen the advertisements for the weight loss teas promoted by influencers far and wide, namely by the Kardashians.

It’s everywhere.

They really love their teas.

Really.

The ads for this stuff are really kinda rampant. And it’s the kind of thing that Jamil has been calling out from celebrities. The controversial fitness teas are questionable at best, and Jamil has a parody of these advertisements showing what you don’t see behind the Instagram posts.

 

Jamil’s work is to try and show us what real life looks like behind all of the perfect Instagram posts and tries to remind people, especially young women, what real life and real bodies look like. Having dealt with an eating disorder herself, Jamil understands the warped way that women view their bodies and the extremely unrealistic and high-pressure standards that people place onto themselves. In a world where only certain bodies are represented as beautiful 95% of the time, Jamil uses her platform to emphasize worth and importance outside of a couple of measurements.

Not to get on a soapbox about the patriarchy, but to get on a soapbox about the patriarchy, women have enough unrealistic expectations of their bodies imposed by men and society- they don’t need women to enforce those standards too. Just like Tina Fey says in Mean Girls, “there’s been some girl-on-girl crime here.” Women imposing these standards and ideals on other women makes it easier for men to do it too.

Also, I want to emphasize the importance in the way that Jamil has formatted her critiques. Time and time again, she tries to avoid blaming or demeaning the Kardashians while calling them out on their actions. In a comment on a picture posted by Khloe about meal replacement smoothies, Jamil focuses on the industry that “bullies” women into placing self-worth entirely into one body type, and asks Khloe as “a smart woman” to “be smarter.”

While still looking for accountability within the Kardashians for their obligations to a fan base and not to the opportunity for profits, Jamil treats them as real people and with a tone of civility asking for accountability. Jamil also recognized and praised when Khloe removed the post about said meal replacement. And it’s not lost on Jamil that, among all the drama and “negative energy space” (as said by Kris Jenner herself), her #IWeigh campaign for empowering women and identifying worth outside of a body type was started in a post defending the Kardashians.

Is Jameela Jamil’s approach perfect? No. Absolutely not. It’s incredibly easy for someone who is already practically flawless to tout the idea of doing away with any sort of retouching of pictures in the first place. Jameela Jamil is a famous Beautiful Person, and it’s really easy to diminish her words because it might be easier for her; she’s objectively stunning, so of course she can get up and tell us to stop airbrushing because she “doesn’t need it.” However, as far as I’m concerned, nobody needs airbrushing, and the whole point of Jamil’s activism is to move the focus away from physical attributes. Her callouts can, at times, be a little clumsy and easily misconstrued. And of course, it would be ideal to get to the patriarchal roots that spur the need to airbrush and use these flat tummy teas in the first place rather than attacking the symptoms themselves- but turns out that’s a task that takes more than one woman! Just because it’s not perfect doesn’t mean it’s not important. It’s important to address these problematic behaviors, especially because all they do is fuel the sexist machine that provides the impossible standards in the first place.

Jameela Jamil is out here representing a human facet of people in this shiny and perfect, glorified Hollywood world, and she’s saying things that I think more people need to hear. And I think it’s safe to say that this goes beyond commodified and trendy activism; between her #IWeigh campaign and commentary about realities in today’s society, Jamil has shown real-life dedication to the cause and empowering women. Nobody has all the correct answers to everything and I personally admire how brave it is to put yourself out there to critique a name as powerful as Kardashian. Helping young women feel empowered and in a healthy relationship with their body is something more celebrities need to do, and something that I think Jamil is incredibly committed to doing with an open mind and room for growth and self-improvement.

This isn’t a piece to disempower anybody. I mean, I’ve written a whole piece on why the Kardashians are good feminist role models, and I stand by every word of that. (You can read it here if you enjoyed that shameless self-plug.) Of course, it’s a woman’s (or person’s) prerogative to post whatever she wants. If she wants to Facetune or airbrush, and post happy pictures that make her feel good, that’s her right. However, there’s a certain responsibility that comes with having the platform you do. It can be scary to watch these celebrities present these perfect and happy lives that come with “perfect” bodies and promoting things like “flat tummy teas” that are just laxatives in disguise. It’s dangerous, and in a world where everything is public and on a platform for the everyone to see, people want to be like the celebrities they see on Instagram- use that for good, and not by promoting unhealthy and unattainable ideals.