I weigh. F*****g kg.
These are the hashtags behind Jameela Jamil’s life-positivity movement. Not a body positive movement, but a life-changing movement. Jamil’s I Weigh page on Instagram encourages women across the globe to shift their self-worth and value from the shape and size of their body, onto who they are as people. The page now has over 147k followers, with 1,795 women having participated in the campaign. In short, Jamil has successfully used her fire, passion and platform to engage all women, particularly those who struggle with eating disorders, body dysmorphia and a lack of body confidence, in a new pursuit of self-love.
Jamil, having suffered with anorexia from the ages of 14-17, needed her broken back injury in order to realise that there was more to life than her weight or the way she looked. Jamil was also at one point prescribed a steroid dosage for her asthma and consequently gained some weight. But despite her professional success, for example to be the first female presenter of the Radio 1 Chart Show, the media documented that she had gone up two dress sizes; she was unfairly scrutinised, shamed and bullied by the media for her size. What people misunderstand about Jamil is that they believe she is a woman hater. Some have said that she is not a true feminist. This however is not the case - what she strongly believes is that women are facing an extreme epidemic of victimisation, self-hatred and harmful comparison – she wants every woman to love themselves for more than their appearance, and to not inflict any potentially detrimental health trends or weight-loss journey onto others.
Furthermore Jamil has recently been subjugated to criticism by the media as they extracted, and narrowly focused on, her comment that the Kardashians are ‘unknowingly double agents of the patriarchy’, thus pitting the family and Jamil against each other. Jamil did not criticise Kim Kardashian as a person or for her appearance, just her promotion of The Flat Tummy Company’s appetite-suppressant lollipops to her 100m followers, alongside her famous sisters who have at times also advertised products by said company. As Jamil rightly asserts – the Flat Tummy Company sells little girls lies, false idealisations and unrealistic expectations. Some past employees of the company stated that their models are not expected to use their products, just promote them and the concept that a flat stomach is beautiful. As I scrolled through the comments on one of Kendall Jenner’s Instagram photos of her torso, young girls exclaimed how they hated their body, that they were fat, that they needed to lose weight in order to emulate Jenner. The stereotypical definition of beauty has been created and accentuated by the patriarchy, succumbing women and young girls to confine to this ideal. Women who either fill or strive to fill this definition and are proud of their bodies should not be shamed. To ask a woman to take responsibility for how others react to her body would be sexist in itself. Jamil instead strives to change this definition of beauty to be inclusive of women with ALL body types.
Tess Holliday, an American plus-size model with 1.7 million Instagram followers, has been subjected to just as severe criticism as the likes of size zero models, from the opposite end of the scale. Following the release of Holliday’s cover of Cosmopolitan for the October 2018 issue, Piers Morgan labelled the model ‘morbidly obese’, stating that she would be more of an inspiration if she lost weight. Holliday however shrugged off Morgan’s comments, asserting how she loves the size of her body and that she exercises with a trainer several times a week. Readers of Cosmo attacked Morgan, with one claiming that it ‘wouldn’t have taken her 25 years to learn to love her body’ if there were women like Holliday on the covers of magazines when she was growing up, and others commented on the double standards created when plus-size men are put on magazine covers without any backlash. I believe that seeing women like Holliday on the covers of magazines like Cosmo proves that we can celebrate diversity and inclusivity in the mainstream media. Jamil rightly stood up for Holliday on Twitter, determining Morgan as a body-shamer, whilst concluding that there are various reasons why someone may be susceptible to weight gain. If Holliday is happy in herself, then we should be happy for her and championing her success in diversifying female bodies in the media, which has almost consistently promoted women of a smaller body type since the 1980s.
Someone close to me was diagnosed with anorexia this month and is off school on bed rest. Her freedom has been restricted, her happiness taken away from her and at times, her thirst for life dampened. Body image, body dysmorphia and eating disorders are real problems. I’m seeing it in front of my eyes everyday as she sometimes struggles to stick to her weight plan – her weight rises and drops again - she feels strong and then faces a relapse. This is why the prevalence of campaigns like I Weigh on social media is so imperative. Most women struggle not to compare themselves to others, to see through the deplorable standards of beauty driven into us by the media and many of these women are not just young girls. Women in their 40s and older have been interacting with the campaign, saying that finally they are reaching a sense of peace with their body, releasing the internalised repression they have felt at the hands of the media, reaching back to the fashion and diet culture of the late twentieth century where size zero was the only size to be. Therefore when we’re scrolling through the selfies, the designer outfits, the personal trainers, the nutritionists, the plant-based dieters - we all need some reassurance, something to remind us that we are all unique, individual and perfect in our own way. We’re not all skinny like Kendall Jenner, nor do we all have curves like Ashley Graham. Each body should be celebrated and that is why Jamil’s work is so crucial; I wish we could all be as bold as her.
My advice to young women would be to block anyone on social media who you feel triggers you into having any kind of negative feelings towards yourself or your body, until you feel able to look at their pictures without feelings of guilt or jealousy. I can contentedly admit that I have numerous accounts blocked, for I end up subconsciously creating a comparison between some women and myself. Feeling comfortable and confident in yourself is something that can take a great deal of time, sensitivity and tenderness – but it is an achievable aim. My final note would be to emphasise Jameela’s point: let’s encourage women to place less focus on our physicality, the scales, the aesthetic - but our personality traits, our successes, our intelligence, our strength, and our big hearts.
Follow the I Weigh campaign on Instagram here.