By Juliette Dudley, Hispanic Studies, Second Year
The Croft Magazine // This International Women's Day, Juliette reflects on two feminist icons, Frida Kahlo and Jameela Jamil, and considers how society pushes women to value ourselves in terms of our bodies rather than who we are as people.
Content warning: this article contains references to body image and diet culture
‘You place the blame upon yourself, especially when you’re very young. But also just shame for being a woman. You’re too skinny, you’re too fat, you’re not smart enough or you’re too smart. I completely accept my own fuck-ups, but a lot of things that have caused a lot of trauma are not my fault.’ – Jameela Jamil
Today, 8 March, is International Women's Day, and I wanted to take a moment to encourage fellow gals and pals to channel a woman who has inspired me when times are tough. The actress, activist, writer and model Jameela Jamil is most commonly recognised for her role in NBC’s The Good Place, but also created the I Weigh movement in 2018 ‘for us to feel valuable and see how amazing we are, and look past the flesh on our bones’.
As women, we face so many challenges and expectations that it can be hard to understand why we fight for change and keep a brave face. Jamil’s podcast and website can be beneficial to channel and manifest when faced with a hurdle by just asking myself: ‘What would Jameela do?’ I have also been a huge fan of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo for many years – in fact, my bedroom has been called a shrine to Frida!
The two women have inspired me for so long and continue to do so every day. I felt it was important to shine a light on Jameela Jamil, who I consider to be almost our modern-day Kahlo.
I can’t help but see the similarities between the two women. Kahlo suffered from many health issues growing up, similar to Jamil, and at 18 was injured in a bus accident, leaving her with multiple spinal problems.
I have not stepped on a weight scale in about nine months and I now keep a record of all my small and big wins throughout the year
Jamil is very open and honest about the struggles she has faced: she was a victim of racist bullying at school, abused as a child and was later sexually assaulted multiple times. At the age of 17, she severely damaged her spine in a car crash alongside suffering from numerous other medical issues. Her experiences led to a deterioration in her mental health and she eventually decided to see a therapist after she attempted to take her life in her mid-twenties.
Jamil first created the I Weigh movement as an Instagram campaign to promote inclusivity, social justice and mental health whilst encouraging people, especially women, to value and ‘weigh’ themselves by their achievements and successes – instead of in kilograms. I have not stepped on a weight scale in about nine months and I now keep a record of all my small and big wins throughout the year, and my life has never been better.
Her episodes and articles inspire people to drive social change as she interviews some exceptional women (my favourites are Gloria Steinem and Reese Witherspoon) that delve deep into their own mental health struggles and how they have overcome challenges and hurdles in their personal and professional lives.
As students, we often feel isolated and unsure as to where we stand in society if we don’t have the right support system. It wasn’t until I came to university and found like-minded people that I started to feel comfortable in my own skin. But until I found my tribe of incredible people, I relied very much on manifesting the positive energies and attitudes of these two women.
Both Jamil and Kahlo have encouraged me to feel comfortable in my own skin and realise that the norm for other people doesn’t have to my own
The two iconic figures have helped me come to terms with my own sexuality. One of Jamil’s messages that really resonates with me is ‘feel no shame about getting it off your chest and know you aren’t alone.’ Both Jamil and Kahlo have encouraged me to feel comfortable in my own skin and realise that the norm for other people doesn’t have to my own.
Kahlo has always stuck out as a key historical figure within the LGBTQ+ collective, known for her modern attitude towards sexuality and identifying as bisexual in 20th Century Mexico. And after Jamil opened up about her sexuality, identifying as bisexual and possibly pansexual, she received much criticism but still continues to be an advocate for LGBTQ+ rights.
The I Weigh podcast has reinforced to me the responsibility we all have to be loud and talk about the inequalities that we, as women, and other minorities face. I have learnt and continue to practise harnessing and expressing the power I hold as a 21st century woman, focusing on the importance I hold and how I can be someone’s inspiration and motivation one day.
My challenge to readers is to ask yourself what you ‘weigh’ and what you like about yourself, and then tell everyone! Although I may not be a world-renowned women’s rights and wellbeing activist, I’ll forever make certain that myself and the people around me celebrate their own worth and significance.
Featured image : Flickr / @wiredforlego