Edinburgh based plus size style and fat positive blogger AmandaApparel responds to The Good Place actress Jameela Jamil's recent article for Glamour magazine. Banner photo via Digital Spy.
I read your recent article for Glamour, as well as its previously self-published version on your blog. While I think your intent, articles, and I Weigh campaign all come from a Good Place, I fear that you missed the mark in a few ways. But first, let’s start with where we agree.
I agree that women should be valued for our integrity, achievements, contributions to society, and kindness. I agree that beauty standards are out of control, and that beauty shouldn’t be the one and only goal for women. I agree, it’s infuriating that women are expected to wake up early to paint their faces and groom their hair to work jobs for which they are paid less. I agree that this societal obsession with beauty can hold women back. However, I don’t think that these problems will be solved by silencing discussion about our bodies and the way we look.
First and foremost, women have the right to bodily autonomy, but unfortunately that doesn’t exclude us from prejudice based on how we look. For example, a woman may choose not to wear makeup or spend hours styling her hair before going to her office job, but she will still be judged by her coworkers based on her appearance.
Alternatively, a woman may choose to wear lipstick just to go to the mailbox or to the gym, and that doesn’t make her any less enlightened or less feminist. Whether we always wear makeup, never wear makeup, or somewhere in-between, patriarchal structures mean that women will be judged by the way we look, no matter what.
Similarly, whether we talk about our bodies, post photos of our bodies, or not, women are immediately judged by strangers based on our bodies. I get that you’re bored of this, and I hear you, but unfortunately fat women, dark skinned women, disabled women, etc. don’t have the privilege of removing ourselves from the body conversation.
As a fat woman, I’d LOVE to be valued for my academic achievements, my hospitality, my friendships, and my writing. Unfortunately, how bodies are perceived has a negative impact on every aspect of fat women’s lives. At the doctor our pain isn’t taken seriously. At university we’re seen as lazy. At work we’re seen as untrustworthy. In television and film we’re seen as sassy best friends to further the heroine’s plot or as a punchline for fatphobic jokes.
We have so much body hate to unlearn, and I don’t think that can be achieved by stepping away from the conversation about bodies. On the contrary, I learned to love my body by listening to critique about body politics. I unlearned body hate by watching fat women like myself on social media doing incredible things like sky diving and pole dancing, and doing mundane things like going to the store or sharing a new outfit. This social media representation changed my life and until we reach the utopia where all bodies are considered good bodies, representation is still of paramount importance.
It sounds like you’re tired of the way we consume social media, which is totally fair. If I may, I’d like to suggest altering the way you interact with Instagram, Twitter, etc. Something that really helped me learn and grow is intentionally following women who are more marginalised than me. For myself, that meant seeking out women who were darker skinned than me, fatter than me, of varying physical abilities, of different socioeconomic statuses, LGBTQIA+ women, etc.
After following these women, I listened. I saw the different ways they interacted with the world. I heard their struggles, and learned about the ways their bodies were policed. These women are out here living as activists, some by choice, some by coincidence, and to dismiss their hard work regarding body politics is both disrespectful and damaging to future achievements. For some of us, this is all the representation we have. Please don’t take that away from us.
If you need to move away from the body conversation in order to hear and see the brilliant and beautiful things that women are doing, then you should do what you need to do. That’s completely your right. But if that’s the case, then I would argue that you’re not listening or looking hard enough.
A loud and proud fat woman