#IWeigh: Women Stand Up Against Body Shaming
By Kate Love
How Much Do You Weigh?
What comes to mind when you think about ‘weight’? For most of us, it’s crash diets and gym fads. But what about the weight of our own achievements?
English born actress Jameela Jamil, who has experienced fat shaming throughout her career, says social media is to blame for an “epidemic of low self-esteem” affecting girls and women.
Every minute we spend thinking about how thin and gorgeous and perfect we aren’t, is a moment that we aren’t thinking about growing our business or our education, or our family or the fun in our lives.
In an effort to tackle online body shaming, the self-proclaimed “body positive warrior” has launched a campaign called ‘I Weigh’ to celebrate people’s achievements, rather than their appearance.
At the age of 17, Jameela was involved in a car accident that damaged her spine. She couldn’t leave her bed for a year and gained over half of her body weight. Despite being told she would never walk again, Jameela got back on her feet, and quickly returned to her previous weight. But her already low opinion of her body image was severely affected and it has taken her years to stop caring about what other people think of her looks.
We spend our lives in pursuit of the approval of others when we don’t yet even really approve of ourselves. My opinion of me is now (and only very recently) the one that matters.
I’m not in the public eye like Jameela, but like many women I’m overly self-conscious about my appearance. I have struggled with my fluctuating weight since I was a teenager. Heartbreak has made me an emotional eater, much to my secret shame, and my self-worth is more tied to how I look than I would like to admit. I’ve achieved so much in my life and yet my appearance still plays a vital part in how I value myself. It makes me self-conscious and less prone to sharing pictures of myself on social media.
A picture speaks a thousand words, but so do numbers. So, what sparked this body shame backlash? It was an Instagram post of the Kardashian sisters with their respective weights posted across each of their bodies. “This is how women are asked to value themselves,” wrote Jameela. “In Kg.”
Why do We Care?
I just thought–why do we care so much about this? When women have come so far in life why are we still being told to care about this?
Why are we being told to care more about our dress size than our job promotion? The perfect selfie to share on social media over a meaningful experience? Eating that extra slice of cake than time spent with a friend over coffee?
I’ve got a successful career, the freedom to travel, loving family and amazing friends, yet I still care too much about what I look like in a bikini. Why does how we look matter in a day and age where women are politicians, scientists and doctors, balance raising a family with a career and contributing to our communities, and are rising up against gender inequality across the world in movements such as #MeToo? This should be enough to make us recognise our own self-worth.
But how are we supposed to value ourselves, Jameela asks, “when we are given such unreasonable and shallow goals to achieve, falling short of which, no matter who we are, what we do, how many lives we save, how many children we raise, how many people’s lives we touch, we are not worth anything.”
We are subliminally bullied all day by the magazines, the side bar of shame, social media, and by each other.
Jameela calls out media that shames women about their appearance; journalists who write about weight gain and loss; celebrities who promote unrealistic body standards; the fashion industry for its focus on stick-thin models; women who troll other women online about their appearance; and, most importantly of all, the “trolls that live in our own heads and eradicate all of our achievements and shower us in self-doubt and loathing.”
“We aren’t supposed to all look the same,” says Jameela. “And nothing good ever comes of self-hatred. It will never further you. It will always hold you back.”
The #IWeigh movement encourages people to post positive messages that don’t focus on the way they look. If we take appearance out of the picture, what is left? Our friends, our family, our career, our experiences, our humanity; all of the things that truly matter.
Jameela’s response to the Kardashian post, which she calls a “disastrously damaging picture”, was to share what she weighs. And it wasn’t a number.
I weigh: Lovely relationship. Great friends. I laugh every day. I love my job. I make an honest living. I’m financially independent. I speak out for women’s rights. I like my bingo wings. I like myself in spite of EVERYTHING I’ve been taught by the media to hate myself about.
The Pursuit of Perfection
In a tech-savvy world where we are constantly bombarded with images of bodily perfection, Jameela, who is not only an actress but also a writer, DJ, model and radio host, encourages all of us to measure our self-worth in achievements rather than on the scales.
At least before it used to just be celebrities, but now it’s people trolling each other on Instagram, or glamorising being anorexic.
Scrolling through Instagram often makes me feel worse about myself; that I don’t have the ‘perfect’ body to snap of me in yoga pants striking an impossible pose. But what we don’t see behind the images of girls “eating massive slices of pizza and just sort of lounging around hotel rooms” is the low self-esteem, the eating disorders, and the effort it takes to look picture-perfect. So, how does Jameela measure herself now?
A small ode to the brilliant life that I am so lucky to live, that I built by myself from scratch, to the friends I am so lucky to have and to my self worth. This is how I measure myself. What I did, how I made people feel and how much I have enjoyed myself.
Talking about body positivity means that we are still focusing too much on our looks. Jameela suggests that we should stop talking about our bodies altogether. Let’s celebrate not how much weight we’ve lost, or that we embrace our flaws, but all of the different ways that we value ourselves.
“Self acceptance is important,” says Jameela. “But we deserve more than acceptance. Let’s step as far away from the conversation about our bodies as possible and make acclaim, integrity, achievement, contribution to society and kindness values worth shouting about again.”
A Revolution of Self Love
Within hours of Tweeting her response to the Kardashian post, Jameela was inundated with #IWeigh declarations of self-love, from “women of every size and shape and age and background.” And surprisingly, there has been very little trolling against it.
Women are just going: ‘I’m struggling, and that is part of what makes me a beautiful and worthwhile individual, and these are all the things that I love that have nothing to do with my exterior.’
All of the degrees we have, the children we take care of, the cancer we beat or are fighting, the families we love, the disabilities we live with, the relationships we have built, the companies we have started; these are the weight of our achievements.
Mine would go a little something like this: “I weigh: A family that is always there for me. Beautiful friends who share my passions. An amazing job that makes the world a better place. Volunteer at a homeless women’s shelter. Run my own yoga business. Deal with daily anxiety. Travel the world. Enjoy outdoor adventure. Live in paradise. Study psychology. Write poetry. Adore my dog Honey.”
But there are others who are still so self-conscious about their appearance that they are unable to celebrate themselves.
Some women can’t even do an I Weigh page. They say: ‘I love your campaign and I’m so inspired by it but I can’t think of anything nice to say about myself because I’m so sad that I’m not thin and beautiful.’
The more we share our achievements, the less power body shaming has on us. Jameela calls this a “revolution against shame and self-hatred over our looks.” I call this a revolution of self-love.
We have the power to transform how we see our bodies, and ourselves.