Jameela Jamil and Her War on Photoshop

The Good Place actor Jameela Jamil has called for airbrushing to be banned, saying that it’s a crime against women.

Jamil is part of the BBC 100 Women programme this year, an annual series where the BBC compiles a list of 100 inspirational and innovative women of the year. Jamil has indeed been an inspiration for many, as she started @i_weigh – a social media movement on Instagram, which encourages people to share what they admire about themselves, beyond their appearance.

Recently, she has started a debate on Twitter about wanting to ban airbrushing and make it illegal. This stems from her own experience of suffering from an eating disorder, when she was a teenager, arguing that she knows the damage which these airbrushed, “perfect” images can cause.

Her reasons for banning airbrushing, are as follows:

  • Airbrushed images are lying to the consumer and trying to sell a fantasy
  • The photographed individual can be affected themselves, as it may be hard for them to accept their actual appearance when they’re used to that level of “perfection”
  • It’s extremely bad for the public, especially young women

Jamil also speaks about the double-standards in the editing of male figures, who ‘get a green light on ageing and gravity.’ In one of her tweets she has compared magazine covers starring 50-year-old actors, such as Nicole Kidman and George Clooney, pointing out how the men on these covers are shown with their frown lines in HD, whereas the women are heavily filtered – suggesting that ageing is a taboo for women, but an achievement for men.

However, some people believe that Jamil isn’t in the position to be bringing this up, as she’s ‘conventionally attractive,’ to which she responded by pointing out that her skin has been lightened, her nose has been reduced and her body has been ‘thinned out’ in images, all without her permission and making her feel like a liar for (unintentionally) projecting a false image. So surely, people should be able to understand where she’s coming from?

Indeed, the image we are constantly fed in the media is that of a thin, white woman, with smooth skin and pearly whites; a woman who looks pleasing for the straight, white male gaze. Clearly, more efforts need to be made to reflect our diverse society, with people of all ages, races and genders. We need to embrace reality and not give in to the ingrained sexist values, which are damaging to the self-esteem of younger woman.

Jamil argues that we need to see more realistic images of women, women with spots, blemishes, stretch marks and so on, to ensure the freedom of women.  More importantly, Jamil advises to avoid being manipulated into spending money to ‘buy something you don’t need, to fix something that was never broken in the first place.’ Think about it, how many times have you bought something and then later come to regret it, realising that you never needed it in the first place?

An interesting point which Jamil makes, is that filtering a woman’s photo effectively legitimises the absurd standards set by the patriarchy, whereby women must always be attractive to the straight, white male gaze. The next time you filter your selfie, ask yourself why you feel the need to filter yourself and what is it that’s wrong with the photo?

Jamil’s war is against modern beauty standards, and how unrealistic and unhealthy these are for young women, influencing them to fit a certain mould of beauty, which specifically caters to the desires of straight white men. Despite the backlash she has faced, Jamil is not wrong. Young women are becoming more insecure day by day, being swayed by the lies of these institutions which seek to benefit from these delusions. Although it’s easy to see through these manipulative images, it’s hard to defy them, but we need to do this for the sake of ourselves, and the young women of the future. We are more than just our appearances.

Iqra Arshad

Image: Metro, Sela Shiloni