‘Dimples are cute on your face (not on your thighs)’. This was the thoughtless and, frankly, unbelievable slogan used by beauty company Avon in their most recent marketing campaign. Unsurprisingly, it received instantaneous backlash, most notably from former UK television and radio presenter and current star of Netflix’s The Good Place, Jameela Jamil.
As well as a talented actor, Jamil is also a passionate advocate for body positivity, gender and racial equality, LGBTQ+ rights, and mental health awareness. Having struggled with an eating disorder herself, she regularly addresses the unrealistic and homogenous beauty standards that exist in today’s society, and in November 2018 she founded the Instagram page iWeigh: where people share unedited images of themselves, with a list of what makes them amazing. It was no surprise then when Jamil publically slated Avon online for ‘shaming women about age, gravity and cellulite’, contributing to women fearing what is perfectly normal about their bodies. Avon responded by cancelling the ad and acknowledging that they ‘missed the mark with this messaging’.
When it comes to tackling body shaming in the media Jamil means business. She openly criticises celebrities, including the Kardashians and Cardi B, who advertise fad weight-loss products like detox teas and appetite suppressing lollipops to their fans on their social media, the majority of whom are young and impressionable. Jamil is unapologetically direct in calling out these celebrities, once stating that she hoped celebrities endorsing detox teas ‘shit their pants in public, the way the poor women who buy up this nonsense upon their recommendation do’. Her concerns about damaging body ideals do not end here, and she often shares equally strong views regarding airbrushing and the use of Photoshop. Disturbed by the unobtainable visions of perfection that consumer industries have constructed and the impacts they have on women’s mental health, Jamil believes that airbrushing should be illegal. Yet, although she has been heavily praised for her commitment to promoting body positivity – she refuses to pose for any airbrushed photos and recently became one of eight new Aerie Real Role Models – not everyone in the comments section agrees that it ought to be illegal.
But would it be so bad if airbrushing was banned? Yes, celebrities have the right to edit their own photos freely, but what about the fact that, in the UK, eating disorders are one of the leading mental health issues in young people and 90 percent of women experience body image related anxiety? We are continuously made to feel inadequate about our looks, be it our shape, size, age, or skin tone and if cellulite and thigh dimples are routinely airbrushed out of images, it is only natural that we see normal parts of our bodies such as these as flaws. There is so much pressure to fit within a confined standard of beauty and because most of us do not fit this bracket for one reason or another, it is easy to believe that we are not attractive or desirable.
Following retouch free pages like iWeigh and Aerie has made me think that banning airbrushing would not be a bad thing. Being exposed to images of undistorted people with all kinds of bodies and realising that more people are relatable to me rather than a Kardashian or a Hadid has certainly made me more confident about my body and happier in my own skin. We at least need to be more aware of how advertising and social media might be damaging our relationships with our bodies and we should make an effort to follow more influencers like Jamil who are trying to help us all be kinder to ourselves.