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What Jameela Jamil Could Learn From Noname's Approach To Social Justice

Maybe Jameela Jamil should join Noname’s Book Club. She might learn a thing or two.

CW: mentions of eating disorders and fatphobia 

“FEMINIST-IN-PROGRESS,” reads Jameela Jamil’s Twitter bio. Her cover photo features her and Lizzo, so you can tell she is Very Serious about fat shaming. If you scroll through her feed, you will read her thoughts about fame, dieting, body positivity, cancel culture, and more.  

As you continue to read, you might notice her referring to abortion access as “a woman’s right to choose.” Since she is a feminist in progress, her leaving out trans and nonbinary people who need abortions is just a silly mistake that she will not need to account for in her learning process. This isn’t her first blunder, though. In October, she tweeted that Piers Morgan was “Britain’s HPV,” which isn’t a very feminist way to treat STIs because joking about them through slut-shamey innuendos certainly doesn’t help anyone

My most pervasive critique of her, however, is the way that she tackles fatphobia and body positivity without care that the body positivity movement was created by and for fat, Black, disabled women. This was made clear in the way she handled herself in calling out the rapper CupcakKe. As writer Clarkisha Kent points out, Black women do suffer from eating disorders, but they aren’t met with the same compassion as thin white women who suffer from similar issues. Jamil can excuse her behavior by saying that she is still learning. Just look at her Twitter bio!

Jameela and I are similar in the sense that we are both brown women recovering from eating disorders. I have compassion for her in her struggle to learn to accept her body, which is an ongoing challenge for me. I am not thin like Jamil, but I am what people in the fat community call “small fat” meaning I still have a lot of the privileges that thinner people have. Thus, I know I shouldn’t take up space from fat Black folks who face a slew of discrimination on top of more fatphobia than I can imagine. We are also similar because I do agree that people should be given room to grow and learn in our efforts to tear down oppressive systems, but the way Jamil continually refuses to take criticism and learn from her mistakes makes it hard for me to believe she’s even trying. 

That’s where Noname comes in. Noname, a Chicago rapper, has been demonstrating how to learn in the public eye while sharing that knowledge with her followers. She started following more writers, reading about anti-capitalism, and educating herself on prison abolition. Through her platform, Noname admits to the confusion that dismantling societal conditioning causes. Then, she educates her followers on why that conditioning is wrong. 

Recommended: THE BODY POSITIVITY MOVEMENT BOTH TAKES FROM AND ERASES FAT BLACK WOMEN

Noname’s public education is so inclusive because she is taking us all along for the ride through Noname’s Book Club. Each month—in select cities—members of her book club can meet up to discuss different anti-capitalist, Black feminist, and revolutionary texts. She partners with small bookstores to encourage readers not to buy their books from huge retailers like Amazon. Noname considers this an opportunity to honor her roots, as her mom owned a bookstore in Chicago. She wants Black bookstores to be appreciated for the value they bring and the community they foster, in spite of their history being targeted by the FBI

With the creation of Noname’s Book Culb, we can all learn, grow, and dismantle the pro-capitalist, racist, anti-feminist ideas that we’ve been conditioned to believe. Though Noname is the creator of the book club, its focus is elevating the voices of other POC who have lived experiences to teach us about various topics. 

It’s not wrong or bad not to know everything. I often describe myself as a burgeoning prison abolitionist because it takes time and education to unlearn what I’ve been taught about justice, crime, and community. Making mistakes happens. I do often. 

The point is that if you have a platform—like Jameela Jamil—you better be accountable when you make mistakes. Engage in restorative justice practices with those you harm. Learn from those who have taken the time to educate themselves already. You don’t have to be the face of every movement to which you belong. 

Maybe Jameela Jamil should join Noname’s Book Club. She might learn a thing or two.

Reina Sultan is a Lebanese-American Muslim woman working on gender and conflict from nine to five. She believes in smashing the patriarchy and eating the rich. Her work can also be found in VICE, Bitch, ZORA Mag, Rewire.News, and Greatist. Follow @SultanReina on Twitter for hot takes and cat photos.

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