January 27, 2022
Body positivity activist Megan Jayne Crabbe joins Jameela this week to discuss her journey from people pleasing on the internet to fighting against toxic internet culture, how online culture can be cultish, why inter-community rejection can be so painful, and how to find your own voice in all the noise.
Check out her book – Body Positive Power – wherever books are sold!
You can find transcripts for this episode on the Earwolf website.
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95 — Megan Jayne Crabbe
Jameela [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to I Weigh with Jameela Jamil, the podcast where we all learn together. I am so excited and ready for today’s conversation, and it is with someone who I love so much and who I respect so much, who I’ve learned so much from over the last maybe four or five years. Her name is Megan Jayne Crabbe, and some of you will know her better as bodyposipanda. And she became a kind of very big one of the first big breakthrough voices for body positivity and and talking about disability and talking about race. And she was immediately a very kind of self and welcoming space online for people who wanted to fight back against diet culture and general bigotry. Now, over the past few years, because of the work that she’s chosen to do regarding social justice, it has meant that people have put her on a pedestal. And this happens to so many, if not all, people who try to speak out against injustice when they see it. And she’s young. She’s no she’s no proclaimed expert on anything. She has written an excellent book and she is an amazing speaker, but she was kind of given the treatment of a saint in that that’s the level of perfection people have started to expect from her. And I think we’re all now familiar with that feeling. And with having seen that happen to maybe people that we know or people that we follow. I’ve certainly experienced that. I started talking about eating disorders years ago, and suddenly everyone expected me to be an expert on everything. And we kind of get into that culture, not just about, you know, us moaning about how we are under too much pressure, but more importantly, what our general culture has become like, who participates in it? Where is actually going? Do we have a plan to change the things and the institutions that are actually hurting us? Or are we just nit picking individuals and then never taking our quote unquote activism further than that? And so it’s an incredibly honest and emotional chat between two people who’ve supported each other kind of over DM for years and really liked each other, but only met once for a second. And this is our first time ever really sitting down and having a conversation, and I loved her by the end even more than I thought I possibly could. She’s so unpretentious and frank and interesting and educated. Very, very thoughtful. I asked her first to be on this podcast about a year ago to talk about this, and she said no, because she wasn’t ready. She wanted to wait until she’d really given it some thought. Done the right amount of reading, done the right amount of kind of sitting with it and making sure she felt ready to have this conversation. And she wrote an incredible essay that I will link to on my social media this week that that really kind of hones in on everything that we talk about today. And so if you’re someone who is trying to enter the space of social justice, and you’re feeling intimidated, you’re scared of rejection and you feel like you need to people please, and you don’t totally know your own motivations. That’s OK. We’re here for you. We’re with you. We’re still figuring this shit out as well. And hopefully this episode will bring people comfort or maybe bring people a little bit more empathy, because that’s not something that’s encouraged in this day and age. It’s a very unforgiving culture, and I understand why, because people are impatient, because they’ve been waiting for change for far too long. But is it actually getting us anywhere? And are we going to run out of allies if we just only look for traitors and not converts? I think that that’s a really big question. So Megan and I are both all about calling people out, calling ourselves out, being accountable. But we also now demand that there’s a plan for what happens after the calling out because throwing everyone away when they’re not perfect means we will lose everyone. So I’d love to know what you think of this conversation. I hope that it’s something that you find interesting. I couldn’t get enough of it. I can’t wait to have her back on. She’s so fucking excellent. This is the brilliant Megan Jayne Crabbe. Megan Jayne Crabbe, welcome to I Weigh. How are you?
Megan [00:04:29] I’m very well, Jameela Jamil, I’m really excited to be here. Thank you for having me.
Jameela [00:04:32] I’m so happy that you’re here. I’ve been a fan of yours for such a long time, and it’s been a great privilege to get to know you offline and now really lovely to properly get to sit with you face to face. But a lot of people might know you as bodyposipanda because that’s a way that you came into a lot of our consciousness in and into our collective consciousness, dancing very freely in your underwear and taking a very revolutionary at the time approach to your body and diet standards and teaching people about about the causes of our self-hatred and how toxic and unnecessary they are. But since then, you’ve gone on to kind of expand your horizons across many different social issues. And I, I still consider you to be someone I always look to for the ways in which you communicate, for the ways in which you self-reflect. You are a voice who means a lot to me and and the way you speak about every issue, including the one for today’s topic, has been very inspiring to me. And also just I just want to say on a personal level, social justice, as we’re about to discuss, isn’t always a very welcoming space. It can be a competitive space, it can be a cruel space. And you have been one of the kind of people I’ve known offline in the space who has made me feel encouraged to keep going when sometimes I want to give up. So thank you very much and I’m excited for everyone to get to know you now.
Megan [00:05:56] Stop, I’m so full of warm fuzzies now. Thank you for that.
Jameela [00:06:01] How have you been? It’s been quite a journey for you in the last, I mean, for the world in the last two years, but you’ve been on your own kind of personal journey. How are you feeling?
Megan [00:06:12] You know what, I am feeling very, very free. I’m sure you can probably relate to this. But I spend so much time online trying to please everyone, trying to never get anything wrong, just trying to placate people who had already decided what they thought about me. So it did really matter what I did. And it was exhausting, and it makes you scared all the time. Like I would say, the majority of my online life, I’ve just been constantly scared of other people’s opinions of not knowing things before I had a chance to learn them, of just having to be perfect and the consequences if I wasn’t. So having now kind of just said, You know what, I am just Megan, I am just a person. I’m not doing this anymore. I’m not striving for perfection. That has felt really, really freeing. And also, to me, you were one of the first people who came in and started talking about that, like actually came into the space and started saying, Hey, I don’t know everything, but I’m trying. And that was so refreshing.
Jameela [00:07:17] Aw, thank you. I appreciate that. I’ve been really trying for the last, like the second I started to kind of being noticed in the space of social justice. Like, I couldn’t be more shy about why I know what I’m doing. I just know that we don’t have time to wait till we’re perfect and we have perfect understanding. We have to scrap it now. And that’s what I’m trying to encourage other people to do to be like. If I can learn, you can learn if I can go from being a slut shaming asshole, you can get better like and we can all do this together. We’re going to make this a welcoming space and learning is cool and I still get mocked for it online. People are, she says, that she’s still learning. It’s like, Yeah, well, there’s like a million subjects to learn about. What do you one? I’m a fucking actress. I’m not like a famous, omniscient academic like Greek mythological God. I’m just doing my best.
Megan [00:08:05] I was going to ask you like. Was there ever a point where you got so much flak for essentially being open about being a learning individual that it made you start to doubt yourself?
Jameela [00:08:17] No, it just started to make me doubt the space that I was working within. You know, and you were very helpful voice to me, like when people were making shit up about me online, like a year and a half ago. And they were just like slandering me and maligning my character and all these like, really weird, twisted ways based off this kind of media created caricature of me. You were the one, and I was like, Why? We’re all on the same side. Like, why is everyone still fighting? Like, you know, we all want the same thing and you were like, I don’t know if people all if all people do actually want change. I think we’ve lost hope that change is actually going to happen. And I don’t know if you still stand by this now, but this is what you said at the time. You were just, I think some people just want to fight. I think some people are just angry and they just need to get things off their chest. And I think that that they’ve kind of they don’t have a plan anymore. And I that really resonated with me because that is kind of how I’ve been feeling in the social justice space that we don’t actually have a plan of how we actually want to make the world better. We just want to punish everyone who isn’t already perfect. And it’s becoming a really scary, unwelcoming space. And the year and a half ago when people would say that they found out a bit of a scary space, I’d be a bit like toughen up. Come on. Yeah, it’s going to be hard. Like, why do any brownie points all the time? You should check your ego at the door. You shouldn’t be doing this brownie points, but you shouldn’t be afraid for your life, for your sanity. That’s not cool. You know, I was talking about this recently with someone that I feel like the the one thing I think the right gets right is that, you know, they’re very, very welcoming space. As soon as you start to say anything that kind of feels like it’s in line with what they think, they throw you a fucking parade. And I’m not saying that we should never question each other, that we shouldn’t be accountable. But on the left, it’s just we’re looking for traitors are not converts. We are not looking for. We are. It’s like you’re joining a frat and we’re going to haze you and see if you can survive this. And I don’t know if that’s. It might not appeal to your like, I don’t know, like die hard martyr sensibilities for people to be able to enjoy learning and growing and making communities. But I think we need to make the left or social justice spaces a bit more fun and feel a bit more safe. Otherwise we’re going to lose everyone.
Megan [00:10:32] Yeah. And you know, I I spent a lot of time trying to figure that out before you and I connected. And I always remember a conversation I had with Jess Baker, who’s fucking fantastic body liberation activist. And she said to me, You know what Megan, people come into these spaces with so much pain, like we are here because we care. And probably because we’ve had some shit happen to us personally, that is that we’re carrying around still as pain. And often we come onto social media and we just spill our pain because we want change. We want things to be better. And it’s not like you said, it’s not directed in an effective way, and we end up kind of pouring our pain onto each other rather than directing it to the actual source of what could create change and what we can do. And I think you spend enough time there. It’s easy to convince yourself that that’s the same thing as making change that, you know, monitoring policing someone’s online content and every word is the same thing as creating community based change. And it’s not and we can do better. And like you said, it’s not about let’s all hold hands and dance around in a ring of flowers. It’s still, you know, we can still have disagreements. We can still say, I’m not sure that’s the best way to do things, but we don’t have to make each other feel like pieces of shit all the time for not being perfect. It’s just not how the world works. Like, I cannot tell you how shocked I was when I started meeting all of these kind of activists and advocates that I’d put on a pedestal and I idolized and I thought they are perfect. And then I started meeting them, and one by one, they were just normal people and they had flaws and they didn’t always do the, you know, social justice perfect thing because you can’t in this world, you just can’t.
Jameela [00:12:27] Now you talk about this in your you talk about this in your piece so accidentally and the fact that they don’t give up all of their opportunities for someone more marginalized and they’re not following all the rules that they preach online. And I think that that is so interesting. I had the same experience of meeting all these people that I idolized. I felt so unworthy of me. You talk about thinking that they won’t even like you or want like to spend time with you because they must just think you’re so beneath them. And actually, they’re just very chill and they’re going through they have the same anxieties, the same fears. They have the same unexamined biases and they not maybe not the same ones that we have, but different ones. Like everyone, everyone has weaknesses and that’s okay. And we just have to stop pretending that that doesn’t exist online, it’s just it’s becoming really peculiar, we talk so much about like all cops are bad and we must get rid of the prison system, but we behave like cops online, like we fully police each other. We we we throw people away the way one does in a prison system. Like I’m not saying that’s exactly like prison before someone online goes in and blows that clip out of proportion. But what I’m trying to say is that you can even hear it now. Like, I’m caveat ing. I’m afraid I’m defensive. The way that everyone writes, even their like long blogs, feel so defensive now, we’re just constantly like thinking about this kind of committee that’s policing our every word, and it makes it hard to ever get anything done or say anything said. But we, you know, we have hierarchy. We say we’re against hierarchy, but we completely promote hierarchy and we’re so elitist and and we’re so like, we’re so academic in our language and anyone who doesn’t understand that same academic language who hasn’t read all the same books who hasn’t got all of the same perfect insights is like nothing and beneath us, and we shouldn’t take them seriously. We don’t like entry level feminism. We don’t like entry level social justice. We only like elite kind of you have to be that top of the top of the top to be taken at all seriously. And you have to be a vegan and you have to also like because if you eat anything from a cow, then you can’t be a feminist like you have to live by all these different standards. And and it’s just we need to work on a better path towards betterness. It’s a bit like expecting someone to be able to run the full marathon tomorrow and not allow them to train, to build up, to stretch, you know, to to work themselves towards this massive like journey that you need to be very well equipped for.
Megan [00:14:52] Absolutely. And can I just say? When you stopped there and you pointed out the fact that you know you were doing it, you’re doing as you speak, you’re doing as you think, you’re adding the disclaimers because you know what’s coming and you have the fear. I want to get to a place in community, whether it’s online and in real life, where you know that you’re not always going to be taken out of context where people aren’t going to automatically think the worst of you, where people aren’t on the lookout for you to say something wrong. And I hope that obviously I know we’re recording a public thing right now, but I hope that you at least feel that with me because I would gain nothing. I would gain nothing from kind of policing you and then going, A-ha, look, she she said this, and I fucking hate having to do that because it’s a form of hyper vigilance. And if if you were to do that, you know, in your everyday world, we would look at, we would say, you know, Oh, that’s a really traumatized person who is constantly feeling the need to be super, hyper vigilant about everyone around them. That’s not healthy. And yet online, that’s completely OK.
Jameela [00:15:59] Totally. Except I am noticing in social justice spaces, that is how everyone talks like, I’ve even had people on this podcast who I will not name, who’ve come on, and it takes me like 45 minutes to get anything out of them, because they’re caveating so much. And obviously, again, that’s a public space. But even in private conversations, everyone takes so long to get to the fucking point because they’re making sure that you that you know that they know about every different possible intersection of what they’re discussing. And we have to be careful to not make it impossible for us to ever like zone in on any subject because we’re considering all different subjects and all different angles at every single moment of every single sentence like this is how we’re going to word salad our way out of actually getting anything done.
Megan [00:16:42] Can I ask you a question?
Jameela [00:16:43] Always.
Megan [00:16:44] Did you? Did you think that I was going to be someone who hated you?
Jameela [00:16:48] Oh, at the beginning, yes, totally. I was too afraid to reach out to you for ages because I thought, Oh, she must just think I’m just this dumb actress who’s taken up space in the especially because of like the spaces that we worked in, right? So you working in the kind of body positivity space and I had been saying, I am not a body positive icon. I am talking about body neutrality and I’m aware of my size. But I kept on being made like the face of body positivity in 2018 and every single cover I would beg them, Please don’t use the word body positivity. They would always be like body positivity icon! And nothing I could do to get away from it. So I just thought, especially because of the community you were in, all of whom are very vocal about the fact that I was taking up space, which I was so accidentally and trying to get away from it, I thought, You must hate me. I was very surprised by how kind and welcoming you are and kind of appreciative of what I was. You could see what I was trying to do. You didn’t just look for the worst in me.
Megan [00:17:45] Yeah. Here’s the thing um
Jameela [00:17:47] You did look for the worst in me.
Megan [00:17:48] And I’m going to be very honest with you as a friend.
Jameela [00:17:51] Good. Good, good.
Megan [00:17:52] It was. It was tempting. Like, I had the little devil on my shoulder being like, You could just hate this person like it is. It does feel it feels threatening when someone new comes into a space that you’ve been in for a long time and they start getting, you know, the the attention and the kind of idolization over, of course, your ego is like, Oh, let’s find what’s wrong with that person. But to me, what would I have gained from turning against you, making someone with a huge profile on a huge platform feel like they can never talk about these things? And that’s what that’s what I meant when I said to you, we’ve lost the goal here because fair enough, maybe there are some people who just want these issues to remain in the hands of the most marginalized and no one with any level of privilege to ever talk about them, OK. But if we genuinely want to change the culture, if we want to change the society, how are we going to do that without people who already are in the spotlight and have the platform understanding and advocating as well? Fair enough. There are ways you do it and ways you don’t. But there would have been no gain for me to just say, Fuck Jameela like. You have so clearly done so much good work in these spaces, but you fucking came in and changed Instagram policy within like two years of talking about this while we were all pissing around arguing about who can use which hashtags like, Let’s let’s be real. You’ve done. You’ve done the things. You’ve done the things. So yeah, it was my ego that first wanted to jump on the bandwagon and I had to pull back and I had to look at the movement rather than myself.
Jameela [00:19:39] I really appreciate that, and I appreciate you saying that. So, so what was your kind of like break breakout moment with all of this because I feel I feel like I came to you at the beginning of the year and you can tell me to cut this out if this is too personal. But I came to you at the beginning of the year to ask if you’d like to be on the podcast and at the time you were kind of you were just very unsure about what you even wanted to say. You felt like it felt like a less secure version of me than I’d ever seen. And now you seem to be like much more kind of like firmly in your own body. What has been your kind of big kind of breakthrough moment?
Megan [00:20:24] That is accurate and you don’t just cut it out I’m happy to talk about it. I this time last year went through a massive unlearning, and I think that is kind of the only consistent thread throughout everything I do and everything I’ve done is unlearning. And it was kind of. Nearly a year into the pandemic, we’d all been on our phones so consistently shit had got so intense. Everything was just online. It was just it was just got to breaking point for me and I decided, You know what? I am going to step back from the entirety of social media for a month. I am going to start reading up on social media apps, how they work, how they function, what they do to our brains. I’m going to read about actual social justice more outside of body positivity, which I’ve already done so much research in and community organizing. What is community? I’m really going to take a step back and be honest with myself about how much fear I was living in in those spaces and whether there’s a better way that we could have been doing things. And you know what, unlearning that stuff was fucking terrifying. People who have not been in social justice online social justice spaces maybe won’t relate to this, but genuinely, there are so many elements that we’ve normalized that are just straight up cultish. So much so that even the questioning of what we do, the questioning of anything is forbidden. You are not allowed to do it because then you’re part of the problem. And I was terrified every day, you know, I would go by myself for these long walks and I would listen to podcasts like Fucking Canceled. I don’t know if you’ve ever listened to it. Brilliant. But I listened to that and I would be like shaking. My nervous system would be like, I shouldn’t be doing this. I’m a traitor. I’m a traitor to the movement. And it took such a long time to calm myself enough to realize me being that scared of even questioning something is such a red flag that is such a sign that unhealthy shit is going on we don’t know how to ask questions that cultish. And I would say it took maybe four or five months of just continuing to read and listen to other perspectives and I found people like Africa Brooke or Ayishat Akanbi who were like talking about these things. And suddenly it’s like I. I just gave myself permission to not be perfect anymore to to just to just be a person and to acknowledge the harm that I personally had felt, which you can acknowledge while not diminishing anything else about the movement. Like not not diminishing, you know what people are moving towards. There’s this. There’s always been this idea that if you dare to say, Oh, this doesn’t feel good, you are automatically censoring yourself, censoring your privilege, you know, just detracting from from the movement. And I came to realize that that’s bullshit because we are all humans with brains, and what we do in movement also impacts us all individually. And why can we not have these two concurrent conversations of what’s going on here and what’s going on in our heads and whether what we’re doing here could be better for us here? You know, it’s it took a long time, it took a long time and lots of gentleness and lots of therapy. Thank fuck for therapy. Wish everyone could access it. But we got there.
Jameela [00:24:13] Ayishat is really, really fascinating. She was one of the first voices I heard, like really perfectly sort of explain our culture of punishment in the social justice space. And like, really, I was saying this 2018, when I first found one of her first videos and just fell madly, madly in love with her. The way that she talks about the fact that often the reasons that we hate someone else can be because we see something of ourselves in them, or we see something of our old selves in them. And we want so much to distance ourselves from who we used to be that we push that person as far away as possible and we want to strip them of everything and punish them and go as hard on them as possible so that everyone else knows we are not like them. Can you tell me some of the things that you have been receiving online since you joined the kind of social justice world like DMs from strangers that hold you to certain standards? Can you give me some examples of that?
Megan [00:25:05] Oh my lord, it’s endless. It’s I’m disappointed in you for not talking about this. I’m disappointed in you for talking about this. Why did you use this word instead of this word? Why are you earning money from this? Surely if you’re a socialist, but it’s just it’s it’s it’s on and on and on. Impossible, impossible, impossible.
Jameela [00:25:25] And and there’s also there are also there were also things like Why are you following this person or why have you not called this person out? I’m very disappointed to see that you are still following this person online, as if we must exist in an echo chamber or is if we must. If you’ve chosen to discard someone’s entirety as a human being just because of a snapshot of who they are online, that’s on you. You can’t force us to do the same. Like some of us are open to seeing people as multi-dimensional as potentially, you know, as having potential for growth.
Megan [00:25:59] Mm hmm. And I think that so perfectly captures the mob mentality of it. You know, we if we look to someone who we see as a leader and that person says, right, this is the mission. Search and destroy this person, bad dispose of them. We grouped together in our mobs, you know, we pick up our pitchforks and we’re like, I am doing the work if I go and destroy this person and then I tell others, this person is destroyed, don’t associate with them. And it’s it’s so cruel because, like you said, it cuts to the very core of our old, non evolved selves and so many of us, we come to these spaces ultimately because we want community, because we have never found community in our real life. You know, I I came into the body positive community because I had never felt understood in my life and what had been through. And for the first time, I thought, These are my people. You know, this is my tribe and the cruelty of being welcomed in and saying, Yes, we are your people. We understand, Oh, you did one thing that we don’t like. You are done. You are out. That is so it’s just fucking horrible. It’s just horrible and it does so much damage.
Jameela [00:27:24] It’s what we do at school. It feels like school online. It’s really, really scary. You talk a lot in your essay about the feeling and reality of community surveillance. And I think that’s also like a big part of what we’re touching on now, this kind of checking in on each other that we do where it’s not literally checking in. Are you OK? Are you finding the stressful, but but just privately an even more irritatingly when your own mates publicly choose to call you out rather than just when they you’d been on the phone with them. Like, I’ve had that happen so many times with activists who don’t have as big a platform as I do. We’ll be chatting on the phone about something or both have the same sort of take on it. And in the morning, they’ll realize that some people have disagreed with me and they will rather than text me or call me back. They will. And these are like friends of mine will just call me out in like a long thread and then block me and it’s. And it’s insane because we’d just spoken about it the night before, but it’s an opportunity for them to get engagement and for them to make ensure their own safety in the space from disassociating from me. And I’m like fucking hell. And then like months and months later, they often I come back into my DMs being like, I’m really sorry about that. That was really out of order. I’ve now been I’m now in trouble with everyone and everyone’s ostracized me. So can we talk?
Megan [00:28:44] Oh, that is horrible. And I’m sorry you had to go through that. Jesus Christ, I I feel like I feel like I want to stress that, and I know we both agree with this. The people who are doing this, they’re not bad people. They’re just living in a culture of fear. Like you said, it’s that it’s the fear in them that they’re next. That makes them jump on and come for you instead, because they they have. There’s this illusion that if you’re always on the correct side of the call out and if you’re always jumping into the mob, then you’re safe. It’ll never turn on you. You know, you’ll you’ll never be the one that they come for next. And of course you will. Of course you will. You always will. There is. There is no safety in the mob. It’s just this never ending cycle of fear.
Jameela [00:29:33] You also like, it’s funny when you’re online, you’re engaging in these social justice spaces. You can often and I’m sure many people listening to this can be like you can have an idea of what someone else’s experience is like online. So for example, I spent my whole last like five years thinking that you never receive any negativity that you always get it right. I was stunned. Yeah, I was stunned to find out. And we think this about other people. Some people think this about me like other actresses or whatever comes to me and they’re just like God, like you, just like everyone like loves you so much. And I’m just like, have you seen my Twitter mentions, but I. Are you crazy? It’s that people have this idea that like, I am completely unproblematic and I have like a perfect fit for us online. We have this like we put other people on these pedestals. I did that with you. I pedestaled the fuck out of you. I was, I was. I had no idea that people had any problem with anything you were doing because you were just so perfect. Like your Instagram captions are so accessible. You always write the picture description of what we’re said, like, you are you to me are so perfect. I had no idea that if even you are receiving this much shit, what hope is there for any of us who are starting out? I had no idea. Do you do that, do you feel like other people don’t have problematic experiences and then you find and then you’re amazed to find that they do.
Megan [00:30:52] I have definitely. I have definitely done that. There’s a there’s a brilliant book called I Hope We Choose Love by Kai Cheng Thom, and it has really fantastic lessons about social justice culture. And in it, Kai Chen Thom talks about being praised, being praised for never being problematic, right? And like at one point in my career, I was held up as the ultimate social justice. You know, nobody thought I ever did anything wrong. However, what people failed to recognize was that I became that way from a from a fair response and from a trauma response. I became that way because I got so good at being hyper vigilant, at projecting what everyone all the mean horrible shit everyone was going to say to me that I became perfect. And I related to that so much because the reason why you could look at me from the outside and think she’s completely unproblematic, no one could ever have a problem with her is because I had it had so much shit coming at me that I had just learned how to perfectly kind of position myself and make sure nothing I said ever like pushed any buttons and. And it’s an unsustainable. It’s unsustainable. It’s exhausting.
Jameela [00:32:13] Yeah, and it’s disorganized, as I was saying earlier, like it means that we don’t we rarely get to the fucking point because we’re so busy making sure that we’re not going to get into that we’re not going to exclude anything or anyone. And that all tweets all Instagrams all essays all points must include every single, different worldview. Sometimes that isn’t appropriate. Sometimes we need to focus on a specific issue. You know, we see this a lot with, like cis women feeling like when we talk about trans women’s issues that we’re ignoring cis women’s issues, we’re not. It’s the same. It’s like you’re all lives mattering it. We’re just saying specifically right now we have an emergency going on where trans women are being killed. We need to understand and remedy this. We’re not discarding you. We’re just like taking a second to just focus on this. That doesn’t mean the issues don’t matter. It doesn’t mean that now their issues are more important than yours. They are just in a bit more danger than you right now. So just give us a second.
Megan [00:33:06] I think that’s a really interesting distinction, isn’t it? There’s a there’s a very fine line between asking for more representation and what about ism? Because I feel like when something is claiming to represent all people and they don’t fuck yeah get in there, you know, say, Well, what about this? If you’re really claiming. But when you were talking, like you said about a specific issue, then coming into that and saying, what about this actually is just derailing? And if you if you care about the issue that’s being spoken about, why would you derail that? Why does everything? It’s that sense of entitlement a lot of the time in that everything has to be catered exactly for you and your life experiences and hon it’s a big old in in that if something is a catering for you, I’m sure you can find it somewhere else.
Jameela [00:33:58] I know, I agree. I find that really odd. When I’m talking about one issue, someone’s like, Excuse me, why are you not talking about this? It’s like, Not right now mate. I’ll come to that. I’ll come to that, but just give me a second. And I think, look, I don’t want this episode to be like a don’t join. The just social justice base is given us both terrible anxiety. But I do think it’s like I was like, you know, I started taking anti-anxiety medication because of social justice basis. Like, that’s how intense it became that like, I wasn’t sleeping, I wasn’t eating like I. And then when I wasn’t eating, I was worried that I was losing weight and that anyone would see if I was getting thinner. They’d say that you were like going against everything you’re talking about. So I was like stuff like just just just changing all of my physical habits to try and make sure that, like, I almost never put a picture of my whole body, like on Instagram, ever. It’s mostly just pictures of my tweets. So lazy. My Instagram. It’s just it’s just essay mostly a very, very like, not very many pictures of me because I’m so afraid of being like policed over the way that I look. But my point being that it does give you terrible anxiety. It is currently a slightly rotting and unwelcoming and unfun space. But the point of this episode is to be able to finally not be gaslit out of, you know, you talk about this essay being like gaslit out of how you fucking feel. And being told it is not true, it’s not relevant and you’re just a snowflake. And that if you say you have fatigue, it’s because you are weak and you are only doing this because you are posturing. No, it is. It is real to feel overwhelmed. It is real to feel afraid. We are saying you are not alone if this is how you’re feeling and we are encouraging change. We believe in change. We are practicing change. Meghan and I don’t hunt with pitchforks on the internet, and I know that I probably have in the past been less delicate with my words. But I’ve now grown to be much more, even when I talk about the Kardashians, it’s always a small thing about what I think is problematic that we need to just notice. And then a long essay about the system, not the individual and how this isn’t actually like implicitly their fault. They are part of a system that we need to deconstruct and we need to. We need to stop putting women in the position where they then start turning to the dark side the way that they have at points in their careers. So I think that if we can do it, if we can be kind to each other personally, when people have told us to dismiss the other one, you know, or to not take the other one seriously, if we can come on here and talk to you and bare our souls about how we’re really feeling, you can do the same. You don’t have to conform to this shit. And we are living proof that you can create change with kindness, with hope, with empathy. Those things aren’t weak. They’re being turned into weak things. Learning is considered weak. It’s not weak. It is the strongest thing you can do. And mistakes are how you learn the most. They are neurologically, how you retain information, the best. And so we are both, I think, just trying to make sure that you don’t feel like there is something wrong with you if you are sharing some of these fears or feelings or you’re feeling a bit reticent about the activism space. We get it right?
Megan [00:37:01] Abso fucking lutely. And I think I think you made a brilliant point there in that. The thing that needs to be done is a redirection of blame and energies. At the moment, we are so caught in this cycle of pinpoint one individual. Hold them responsible for giant systemic issues. Destroy them as if that’s destroying the systemic issue and call it a day. And you know wipe our hands a bit before we move on to the next person that is that is never going to create the change that we need to see. It has to be redirected, like you said, to the systems. It has to be redirected to the cultural messaging, the people, maybe even just the individuals who actually have power to change things like if you if you took all the energy from destroying, I don’t know, a 22 year old woman who said the wrong thing on Twitter and aimed at your MP, then maybe that’s the individual to aim at. I don’t know, just a thought, just a thought.
Jameela [00:38:03] Exactly! Oh, so it’s like we need to organize, not even just reorganize, organize ever like we have lost the power of actually figuring out what direction we actually are even running in. And it’s like, you know, I think with people were like cancel Kim Kardashian, cancel Kim Kardashian. I was like, No, I don’t want to cancel her, I want her to change because if she changes and other people will see that she can change. And now she makes fun of the fact that she used to sell diet products online and they are not selling diet products online, partly because I’m so annoying that I think they just don’t want to deal with me. But but they’ve stopped and that’s fucking great if we just got it like I managed to, and I think I had a really big part to play in this. I’m not saying I the only part playing this, and I was bolstered by literally everyone who listens to this podcast and all the other work done before me. But I had a massive fucking impact on celebrity selling diet products because I was so fucking annoying that they were like, Oh God, if I sell this product, if I become an ambassador to this product, that fucking bitch is going to come after me and I managed to get it out of the mainstream. It now kind of exists more in the kind of fringes of like the internet or like sort of maybe reality TV stars or whatever, like who are now going to still kind of participate in that. But most it was becoming hyper normalized, and mainstream, and I managed to interrupt that. And and I think that in doing so, we didn’t. If I, if I hadn’t, if all of us hadn’t been a part of making sure that we demonized the whole of the industry of diet products if we’d just gotten rid of those few individuals, the industry, the multi multibillion dollar industry would have replaced them with someone else. We had to destroy the culture. I went after the culture, not just the individuals. And I think that that’s what we have to now keep doing with everything. Stop screaming at each other stop policing what the other one has and and start actually, it always reminds me of like the end of Jurassic Park, have you seen that film?
Megan [00:39:50] What the first one?
Jameela [00:39:51] Yeah, I’m going somewhere with this. All right. So the original Jurassic Park, right? You’ve got the kids in the kitchen and they’re running away from the velociraptors. And in this instance, the kids are the oppressors. Let’s just say, like the people who are oppressed us in society, they are the kids, right?
Megan [00:40:06] Jameela Jamil says children are oppressors.
Jameela [00:40:09] I know. And so and so the kids are they’re running away from the velociraptors, and they managed to make it out the kitchen velociraptors come after them because they’re able to open doors with their weird like mutant hands, and then a T-Rex comes in and suddenly starts fighting the velociraptors and the kids get away. That is the left. That is the social justice base. We so we fight each other so that the fucking kids, the real oppressors, the people who are actually I know this isn’t going very well. I’m not drunk, but I’m just saying that.
Megan [00:40:43] I love it, I love it.
Jameela [00:40:43] They get away because we’re fucking busy, just only ever pointing at each other, we have to figure out a balance of like, Okay, this is a bit fucked up. We need to like create order in our house, of course. But like, let’s just build the foundation of our house before we start perfectly decorating it. Do you know what I mean? Before we get out our like spirit level and start making sure that everything in our house is at the perfect angle. Let’s build the fucking foundation. Let’s secure our safety, like secure our community because we are stronger when we are together. And the opposition knows that, which is why they love it and laugh at us when we are divided. Because when we when we are divided, we are vulnerable. We are stronger together. We need each other. How well do we think we’re doing that we can be like, Oh no, I don’t really. I don’t. I want help. I don’t want her help, but I want help, but I don’t like his hair. I don’t like that song he did. Or he made a mistake ten years ago. So I think next, let’s see who else wants to help. What is this? This isn’t Tinder. This is this is real life. You can’t just swipe fucking left or right. I don’t know. I haven’t used anything like that in a long time.
Megan [00:41:45] I see where you’re going with that yeah.
Jameela [00:41:47] like, but you can’t just swipe on the help like we need everyone to scrape in. We can tell them to check their behavior and encourage them to do better. But this is like treating people like we’re just disposable off a fucking menu. It’s too much of a part of our culture and it’s like it’s we’re losing numbers. People are just too. They just don’t want to get involved with devaluing progress. We’re saying it doesn’t count for anything. It’s just you’re just being hazed all the time.
Megan [00:42:13] Yeah. And you know what, I I remember dipping my toe into this once ages ago, and I basically just said, if we’re constantly punishing people, no one’s going to want to join. And of course, the immediate reaction was, well, if you’re doing it for the right reasons, it shouldn’t matter. Like if you’re if you’re being called out or punished, or whatever, it shouldn’t matter. And yeah, okay. In a perfect world, it shouldn’t matter. We should all just, you know, forge ahead and deal with the shit. And. But that’s just not how human brains work. We have to meet people where they are at. And like you said, all the time we spend destroying each other, people who genuinely have the same values want the same things, the energy we spend fighting each other, the people who want. Things to stay the same, don’t want things to change, are over there rubbing their hands, laughing away, hahaha, they’re doing our job for us and it’s getting us nowhere.
Jameela [00:43:12] Totally. And there also. This is going to get me into trouble, but fuck it. What doesn’t? There are also some people who operate within the social justice base who don’t want things to get better not many of these people. But there are some in prominent positions who don’t want things to get better because then they don’t have a job.
Megan [00:43:30] Oh, you said it. Ooh.
Jameela [00:43:31] I know, I’m sorry to like, bring you into this moment and make you an accomplice. You’re welcome to separate yourself. But that is how I feel. That is what I have witnessed, that they don’t have a purpose. They don’t have a space. They don’t have opportunities to be speakers or writers. If things actually get better too fast. You don’t have to say anything. You don’t have to say anything. Just leave me, leave me. And no, just leave me here, it’s fine.
Megan [00:44:01] You know what, babe? That was that was a very bold thing to say, and I don’t disagree with you. I don’t disagree with you. I think it’s a very small minority.
Jameela [00:44:10] Very small.
Megan [00:44:11] But those people do exist. Yeah.
Jameela [00:44:12] And and I. Want us to get better at identifying like I think this is an important conversation for looking at who you have like, I’ve changed who I follow now, where I think if someone is being too extremist or too not radical, because I’m very pro like radical change. But I think if someone is being if someone is encouraging extremist behavior behavior that feels similar to the right to the way that the right speak, which is kind of all or nothing, I think I think when people come at things with no humanity, with too much vitriol for other people and people, incite emotional violence against other people, I become disinterested in them and I unfollow them. Or sometimes I’m too afraid to unfollow them because then I’ll get shit for it. So I just mute them because that’s how scary this world is.
Megan [00:45:00] But yeah, but yeah, come in everyone. Come join us here in the [?] it’s nice.
Jameela [00:45:03] Ah no no what I’m saying is that I’ve now started to follow the Ayishat Akanbi’s and the Clemency Morgans and you and all these different. I’ve decided to fill my space with people who are open, who are, who enjoy learning, who enjoy listening to each other, who enjoy changing their mind. Like changing your mind isn’t flip flopping. It’s not weak. You just it’s that when you know better, you fuckin do better. You know, you’ve just got to learn. You reserve the right to change your opinion based on new information is so important that you do.
Megan [00:45:35] Can I just say like this this this is this is going to come across like, like a brag, but I just think it really illustrates. As soon as I did that unlearning, as soon as I stopped spending so much time and energy policing myself, obsessing over my every thought, feeling scared all the time. As soon as I stopped doing that, the amount of energy I had to do actually good things in the world fucking skyrocketed. And I realized that the impacts of like having one day where I went to my sister’s community center and I spent a nice day with all the people there and did like hands, hands on work. The impact of that was so much greater than like two three years of policing people I didn’t know on Instagram and whether they were using the right hashtag. And that’s that’s the point. This is sapping our energy in the same way that diet culture does. It is sapping our resources and we could be changing the world.
Jameela [00:46:42] And it’s exactly what the opposition wants. As I said, every time we get into a pile on of one of our own rather than someone who’s actually a threat to other people. They are lulling. They are laughing at us. They are. They’re sitting back and having a margarita because their work is done for the day. They don’t need to do it. We’re doing it for them. We’re destroying each other for them. It’s exactly what they want. We’re doing exactly what they want. We’re playing right into their greasy little hands.
Megan [00:47:16] Shall we? Shall I feel like I feel like we should we should end this on like something positive.
Jameela [00:47:19] Oh yeah, we’re nowhere done so that’s no, don’t worry. What are your thoughts for all this work you’ve been doing, all these books you’ve been learning from, about actual organizing, about actual community? How do we find our way out of this mess?
Megan [00:47:35] To be honest, my love, I’m not like, I don’t know if I’m the right person to answer that because, you know, I don’t have experience in community organizing, but I mean, I think it’s clear we need to redirect our
Jameela [00:47:45] Caveated.
Megan [00:47:46] You know, you know, you know, you know, we need to redirect our energy. We need to actually have goals. We need to be on the same page about what we are trying to achieve here and fuck me. We need to stop pouring our pain out onto strangers on the internet. And that’s that’s the thing. If all of us were in positions where we were more healed, where we had access to healing, so much less of this would happen. So it’s such a it’s like a global mental health issue on top of everything else, because people who who are well and people who are healed from their own pain don’t spend all their time on the internet, causing pain to others. That’s that’s just not what they do. So, you know, all we need, obviously, is global socialism. Health care services. You know, governments take take care of all of this. So we don’t have to do it. You know,
Jameela [00:48:41] I know ideally. But in the meantime, I think that’s something that I also say quite a lot, which is that work on your own mental health. Not everyone can access therapy, but there are some free things online. There are some community spaces. Also surround yourself with friends who aren’t from the social justice space. Sometimes take a fucking break. You’re allowed to take a fucking break. Otherwise, you will go insane if you just stay in a space of constantly reading the news, feeling like I have to be up to date on every single awful thing that’s happened in the world. Like our brains are already like 80 percent negative thoughts. Just because our brains are built to predict and protect like we are, that’s not sustainable. You’re going to burn yourself out and then you won’t be able to help anyone. So the first thing I would say is to protect yourself as best you can, like, monitor how many hours you are spending online. Do the scary thing and find out what your screen time is. You know, take the leap. Expose yourself to yourself and bring that number down and start to follow happier voices who actually have hope, who are actually making plans, who are organizing and meeting up, who are giving you the details of which MP or which politician you can write to, which phone number what you should say. Like, there are some activists who give you like a script of what to say when you phone up that politician. Those are the people rather than this is the individual we don’t like right now. This is just one person who’s quite harmless and basically on the same side as us. Let’s fucking destroy them. Let’s kill them and make an example out of them. It’s like cut their head off and hang it in the town square. Don’t follow those people. They don’t have a plan. Follow the people who are giving you actual active, thoughtful next steps. That’s what we’re trying to do over at I Weigh. We’re trying to be like, Right, this is a subject you’ve said you want to learn about. Here’s an expert. This is what we learn. And then this is how you can help support that. That’s what we’re trying to do, of course. Give me feedback. If you think there are things we can do better, but we are not radical space in the ways that maybe you want us to be. We are radical in that we are open to being a learning point for people. We are we are radical and in our like welcomingness in this space.
Megan [00:50:47] Yeah. And you know what? I would be willing to say that actually there’s nothing radical about going along with the mob and buying into all this bullshit is radical to set yourself apart and think for yourself and question things.
Jameela [00:51:01] I 100 I 100 percent agree and it’s a happier life and you make more friends and you make real friends who aren’t going to ditch you as soon as it’s not cool or clout worthy to be your mate publicly.
Megan [00:51:14] Yeah, absolutely. I mean, we can go to the pub when you’re back in London.
Jameela [00:51:16] 100 percent. Oh my god, I want you to come and move in with me. I think it’s ridiculous that you’re living in England. It’s really stupid decision and you need to come here right now. I’m really sad that we didn’t like make friends earlier. I think I was, as I said I was, I was afraid of you. You weren’t sure of me. We were victims of the system and I just couldn’t. I couldn’t appreciate you more. And you now taking this step into being a part of this conversation and being like a I could read in your essay like you were afraid of putting it out. I was hard was it was pressing send on that essay where you finally came out like you came out of the afraid closet? Was that scary for you?
Megan [00:52:01] Yeah, yeah, it was. But I had done a year’s worth of work leading up to that. If you had told me a year ago that I would be sitting with you having recording this conversation. No, I would have rather jumped in to say no way. No way. So scary. So it takes time. It takes time. And if anyone’s listening and they’re still in that, you know, very afraid, activated place where even listening to this, you feel guilty. You feel like you’re doing something wrong. Take your time like it takes a long time to be sucked into the depths of the negative parts of this culture, so it takes a long time to come out of them.
Jameela [00:52:38] Absolutely. And just remember that even though it feels really intense and really serious when everyone like even people in your school, people in your office, people at your uni are piling on the attention span of the internet is so much shorter than you realize. Everyone piles on Twitter like say something about this now its like they rush you into saying something about things that you don’t know about. Don’t, don’t do it. Don’t do it. Take your fucking time. Because once you’ve done it, whether you get it right or wrong, they’ll forget and move on anyway to the next target. It’s a kind of hysterical mentality, and so don’t don’t allow them to make you take it seriously. You’re allowed to take your time. You’re allowed to read up. You were allowed to get yourself ready. You were allowed to wait until you are in a mental health state that is appropriate for what it entails taking on these kinds of traumatic conversations. Just don’t bend to the internet. I could not have like been dragged by my pubes across the gutter of the world, more times by the internet. And I’m still here. I’m actually the happiest I’ve I’ve been in this space. I don’t have perfect mental health. We all know that we can all tell from my Instagram. I have the best friendships, the most honest friendships, the most honest relationship with myself. And my career is fine. Everything’s fucking fine. They didn’t have the impact on me that you think they’re going to have on you. I thought they were going to have on me. They didn’t even care. They didn’t remember. Someone @ me the other day in a tweet that was like, I know I hate you, but I don’t remember why. Can you tell me what you did wrong? And I was like, That is such a perfect. My boyfriend wanted me to frame the tweet. He was like, that is such a perfect description of like of like, how vile the internet can be that like, we don’t even remember they they ruined someone’s life. They like, destroy your job, your friendships, everything. And then they don’t even remember why a year later, they didn’t really mean anything to them. They were just doing it for like something to do that day. And so as we are going into this new year, what are your hopes for yourself and your hopes for everyone?
Megan [00:54:46] I you know what? Can I just point out before I answer that, how weird is that we’ve just recorded entire podcast and not talked about body image once?
Jameela [00:54:56] I know.
Megan [00:54:57] Because you asked about that and I was like, Oh, New Year’s resolutions, diet culture. No, you know what? I hope for myself and for everyone that we just grant ourself permission to be human beings. That’s that’s what I hope. What do you hope?
Jameela [00:55:14] I hope for two things. One of those things is that I. I hope we become better at self investigating and making sure that we’re not being classist or elitist or leaving people out in our journey to moral superiority, so I hope we can just chill out on that a little bit. And I really hope you continue to speak about this and many other things, and that all of my listeners go on to follow you because I think you’re a really inspirational space. I think your essays are fantastic. I love your blog. I love your Instagram. I think you are such a special and unusual individual, and I think you come at this from many different perspectives as living in someone who’s got a beautiful fucking body type that isn’t the body type for the magazine spent so long telling us we were supposed to have as a biracial woman, as someone who has members of your family who have disabilities like you have a real understanding. I have a visceral, personal understanding of many different experiences. Not all. And regarding, you know, sexuality and all these different things like you exist within these spaces and you don’t weaponize them to shut other people up, you utilize them to feel closer to other people. And I love that about you, and it makes me feel really close to you and I appreciate you so much. And there are a billion other things that you’re so great at talking about that I hope you come back here and talk about. But today this is a really important conversation because it’s been a very intense two years online.
Megan [00:56:50] It has. Thank you. Thank you for this. Thank you for being you. This has felt really good.
Jameela [00:56:56] Is there anything else you want to say before we go?
Megan [00:56:59] Um, I dunno. Like if you if you if you get the urge to jump into the mob and be part of it, maybe just have a glass of water and maybe have a wank and then think about other things you could do that would be better.
Jameela [00:57:14] So tue, don’t hate, masturbate.
Megan [00:57:19] Oh, I love it. Did you just make that up?
Jameela [00:57:23] I worry that I might have.
Megan [00:57:27] Oh, we need mugs! We need ethically produced t shirts.
Jameela [00:57:29] OK, it’s time for merch. Well, then before you actually finally go, you wonderful human being, Megan, will you tell me, what do you weigh?
Megan [00:57:40] Oh, I weigh constance. Self-development. I weigh imperfection, I weigh healing, I weigh hope I weigh genuinely believing we can get to a better world.
Jameela [00:58:01] And you weigh moving to Los Angeles in with me.
Megan [00:58:05] I mean, if the rent free, can you cook?
Jameela [00:58:08] No, fuck. James can cook.
Megan [00:58:12] Cool. Cool.
Jameela [00:58:12] Great. Sorted. That’s right. All right. Lots of love and. And stay in touch and come back and everyone go follow Megan now.
Megan [00:58:23] Thank you my angel.
Jameela [00:58:25] Thank you so much for listening to this week’s episode. I Weigh with Jameela Jamil is produced and research by myself, Jameela Jamil, Erin Finnigan and Kimmie Gregory. It is edited by Andrew Carson, and the beautiful music you’re hearing now is made by my boyfriend, James Blake. If you haven’t already, please rate review and subscribe to the show. It’s a great way to show your support. We also have a bonus series exclusively on Stitcher Premium called Ask Jameela Anything. Check it out. You can get a free month of Stitcher Premium by going Stitcher.com/premium and using the promo code I Weigh. Lastly, over at I Weigh, we would love to hear from you and share what you weigh at the end of this podcast. You can leave us a voicemail at 1-818-660-5543 or email us what you weigh at IWeighPodcast@gmail.com. And now we would love to pass the mic to one of our fabulous listeners.
Listener [00:59:18] Hi, my name is Jamie, and I weigh my relationship with my mom. She’s my best friend. I weigh helping Chinese kids every day, learn English. I weigh my relationships with the Down Syndrome community in Salt Lake City and I weigh my connection to my little puppy who gives me meaning every single day. Thank you.
September 21, 2023
Jameela is joined by campaigner and writer Gina Martin, and in this optimistic conversation about creating change for equal rights around the world, they discuss how anyone can show up and support activism (especially offline in real spaces) and what this activism work can look like.