December 2, 2021
Youtuber, political commentator, and “ex-philosopher” Natalie Wynn (aka ContraPoints) joins Jameela this week to discuss the experience of going through big life discoveries/changes publicly, speaking out when having lots of visibility online, the similarities between fatphobia and transphobia, “cringe-culture” and why it is so powerful, and more.
You can find transcripts for this episode on the Earwolf website.
I Weigh has amazing merch – check it out at podswag.com
87 — Natalie Wynn (ContraPoints)
Jameela [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to another episode of I Weigh with Jameela Jamil. I hope you’re well, thank you so much for your lovely messages this week sending me all of your Spotify wrapped. If anyone who doesn’t know people who listen to this podcast via Spotify, get a sum up at the end of the year of what they listen to the most. And I can’t fucking believe how many of you told me and sent me a little screengrab showing me that we were your number one or in your top five even still means the world to me. And how many thousands of minutes you’ve spent with me on this learning journey of mine and my extraordinary guests, many of whom I found because of you, because you took the time to DM me and tell me about great books or great speakers. I read almost all of your messages, and I’m sorry, I can’t respond to them all. But there are a lot and I really, really care about making sure that this podcast serves you. And I ask the questions you want me to ask and and that I feel as though I’m covering as much territory as I can, but as meaningfully as possible. And so I’ve still got a long way to go. There’s still more to cover, but thank you for being with me in this and for sticking with this podcast during such an unprecedentedly chaotic time. I never thought anyone was going to listen. No one was commuting. We were all in lockdown. Everyone was in so much pain. The news was so terrifying. And to find out that we recently went over the 10 million download mark just feels astonishing to me that you stuck with us. So thanks. Big love to all of you. And I have some great episodes coming up, and today might be one of the best of them. I’m so excited for you to hear my conversation today with Natalie Wynn. She is an extraordinary online voice who talks about philosophy and social dynamics and and parts of social justice even on YouTube. She’s so prolific and so unique, and I feel so lucky to have had her on the podcast. We even get into some very tense subjects, as in the past, Natalie has not spoken always very nicely about me, but I think she’s so brilliant that that didn’t stop me from wanting her to come on my podcast and share all of her amazing knowledge that I and all of us could benefit from. But I do talk to her about it, which was probably quite a nerve wracking thing for both of us. But we both leaned in and had that incredibly awkward conversation as maturely and empathetically as we could. But it wasn’t not weird. I think both of us were a bit sweaty during that, and I did check with Natalie beforehand if she’d be willing to have that conversation with me just to not ambush her because I don’t believe in doing that shit on my podcast. But yeah, I was a it was a wild ride of a chat, and we talk about so many different things. We talk about the experience of speaking out when you have a lot of visibility online. I mean, Natalie as a trans woman, and so you can imagine her speaking about transistors, already speaking about anything and being so public with so many millions of followers puts her in quite a firing line considering hostility towards trans people. And she discusses it so clearly and so well and beautifully. We both talk about the experience of going through big life discoveries and changes publicly, and we really dive into cringe culture and why it’s so powerful. You know, I’m quite cringe. So I definitely fall into cringe culture. I’m sure many of us do. And it was really fascinating about really understanding our beliefs around cringe and how it makes us operate and all of the online discussion around cringe. It’s really, really, really powerful the way that she breaks it down. We discuss the similarities between fatphobia and transphobia. We talk about why laughing at photos of celebrities is how we process envy, and we really just kind of try to get to the core of vulnerability and humanity in this episode. We were really, really raw with each other in this episode. I think it’s super special and I love it when women come together and have real talk. I think it’s always really exciting. So I hope you enjoy this episode. Please let me know if you do follow Natalie Wynn online, she goes under the name Contrapoints and she will blow your mind. But as a starter, you can fall in love with her like I did right here. Natalie Wynn off of Contrapoints. How are you? Welcome to I Weigh.
Natalie [00:04:53] I’m doing great. Thank you very much. Happy to be here.
Jameela [00:04:56] I’m thrilled to have you here. And I have been a fan of yours for a while and I have learned so much from your content. And so I guess that’s kind of why I wanted you to come onto my show today to kind of share what you know in your own inimitable way of putting it, because I would never be able to repeat all of these incredibly detailed things that you do. Would you mind explaining what contrapoints is to my listeners who may not yet be following you?
Natalie [00:05:25] I will certainly try. Contrapoints is a YouTube channel that I made back in 2016. It has kind of evolved a lot over the last five years, but basically it’s a response to internet discourse, I guess. And so I’ve tried to make it a channel that in a sort of long form video essay format will explore topics like, I guess, you know, some of the most popular videos I’ve done or about incels or about, you know what in 2017, I would talk about the alt right, the rise of the far right nationalists start like stuff that was going on on social media at the time. Lately, I’ll talk about more I think sort of I kind of have more freedom now so I can talk about things that aren’t necessarily as clickbaity. I made a video called cringe. It’s just about the idea of of cringing, which is a big part of a lot of internet subcultures.
Jameela [00:06:27] Oh we’re so going to get into it because I’ve seen that video three times now. I love it so much.
Natalie [00:06:33] Thank you. I did the last videos most recent videos about envy, which it ended up being like 90 minutes long. I kind of just started it because I just noticed that this seemed to be this unspoken part of a dynamic that goes on a lot on social media. But then the minute I started peeling back layers on envy as a video topic, I realized like, Oh God, I’ve accidentally like tapped into the core of human nature. And now I have a 16000 word script and 90 minute video to say about envy.
Jameela [00:07:07] And and to hear this one might think, Oh, sounds like a lot. 90 90 minutes on envy or on cringe or on incels just feels like a lot. And it is a lot. But it’s it’s constantly entertaining, not just because of the content that you’ve compiled. It’s honestly, like I said to you when we spoke over the phone that felt like kind of mini doctorates that you were handing in every couple of months on the internet. But they’re also beautifully shot. So your energy and infused with humor and like kind of almost mini sketches, and it just feels very like of the moment. And so the question I had for you to start with is is how has it changed your life because Contrapoints has a fucking massive and avid following.
Natalie [00:07:48] Yeah, it has changed my life in a way that I had is sort of so beyond what I ever imagined would happen that it’s I’m still kind of personally catching up with what has happened to my life. I mean, I began this channel a year after dropping out of a Ph.D. program. I was getting a Ph.D. in philosophy, and I guess I got about two years through enough to get a master’s degree. But I realized, you know, I don’t belong in academia. Not really. This is not what I want to do. Like you said, I my videos. I try to make them entertaining because I think that at heart I’m an entertainer. That’s what I really want to do. And so I’ll take these topics, I’ve kind of I’ve found a way to make philosophy into entertainment without I hope dumbing it down too much. So I try not to condescend to the audience. I don’t cut things. I don’t make it short form. I’ll go 90 minutes on a topic. But I also have an acute sense of the fact that I’m doing this online and I’m competing with the rest of YouTube drama channels make up video games, things that are at face at face value, more entertaining. So I try to keep up with those things. But yeah, the video the channel now has one point five million followers. I am, I think, in the top 20 like best funded Patreon accounts. So like, yeah, it’s completely changed my life. I was an Uber driver six years ago and now I, you know, I just bought a house and like, it’s all from this like YouTube channel that sort of evades description.
Jameela [00:09:30] And it also also it’s it’s a I think it’s a good example of someone just following their own instincts and not doing what everyone else is doing and finding the gap in the market and filling it with something incredibly authentic. And and and out there. And I think that that’s I’m so happy to see how well you’re doing, but I also know that with that visibility in particular for a trans person and you are a member of that community and now like a huge role model in that community, I was also wondering like what this amount of visibility and success is like for you in that way? Imagine a mixed bag?
Natalie [00:10:09] Very mixed. Yeah, I mean, I would say that there’s a level of sort of like security that comes with being a public figure and having in my case a stable income, which is that’s honestly the best part. It’s like, I guess fame is bad. I mean, like, I don’t enjoy it. I used to think that I would I imagined that I would but being especially when you’re sort of this mascot for a marginalized community, it’s not good. It has an incredibly negative effect on my life. Not to get too like, it’s hard to complain about this because it’s like, Oh, it’s really a struggle for me that I can’t, that that it’s really hard for me that I’m famous. Like, no one sympathizes with that. And fair enough. But the truth is that it is hard in ways that I think are sort of hard to imagine until it happens to you.
Jameela [00:10:56] I think you’d find that this is actually quite it’s quite a sensitive audience, and it’s not about the classic side of fame. You know, this isn’t TMZ like this is I think we’re all aware of like the Free Britney documentary and all of the stories we’ve heard from multiple different people. We’ve seen celebrities take their lives. It’s not like a Oh, woe is me for the by a mile or more privileged members of society. But it’s also an understanding that I think it’s really important for young people for a start who were told that fame will make you happy to hear stories of the fact that there’s a huge flipside to that existence. And also, I think a lot of people can relate to the idea that not feeling safe all the time, feeling scapegoated for things and feeling judged, etc. All these different things can be having your privacy taken away from you. These things can be alienating and a little bit painful and weird, and it’s almost like sometimes further alienating because you, of course, understandably feel like you can’t really talk to that many people about it. It’s just it’s just odd. It’s an odd, surreal, non-humane like it shouldn’t really be a part of our society.
Natalie [00:12:08] Yeah, it is. It’s it’s lonely, I guess is the most paradoxical thing about it is that you have, you know thousands, hundreds of thousands of people interested in hearing you what you have to say and interested in your life and talking about you, but at the same time, it sort of alienates you from other people in this way that. I mean as it’s very hard for me because I’m sort of alienated from other people by a lot of different things. It’s weird. It’s a weird thing to be trans. It’s not something that most people can relate to that it puts you at a distance from people and then I can’t really. I really struggle to have relationships with other trans people because of this weird position that I’m in with respect to.
Jameela [00:12:54] Can you explain that to me. Can you explain that to me?
Natalie [00:12:56] I think. I think that for a lot of trans people, there’s not a lot of visibility. You know, so there’s not a lot of role models. So whoever shows up becomes the role model, and I think that there’s kind of a generation of trans people who watched me come out on YouTube. I basically transitioned in public, which is a terrible, terrible mistake. But you know, that’s in the past.
Jameela [00:13:22] Do you feel that it’s do you feel that it was a terrible mistake even now looking back on it?
Natalie [00:13:25] I do. Yeah, I think I think what I should’ve done is vanish for three, two or three years and come back as a different person. Obviously, people would have found out, you know, it’s not like that, you know, it’s not like, Oh, I would, I would no one would know I was trans. That’s not what I’m saying, but it’s just that
Jameela [00:13:43] the super vulnerable.
Natalie [00:13:44] Yeah, I put a lot of stuff in public that maybe shouldn’t have been in public. And I think that to some trans people, it was sort of inspiring and many people have told me such, but also put me on this pedestal for for those people. They wanted me to be their role model and they wanted me to be their representative. So and in some sense, that’s why I say it’s like being a mascot. I’m not just representing myself or every time I speak in public. For a while, it was like I was speaking on behalf of this entire marginalized group, and I can’t. No one person could possibly do that right. And a lot of things.
Jameela [00:14:22] You’re not a monolith.
Natalie [00:14:23] Yeah, yeah. And I have a lot of privileges that a lot of trans people don’t have. And so, you know, when I started saying things that people disagreed with, it was it was it was not just about it was not just a disagreement. It was like treason. I was betraying them and betraying the kind of investment of their own emotions and identification that they put in me. And so they reacted to it like it was a betrayal, like a friend betraying you. And part of that has to do with the way that we’ve there’s is an illusion, right? Especially, I think, on YouTube, where it’s like, it’s kind of inherently an intimate medium. You’re speaking to this camera. If you watch a YouTube video, you you feel like you’re in a room with someone who’s speaking to you. It’s very personal, and you kind of form this delusion that you know this person. And so when they do something that hurts you, hurts your feelings or you feel like you disagree with. It’s not just, Oh, I don’t agree with that. You know, let’s talk about this. It’s you’ve you’ve you’ve turned your back on me like you’ve betrayed me as a as a quote unquote friend. So as an intensely an intensity to the reaction to that that was it took a long time for me to sort of understand what was happening.
Jameela [00:15:39] And how did that make you feel?
Natalie [00:15:42] I mean, there was a period where it got extremely dark for me, like I felt, you know, there was a period of. Where I basically did a couple of things in a row that I would say the community at large was upset with me about. One was a tweet that was kind of badly worded about preferred pronouns.
Jameela [00:16:04] can’t relate.
Natalie [00:16:05] Yeah. And then the other was, I, you know, publicly associated with a person that another trans person who is sort of very controversial and disliked. And these two things. And in the same couple months basically made me for a while like I took complete pariah among the internet trans community. And uh, yeah, I don’t know. Things got dark. Like then covid happened. I mean, I I mean, I don’t I don’t know how dark and serious we want to get about this, but I
Jameela [00:16:40] You can get serious as you can speak as openly. I mean, these people or listeners have heard all of my shit.
Natalie [00:16:46] Yeah, I’ve spoken publicly about like, you know, I spent a lot of quarantine as an opiate addict, and some of that is related to feelings of like I am alone and this awful paradox of visibility and loneliness that I feel like I really kind of trapped myself.
Jameela [00:17:11] I understand. But it also happens, really happens really fast. Like obviously, I can’t I can’t relate from the point of view of being a trans person who has become visible and then also gone through some of the things that you’ve gone through so publicly. But I definitely can relate to being a public figure who’s looked at as a representative and like all these different kind of intersections in particular. I mean, at one point I was being held as a representative of all women, which was a terrible mistake because I don’t know, well, I don’t know, fuck about shit, but also I never professed to. But also then like South Asians, because there are very, very few, you know, five of us. I don’t know where Aziz Ansari’s gone. So like, you know, it’s like, this there’s very few of us just kind of holding down the fort here. And so, you know, I will frequently get messages from sort of Gen Z South Asians being like, Oh, I can’t believe she’s our representation. And I’m like, I agree. I agree. I don’t think that this should be the way, either. I don’t think I’m cut out for being the representative for all South Asians. I’m just figuring shit myself and didn’t expect any of this. And I definitely don’t consider myself an example of what a great South Asian is. I’m just a I’m a mess with, um, with, uh, it was just a mess is just trying.
Natalie [00:18:33] Well, you’re a human being right and people, people want perfection. And I think or they don’t even want perfection because people don’t agree on what perfection is, right? They want you to be their representative. But the problem is that you couldn’t possibly be everyone’s representative because everyone’s different. So that’s, you know, it’s an impossible expectation. Of course.
Jameela [00:18:55] You can if you’re completely silent. That’s the trick.
Natalie [00:18:58] That helps yeah.
Jameela [00:18:58] That’s the like, you know, the kind of or at least like relatively silent and extremely careful. So kind of like Zendaya or Keanu Reeves or like kind of. There are certain people who are who when they are faves, like real faves like true unproblematic faves like Tom Hanks, another example of someone who just doesn’t like he just doesn’t get they just don’t get involved. And more power to them. And then people are then able to project onto you the idea that you are their representative and there’s nothing that you do or say that can, uh, discount that or discredit that belief. Do you know what I mean?
Natalie [00:19:38] It’s funny that she used those examples because I thought those exact same examples myself like Tom Hanks, Keanu Reeves, the two people that the internet seems to just love without a complicated mixture. It’s like when almost every other public figure is shrouded in this nebula of rage and controversy. Like, there’s a couple people who aren’t. And yeah, that’s the one common factor does the seem to be this like sphinx, like stoical, silent distance. Or they just don’t comment. They don’t say things. They don’t say their opinions. There’s not. They’re not. They’re not hopping on Instagram Live just to clear the air. They’re not. They’re not sending out tweets about their feelings. They’re not weighing in on issues. And so right it’s possible.
Jameela [00:20:19] They’re not coming out on Twitter in my case. They’re not coming out on YouTube in your case.
Natalie [00:20:26] Right, yes. And I think that that’s.
Jameela [00:20:29] I constantly and I constantly envy their lives, but I also just can’t shut the fuck up. I just can’t I can’t seem to just shut the fuck up, even when I promised myself that I will. I just can’t because I love. I love this. I love learning. I love communicating with people. It’s not that I’m speaking to be heard. I’m speaking to be a part of a conversation I want to have so that I can learn. Like, I’m never trying. I think people have this opinion of me. I mean, you had this opinion of me, right? Like that I maybe you did. But like, I speak from this place of like, this is my answer. Everyone hear me now, and I’m like standing at Mustafa’s rock in Lion King, in my head and like the kingdom is bowing down to me like the birds are singing. That’s not how it goes. Like, I’m normally just, uh, in my bed trying something out, just wanting to have a conversation. And I think I’m starting a conversation. But it’s always taken as this fuckin arrogant bitch is on one again telling us how to live this elite smug, liberal snow fake snowflake. It’s like wagging her finger down at us mere mortals and and she’s gotten it wrong, how dare she? And I’m like, Oh fuck, I can see how this misunderstanding has happened, but it it never ceases to break my heart a bit. Not because I want or expect to be liked, but just because being misunderstood so radically is sad. You know, I mean, and we spoke on the phone, we’ll just get this out of the way now. But like when I was watching one of your videos as a big fan of yours, there’s a moment where for a couple of minutes, you take a big pop at me and your more recent video about envy because of a tweet, not a tweet and Instagram reply that I’d done that. Of course, in hindsight, I can see how it was misconstrued, but it feels as though people were seeking to misconstrue it more than was necessary.
Natalie [00:22:35] Oh yeah, I completely sympathize with you. And I just I mean, like, I felt the same dynamic myself where it is this kind of surreal horror of watching your real self be replaced in the public eye by this caricature version that you have no control over and have your every word sort of spun out into this like strange, sinister, alternate reality. So I do feel, I do feel, I think I maybe, maybe I owe you a little bit of an apology because I kind of did allow in that video to show you through that. I mean, the video was about envy and my perception of one reason why you seemed to trigger a high level of social media outrage is that, well, I don’t know how to say this.
Jameela [00:23:21] There’s many reasons I’m annoying.
Natalie [00:23:23] You seem to be like you also seem like on in a number of different areas to be like fairly close to perfect. And I know,.
Jameela [00:23:33] That’s so not so not true.
Natalie [00:23:35] Of course it’s not true. Like I really like, you’re not perfect and no one’s perfect. But like, I feel like from the perspective of envy. It seems like, I mean, I kind of even felt this a little bit like before I started actually talking to you is that you seem like you seem like beautiful and successful and sort of morally very sincere. And and all these combinations, it’s like, Well, I think it makes you feel cross their arms and be like, it’s almost like they want you to fuck up because that would they want to see you fail because it’s irritating that you’re not that you’re too good like. So like I took on, I I mentioned this in the phone, like I took a screenshot of a YouTube comment from my envy video where someone’s someone said, Look, I don’t envy rich people. I think it’s fine that Bill Gates has all this money. That’s not the problem. My problem is that not only does he want to be rich, does he get to be rich, he also has this charitable foundation. He does all this good work in the world, and he thinks that he gets to be seen as a good person too. That’s what really makes me mad. It’s not that he has money. Is that on top of that, he’s also virtuous, and that’s what really upsets. And I find this like fascinating.
Jameela [00:24:57] Totally. It is no that is totally a part of our culture, I think we’re deeply suspicious and rightfully suspicious in particular of public figures. There’s an extra layer of suspicion that we probably reserve for women because since the story of Adam and Eve, women have just been these fuckin manipulative bitches who’ve ruined everything for poor, innocent men. You know, we’ve just messed everything up for men in all big action movies. Until recently, the woman is the inconvenience who makes the mistake, and the man has to clear up for her and defend her and defend himself. You know, we are just known societally to be this manipulative, dishonest nightmare. However, I just while I appreciate what you’re saying. I also think that I personally, it’s my responsibility to make sure that I’m not being reductive and saying that I also know that when I get into trouble, it’s not as simple as people want me to fuck up and people are jealous of me. It’s also sometimes I do genuinely just put my foot in my mouth and I should do better from a position of like power. So I do also want to make sure that I own that.
Natalie [00:25:55] Yeah, no. I think there’s like you can. You can we can try to strike a middle ground between saying, like everyone who hates me is just jealous losers and and saying, on the other hand, like because because obviously, like there is a big responsibility that comes along with having a platform and having a voice and being listened to by a lot of people. And it’s important that people in that position can be criticized. But I guess the problem is that I see a lot of the criticism that happens toward public figures. It kind of it’s not constructive. Right? It’s it’s this rage about the person having the platform and it’s not really a, you know, and people try to convince themselves that what they’re mad at is a person misusing the platform. But it’s really the platform itself that I think some and it’s thinking not everyone there, there’s there’s people who again, there is there is good faith criticism. I mean, I get good faith criticism all the time. One one and I’m and I’m like, I welcome it. Like it’s, you know, you need someone, you know, someone pushing back against you otherwise.
Jameela [00:26:57] Yeah man.
Natalie [00:26:58] You know, you you become a monster. But it’s it’s it’s somehow easier to pay attention to people who are not being good faith, right? Because it’s sort of I don’t know. I think people think that there must be some follower count that you reach where your feelings stop being hurt, but that is in fact not the case. And actually, you know, I mean, at least I find that like it still does get to me when people are saying, you know, are being really harsh about me or I feel like twisting my words or mischaracterizing me or caricaturing me, it hurts. And it’s easy to fixate on that wound instead of engaging with the people who are being more constructive.
Jameela [00:27:44] Totally. And also, like you, bringing up my appearance probably is fitting right now because of the what the actual comment was. Just for anyone who’s listening to this, who doesn’t remember this, although it was quite big in the Daily Mail, ripped me a new asshole over this comment that I made. But basically someone said to me, this is what triggered off this whole what you’re now hearing between me and Natalie. Someone wrote your skin is so perfect. And then she made a really sad face emoji. And I did what I always do. I’ve always done, which is just always say the same thing, which is like my skin is currently clear because A privileged people have more access to good quality nutrition. And also our lives are significantly less stressful than the lives of those with less privilege. I also get sleep more because of this. All of these things keep my hormones in balance, and I’m able to address food intolerances easily. B I believe that trans rights are human rights with a smiley face and then C, I exfoliate twice a week. So I meant this in a very tongue in cheek way. Like it was like all the emojis and the fact that I had said that trans rights are human rights. The second step of my skincare I, I just presumed people would know that I was making a point, but also being very flippant and silly with it. And it got it got taken so fucking badly by the internet, where they were just like, Why couldn’t you just say fuckin thank you and move on? And I’m like, Well, because I think it’s a good conversation to have. I think we are long overdue the conversation of holding fucking actresses and models up as the example of what women who live much more stressful lives with much less access to the fucking nonsense that we have are expected to live up to us and then they airbrush us on the cover of magazines. You know, when we were talking on the phone, I was like, I can’t believe that women in their fifties are looking at Nicole Kidman’s airbrushed face on the cover of a magazine who’s also got the personal trainers and like whatever, to keep her in a certain condition. And they’re feeling bad about themselves being like, Well, we’re the same age we’ve grown up alongside each other. I’ve quote unquote let myself go, and I just think that’s so toxic. Should I have probably done it in a video rather than a comment back, which is subject to being taken out of context? Yes, but I think I didn’t understand the bad faith of the internet that I have now started to understand massively with help from you, not just because you took the piss out of me as well and presented my declaration of this in voice, which I will never forgive you for. But I.
Natalie [00:30:13] So sorry.
Jameela [00:30:13] I was so offended by your portrayal of how I’ve said it. But but your video about cringe culture has helped me, like, really understand why that was taken out of context, why so many things we see get taken out of context, and I’m just dying to talk to you about it. This video is so exceptional, Natalie, that it should win all of the awards. I it’s a it’s it’s it has clarified so much to me about our common culture that I would love to just kind of can I just grill you about it a little bit, so you can help me explain it to everyone.
Natalie [00:30:59] Absolutely.
Jameela [00:31:00] OK. And we’re over the bit where we’ve talked about that other shit and we’re all good.
Natalie [00:31:06] Can I say one more thing about that?
Jameela [00:31:07] Yeah of course you can.
Natalie [00:31:07] So when you left that Instagram comment I found about, I found out about this whole thing from Twitter and watching the the the hurricane that surrounded this Instagram comment on Twitter. And it was fascinating to me. I was like, This is like that. This is what people are so mad about is a wild to me. And so I screenshotted everything went straight in the folder for like, we’re going to discuss this at some point. And the next year, well, because I know it was interesting because I don’t see I actually do not think that you do anything wrong. I think I think that.
Jameela [00:31:42] But then why did you frame it that way, Natalie?
Natalie [00:31:44] Well, I framed it that way because the point that I was I was building to in that section was about how it’s not really about you having done something wrong. It’s about like the quote unquote optics of it. And by optics what we really seem to mean is the way that it makes people feel. So, you know, even though you’re saying all the all things that are true and again like. I think that, you know, isn’t that what we say that we want? Right? Like we always say that. Why can’t celebrities acknowledge that they have this privilege? And why celebrities you’re doing all
Jameela [00:32:21] transparent
Natalie [00:32:22] and checking your privilege and all that and all this stuff that we’re supposed to do? But I think that sort of audiences are sort of uncertain about actually what it is that they want because I think that in a way, you’re sort of laying out the reasons why you have an unfair advantage is actually just sort of kind of putting a magnifying glass on the unfair advantage, which then causes people to feel stung by the by the advantage that you have.
Jameela [00:32:51] 100 percent.
Natalie [00:32:52] And so it’s not as it’s in a way like your honesty about it is being taken as a provocation by people, but I think that’s something that
Jameela [00:33:04] How do we have that conversation then? Like how do how? Because who is going to have that conversation right? When people who don’t look a certain way, who aren’t invited onto the cover of Vogue or whatever try and have that conversation, they are called bitter. I know that are someone who was considered unattractive by the media and told that I was bitter. And every time I would try and say that these aren’t, these standards are unacceptable. And then, now that I have been on the cover of Vogue and I am suddenly deemed attractive by the media or society, I’m now considered too, you know, whatever, like pretty privileged to be able to have a conversation. So who then have that conversation about how fucked the like the lies of this industry are about the fact that they fucking, you know, they have anti-aging creams where they airbrushed the advert? So who’s going to have that conversation? I feel as though it’s my responsibility to make sure that I keep reminding people this is all bullshit. This is a part of my job that is fantasy. I mean, people, having I had the other day about oxygen facials, have you heard about that? It’s a $250 facial where they pump oxygen into all of your pores and you look very fresh for fucking 24 hours. That’s it. $250 to just just just to fill up just we’re being women like me are used as a weapon against people who don’t have all of the lights and the camera and the makeup artist and the ballocks. And so I want to be able to have that conversation. But I also don’t want to like sting anyone or trigger anyone. I just feel like I’m in a bit of a I feel like I’m in a bit of a bind.
Natalie [00:34:48] Well, I think there’s a version of the problem you’re describing with a lot of different issues. I mean, even just like wealth inequality, for example, like, OK, if people who if people who are poor complain about income inequality, you know, it’s very easy to say, well, people will say, well, you’re just bitter, work harder, bla bla bla stop being lazy. You know, why are you trying to punish success? But if people who have money start talking about, Oh no, we should be paying more taxes like AOC, where, you know, tax the rich dress at the Met Gala, people say the hypocrisy. You have money. And yet you want tax for the wealthy like, you know. So it’s like, is anyone allowed to question income inequality from that, from the perspective of someone who opposes it? No. Because either it’s bitterness or it’s hypocrisy. And I think that, you know, when it comes to like the sort of the snowballing pretty privileges, like you said, that that accrue to to, you know, women who have the access to oxygen facials or whatever it is, whatever it is this month. Yeah, I think that the same dynamic happens where if ordinary people, you know, complain about these these are they’re being held at these unrealistic beauty standards, it’s you get called bitter. And then if it gets highlighted by people who you know are public figures, it’s part of your job to participate in this right. Then you get called a hypocrite or you get called you know?
Jameela [00:36:14] Yeah. And it’s also important just to highlight that like 300000 people liked my comment and agreed with what I was saying. It wasn’t every like most people took it in good faith. If the internet didn’t, if you didn’t like necessarily, and I know you weren’t trying to do it in bad faith, but you did to three million people perpetuate the worst side of me, you bastard. But you know what? It’s fine. I’ve actually I’ve been through the same thing. I I slut shamed loads of really big, famous singers when I was younger and then had to meet all of them and and say sorry. So not much worse than what has happened here.
Natalie [00:36:56] I feel like I still have to get used to this idea that like I can’t just talk about people anymore because people find out
Jameela [00:37:04] I know. They will find out they will find and it’s the worst fucking feeling.
Natalie [00:37:08] It’s like a whole yeah.
Jameela [00:37:08] There’s something deeper to all of this, and I think that’s kind of what I’m interested in in the world of kind of cringe. I’d never thought about it until I’d watched your video, and again, I was highly skeptical. I was like, What is she doing? Why has she made such? How much is she going to milk out of the subjects of cringe? But it’s so innate to our society. So will you describe what cringe is? We know. But can you just describe?
Natalie [00:37:40] So cringe is when it’s I guess you could describe it as kind of feeling a second hand embarrassment? And there’s a sort of a lot of variance on that feeling. I I guess I got a lot of sort of conceptual clarity in researching this video from this book called Cringeworthy by Melissa Dahl. And I guess she describes this like two types of cringing. There’s like compassionate cringe where you sort of empathically feel the embarrassment of someone, you know, like if you’re watching, you know, bad American Idol auditions as an example that I used a lot like where someone is just, you know, they’re getting dragged by Simon Cowell or whatever their their performance is terrible. You feel embarrassed for them. And then there’s this other thing which she called contemptuous cringe, which is something a little bit more sadistic or you’re sort of enjoying someone’s humiliation and downfall. And. I feel like I think those are completely different things, actually, but they’re sort of related to they’re both like emotional reactions. Yeah.
Jameela [00:38:51] The difference is kind of when you can see someone is embarrassed as well because you talk about like part of cringe being I’m so sorry if I paraphrase this wrong part of cringe being kind of like, let’s say you do something that makes you cringe. It’s because you have suddenly been confronted with other people’s perception of you for the first time and you bring up like the very like, relatable example of hearing your own voice. You know, and like how much that makes people uncomfortable, they’re like, Fuck, is this what people hear?
Natalie [00:39:18] Oh god we really started to talk like that yeah.
Jameela [00:39:18] Yeah, I thought I sounded so different.
Natalie [00:39:22] Cringe yeah.
Jameela [00:39:22] In my head. Yeah, cringe. Or like, you know, I’ve fallen over in front of all of these people and they’ve all seen. And so it’s that kind of stark kind of reckoning, an awakening of like, Oh God, this is my perception outside of myself. I had no idea. And it’s embarrassing. But when it’s someone else, if they can, if you can see that they know it’s embarrassing, then you’re more likely to feel kind of compassionate cringe. And if you see someone who is wholly unaware that what they’re doing is kind of socially unacceptable in some way or bad, or they’re bad at singing, but they’re super confident with it probably a lot of the way that people see me is like someone who has no idea that they’re being embarrassing, whereas I really understand how embarrassing I am. I really, I really get it. I think then it’s more likely to incite. If you see someone is incredibly hyper confident and sure of themselves and may be a bit arrogant or smug, then you’re more likely to feel contemptuous cringe, correct?
Natalie [00:40:24] I think that’s right yeah. Yeah.
Jameela [00:40:24] And you talk about the fact that maybe some part of cringing is a good thing. Can you explain that?
Natalie [00:40:32] Well, I think there’s a couple of ways that it’s a sort of a helpful it can be a helpful feeling. One is that it is, you know, sometimes like pain. We have pain for a reason. It’s a warning sign or it tells you don’t do that again. So in a way, it’s a helpless social cohesion, like if you cringe at yourself or you cringe at someone else. I mean, actually, I think you sort of learn socially acceptable behavior in part through watching the failures of others, like if you see like people making fun of someone, this is very middle school. You think, Oh, I don’t want to be like that, don’t I don’t want to be targeted myself
Jameela [00:41:08] It’s how we learn social cues.
Natalie [00:41:10] Yeah, absolutely. Especially especially when it comes to things that are sort of subtle. So there’s explicit social rules you know about like well like the social rules about gender, who goes in what bathroom these are. These are there rules about this. And there’s more subtle things. How loud are you supposed to talk in a given setting? You know, if someone’s talking way too loud at a restaurant, that’s the kind of thing there’s not really a rule about it. You’re just supposed to be perceptive enough to pick up on the correct volume to speak, but someone who’s being loud and embarrassing. You may cringe at and that kind of teaches you don’t do that.
Jameela [00:41:48] I have mixed feelings about it, and I had mixed feelings while I was watching your video about it because I also feel like sometimes especially like almost now more than ever, it feels like. And I can only really say this because I’ve not really been alive any other time, but I feel as though we are too self-conscious about everything. And that’s exactly the kind of thing people would think, I would say, because I have no fucking boundaries, but I do I do also think that like, I don’t know, there’s a part of me that wonders if all of these like who gets to decide on all of these social cues. I know there are basic kind of etiquette things that are important to be like polite and considerate of others. But there’s a lot of fucking rules now, especially for women, especially for women online. There are so there’s such a thin line, a thin, like fragile line that you have to walk in order to be just just absolved from an absolute onslaught. It’s this isn’t just famous women I’m talking about if you’re in school, if you work in an office, that you work in a bank like wherever you are in your life as a woman, but also as everyone, everyone has just got so many rules to live up to. Is there a part of that that you think is also stifling to us because I think we have too many fucking rules?
Natalie [00:43:05] Well, I think that cringe becomes this like pretty tyrannical enforcer of social conformity. So that’s the negative side of it, right? And this video, I kind of end up like chasing that. I think most of the video is about like the darker aspect of it,
Jameela [00:43:21] 100 percent, 100 percent.
Natalie [00:43:22] Rather than the way that it’s helpful. And ultimately, like anyone who is different or who is sort of a nonconformist will get sort of categorized as cringe. I mean. And so I invested. I spent time like pulling all these examples from like subreddits that are about cringe. There’s all this one like, ah, r/cringe or called cringe topia. Some of them are worse than others.
Jameela [00:43:45] Videos that have, like millions of views that I wasn’t aware of about just like cringe compilations.
Natalie [00:43:50] Yes, but the number of things that are considered cringe, I mean, you notice a pattern, OK? Being fat is considered cringe. Being autistic is considered cringe. Being trans cringe. Being overly gay cringe and being, you know, and it’s like you pretty quickly pick up on the fact it’s like, Oh, this is actually just enforcing, it’s enforcing conformity. And it’s it’s enforcing a pretty conservative view, you know, that is it’s repressive, right? And also, I think it’s, you know, if you get too worried about people cringing at you, I mean, almost anything truly worth doing or anything that involves sincerity or real expressions of emotion or fun or pleasure like that gets considered to be cringe. Passionate interests are called cringe right. The least cringe thing, I suppose, is to adopt this attitude of bored, aloof indifference. But that
Jameela [00:44:45] Yeah desensitized, yeah, desensitized is
Natalie [00:44:48] ironic and detached, disavowed of all of anything that matters and anything that you would care about. Like, I think that that’s a kind of. And some people do like adopt that kind of persona online or offline, right of a detached, ironic sort of mocking above it all persona because that’s it’s defensive is what that is. You’re trying to protect yourself from ridicule. You’re trying to protect yourself from seeming embarrassing or from for seeming cringe. But it comes at the cost of getting any sincere feelings or passion. I think when you analyze it, that itself turns out to be a very fearful life, if that’s how you live, is you live in fear of being judged. And I think to sort of look at that to can say, I mean, it’s I know there’s been times in my life and I kind of adopted a persona like that. And there’s been years of my life that I’ve wasted in shame and in fear of what other people would think. It fear what I would think about myself. And I think that ultimately, if you have to sort of negotiate, there’s times, you know, you have to just be cringe because it’s worth it. Yeah, because it’s. And I think I mean
Jameela [00:46:00] I notice you like you, check yourself constantly throughout your videos, like constantly whenever you are not always but like as in when it’s not appropriate, but a. I don’t mean this anyway as a criticism, I identify with it fully, and I probably do every single week on this podcast, but there’s a kind of hyper self-awareness in your videos where you are, like almost like shadow boxing, sometimes where you’re like, I know I do this or I know you probably think that about me or I’m so embarrassing. There’s a kind of like, there are these kind of like sub thoughts that you let us into where you are never pointing the finger at someone else without already preempting that, someone might then accuse you of hypocrisy. So you’re already kind of like, has that come from being on the internet and just being so hyper scrutinized that now you’re kind of like, Fuck, I know, I know you can’t say it, cause I’ve already said it.
Natalie [00:46:52] I think so. Yeah, I think, yeah. I don’t know if I don’t know if anyone receives more direct feedback per day than a YouTuber like the amount of I mean, I’ve seen people kind of go mad.
Jameela [00:47:05] I don’t know anything about that world, I’d like. I started YouTube for about 10 minutes last year and failed, so I don’t know the culture of it.
Natalie [00:47:12] I think it’s I think it’s not that different from, you know, things that you have experience would experience on Twitter or other social media. But if you know with with YouTube, with a video like every aspect of what you do will be criticized. So. You know, are you talking too fast, are you going too slow? Are you too loud or too soft like there’s a thousand. You know, it’s not just what you’re saying, it’s the way you’re saying it, the way you look saying it. The, you know, environment that you’re in
Jameela [00:47:45] Death by 1000 cuts. Yeah.
Natalie [00:47:45] Right. Is your is the apartment that you’re filming in? Is it really sad and depressing or is it show offy and opulent and a weird flex or like like where’s the middle ground? There’s a million. You get and you get so much feedback, so many thousands of comments about yourself and about how you look and your voice and you know where you live and and the style of your presentation. Yeah.
Jameela [00:48:10] And a lot of it comes from even the people that you will like that you share a community with. And that’s like, that’s quite a specific pain when the very people that you like want to feel close to. Like we expect certain amounts of shit from, I imagine you expect and I hate this for you. But I imagine, just like I get a lot of racists, you probably have had some experience with transphobic people not to be presumptuous. But you know what I mean? They they are there are lively on the internet.
Natalie [00:48:37] They’re very, yeah, very, very untested. Very.
Jameela [00:48:40] I mean, if I get this much shit just for, uh, for, uh, just speaking up in like solidarity with trans liberation, I I truly cannot imagine what you go through and and on. I’m sorry about that.
Natalie [00:48:56] Well, yeah, it is. It’s it’s another incessant thing that’s kind of been going on for four years, and my brain is definitely kind of broken from it. And and it’s true that again, like it’s coming from all sides and all kinds of weird, contradictory ways because on the one hand, you have all these people being like, Oh, you’ll never be a woman. Like, you obviously look like a man. You obviously sound like a man. We can all see that you’re a man like stop like you’re delusional, like, stop it. And on the other hand, you have people being like, Oh, like, Contrapoints doesn’t understand what it’s like to be trans because she passes too well, she can’t possibly represent us because of bla bla bla bla bla and she looks like. And it’s like, OK, this is the opposite complaints constantly coming at you.
Jameela [00:49:32] But also, we kind of and I don’t think one ever gets used to it, but one can kind of. One comes to expect at least this is what my trans friend is that right? When it comes to specifically this that you come to expect it from certain people that what takes you by surprise and really hurts your feelings and I don’t know if you identify with this is when it comes from your own where the hyper scrutiny, where you’re like, oh, like, fuck, you know how hard this is? Like, you are living a similar experience to me. We’re in this shit together, like we’re all fighting for the same liberation. Why are you coming for me, harder sometimes than the very people who would like me not to exist. Is that does that represent anything you feel?
Natalie [00:50:12] Absolutely. Like, I think I mean, I think part of it is just that trans people themselves can be transphobic and often are like, Nope, because this is the thing I think a lot of people kind of don’t get is that being the target of bigotry does not really exempt you from being a bigot in your own way, right? And so like, we all have this stuff, we all deal with it. And like I, we all sort of internalize it to some extent. And so I mean, I think I’m sure you could apply this to all kinds of different people, but I think that there’s a kind of tension that sometimes exists in relationships that I have with other trans women. You know friendships or more than friendships, even where, like part of the tension comes from the fact that like there’s a kind of like there’s a you almost had to process the kind of self-hatred through this other person who becomes part of your own self-hatred or you become part of their self-hatred.
Jameela [00:51:09] I mean, have you ever done that with another trans person where you’ve externalized your own self-hatred?
Natalie [00:51:15] Absolutely.
Jameela [00:51:15] I mean, I mean, I’ve done it with all the women that I slut shamed. And if any of them are listening, I’m still very sorry.
Natalie [00:51:21] Of course. No, like, I’ll like. I mean, here’s this example like, OK, I’ll go out to dinner with another trans woman. Um, I feel at some point that like her her voice is clockier than mine. And like, it’s what I mean by that is like, I feel like her voice sounds like detectively, you know, trans. And I mean, obviously, mine is too I think to some people, but people tend not usually to pick up on it, but sometimes they do not hear it in other transwomen. I notice the signs that, you know, that become and I sort of will feel this kind of like cringe, I guess, is the word, right? It’s like, oh, god, like, you’re dragging me down to your level, and now we’re both going to. It’s it’s an ugly thing, but it’s
Jameela [00:52:12] yeah, you’re not promoting that as a good way to think.
Natalie [00:52:14] No.
Jameela [00:52:14] You’re just calling out
Natalie [00:52:16] I’m just like, I’ve noticed this moment happening. And obviously, this is not a good way to think. But. Not every thought or every feeling that passes through our heads is necessarily something that we endorse. But sometimes you’ll notice the thought there and say, What do we do about that?
Jameela [00:52:34] So is that what you describe as like vicarious embarrassment, because I know you kind of you kind of bring this up in the cringe video where you’re like, there’s a part of our psychology in cringing at something that someone else is doing is sometimes because it reminds us of ourselves. And so we want to distance ourselves from it. And is that correct? Can you elaborate on this?
Natalie [00:52:55] Well, I think a lot of the reason I decided to make a video about cringe in the first place was through witnessing this exact dynamic within, you know, trans communities. There’s for a long time on YouTube. A lot of the most successful trans YouTubers are people whose content was mostly about attacking other trans people and people would build up an entire, you know, platform basically that the framing of it is usually like, I’m a good transgender. I’m like, there’s all these, you know, tenders are all these perverts, all these whatever are giving us a bad name. They’re making us look bad. I am here to shame them and join you. The general public and laughing at these bad trans people. And I’m not like them. Just to be clear, I’m not like them. OK. That’s my call. And it’s like the popularity of this. Basically, it just relies on the fact that people enjoy getting to sort of gratify their transphobic feelings with a trans person leading the discussion so that they don’t have to deal with the guilt of it. So, oh, I’m not being transphobic. It’s fine. I there’s this other trans person here agreeing with me, that’s what the audience is getting out of it. But the creator, the trans creator, who’s doing this? What they’re getting out of it is they are kind of splitting their minds in half and they’re the part of themselves that they hate. They’re projecting onto it a scapegoat, right? Attacking a scapegoat. And then they get to feel like, Oh, I’m one of the normal people. I’m not a freak like these ones. And it’s I feel like I’m able to understand what what creators like this are getting out of it because I’ve experienced the temptation to do this myself but
Jameela [00:54:39] Is it tribalism? Is it like a fear of being ostracized, ostracized, you know, to acquire safety? So that, you know, I’m in the tribe, I’m, you know, I’m aware of what the opposition let’s just call them, as in fucking evil transphobes are thinking, and I would like to have more of a chance of being accepted by them. So I’m going to cut off the, you know, the the weakling here. This one is this one is weak. This one isn’t achieving what we are supposed to achieve to just be deemed human and be accepted. So therefore I’m going to cut them loose and ostracize them. So that way, I’m not the one getting ostracized because I feel like that’s also a pattern generally on the internet.
Natalie [00:55:18] Absolutely. I think, you know, when you point at someone and you accuse someone, you’re also kind of you’re also pointing away from yourself or you’re directing the attention over there. You’re directing the spite and the scorn and the hatred over there. You’re directing away from yourself. So it is a very protective defensive kind of thing. I think, like slut shaming works in a similar way, as you mentioned earlier. So
Jameela [00:55:41] Yeah and also fat shaming, by the way, you notice like Khloe Kardashian recently, who like always been and always had a beautiful body, in my opinion, regardless of what size she is. But she was always like bigger than her sisters and also significantly taller than her sisters and demonized by the world for being quote-unquote The Fat Sister. So she has recently lost a ton of weight. And then just did this viral video with a massive YouTuber about, like, how angry she is and fed up she is. I think maybe she used the word disgusted, but I don’t want to stand by that with my whole chest. But she’s like sick of people, like being fat and just eating a tub of ice cream and being lazy and not doing anything about it and complaining that they’re so fat. And she’s just, like a lot of fat phobic rhetoric came out that was very like kind of like distancing herself from them, the fat people, even though she had so long identified with not being able to lose the weight that you want to lose, it just felt like very traditionally disappointing.
Natalie [00:56:39] There’s a version of this kind of thinking that you see everywhere, there’s like a lot of contempt or disdain for something. So definitely, I think I’ve definitely seen a lot of resistance to like fat acceptance kind of rhetoric from fat people themselves because they’re saying, Look, I’m not, you know, it’s it’s almost like, Oh, here’s an opportunity to be above this right. Like, at least I have the decency to hate myself or something like that, right? I’m not super confident speaking of this because I well because I’m not a fat person. So so this isn’t exactly my to speak about but like, yeah, that’s absolutely a thing I’ve noticed and in the exact same way that there’s a lot of parallels between being trans and being fat. And I do think that in the same way that a lot of trans people have this harbor this contempt for a lot of other trans people, I think a lot of fat people have this contempt for other fat people and this kind of cringing and this sort of rage that’s projected as you sort of like almost like the all the sort of scorn and disgust and the negativity that’s been directed at you is this impulse to kind of redirect at someone similar but slightly different.
Jameela [00:57:54] Yeah. And it’s an easier I guess it’s an easier target, isn’t it, because they’re closer to you than your and it’s less scary than someone who actually is seeking to dehumanize you. Someone who actually sees a bit where you’re coming from is less likely to come after you with such like visceral ability.
Natalie [00:58:11] I think it’s the path of least resistance, honestly, in terms of being socially accepted. Instead of like how to persuade everyone to accept you as you are is much more work than just taking their taking their prejudice as a given and just trying to work it to your benefit. That’s easier. It requires less. It requires less movement of people’s opinions.
Jameela [00:58:38] Yeah, I do feel like there’s a bit like just to bring it back to me, if that’s all right for a second, Natalie. I just wanna like, keep this going about me when I when I fuck up in any way or have an awkward or cringe moment online. How much people enjoy it never ceases to amaze me. Or I’m just like, Why are you enjoying this so much? And I guess what I learned again from your cringe video is that like and kind of what you’re saying now is that when we watch someone, especially a powerful person, especially a public figure or someone who has any kind of privilege it might just be an unknown but kind of societally deemed hot person who has like a big boo boo publicly. Is it that it makes us feel superior than them because I’ve like definitely participated in this myself. Definitely massive internet troll cunt like in the past, and I’ve had to learn how to. The more I’ve felt what that feels like and seen it and understood it and just grown up a bit, I stopped the more I’ve stopped taking pleasure in other people’s embarrassments or misfortunes because I recognize that like, well, I always look to find out, is there a part of me that’s enjoying this because it’s giving me a brief sense of relief of thinking that I’m the worst. Now they are worse than me, so I get to be above them. Is it just like a desire for kind of a social hierarchy?
Natalie [00:59:54] I think that’s a huge part of it. Absolutely. I think that cringe and envy are kind of very similar in this way because it’s kind of cringe is looking down at people, envy’s looking at sort of bitterly up at people, oftentimes that they’re a little bit interchangeable in a sort of strange way. I guess both of these feelings envy and cringe. They’re both about ego, right? They’re about your own position in the social hierarchy. People form their sense of self-worth based on comparing themselves to other people. So when someone who you’ve kind of envied maybe or someone or just someone who you compare yourself to fails or drops down a level or, you know, embarrasses themselves in public has a huge scandal. And it’s like, Oooh, right. Like, I think part of part of the pleasure in that is that it gives you a little ego boost to see someone else doing worse because it’s like, Oh, I guess, I guess you’re not so much better than me, are you? And that makes you feel a little better, right? It makes you feel a little better. Or I mean, even more punching down would be like just I mean, you see this with like the cringe like obsession, obsession on on the internet or on YouTube or wherever like people, they’re just going out of their way to find someone who’s worse than them to kind of enjoy this feeling of scorn because it makes them. It’s like reassuring.
Jameela [01:01:16] Yeah, that’s fascinating. How do we get out of that?
Natalie [01:01:19] That’s a good question. Yeah, that’s a good question. I mean, I guess ego, ego death like meditation.
Jameela [01:01:28] What is ego death? What is ego death.
Natalie [01:01:30] I don’t know. I mean, I think I guess
Jameela [01:01:33] Well not until your next video.
Natalie [01:01:34] Yeah, I mean, I think, you know, there’s a lot of like I think like spirituality kind of has to do with with trying to free ourselves from this kind of stuff. But I think that my own personal way I’ve kind of tried to deal with it is it’s sort of I’m trying to cultivate like self-awareness, I guess, is that once you understand how this works, you can understand, Oh, that’s what I’m doing. And I feel that, you know, keeping an eye on the workings of your own mind. I find that it helps me not let the worst parts of myself take over because I because I’m I’m watching it. I’m like watching my own reactions and watching my own feelings. And when I sort of am able to recognize a pattern like this, I know it’s happening. And I don’t just sort of rush to rationalize what I’m feeling because I think that’s when a lot of the stuff gets the most ugly. It’s when people don’t really, because it’s not common for for people experiencing a kind of kind of like contemptuous, like cringe reaction to someone else’s, you know, failure. It’s not common to be like, Oh, I’m enjoying this person’s downfall because it makes me feel suddenly better about myself. Like, that’s not usually what people say. Usually it’s it’s like, you know, they’ll give all these reasons why it’s it’s it’s it’s fine to feel the way they feel. It’s fine to enjoy this person’s downfall because x y z a lot of times like morality is kind of invoked in a lazy way at this point. Well, they deserve it, right?
Jameela [01:03:08] Yeah. Morality is also kind of looked at as a bit like cringe. Now it’s a virtue signaling a bit weak some of the time, it’s like you’re supposed to be the person that you are criticizing is supposed to be morally pure. And once they fail in being able to or like perfect once they demonstrate an imperfection in the area in particular, you are now allowed. You have now got permission to lose absolutely all of your humanity and punish them to within an inch of their like sanity. Right?
Natalie [01:03:38] Yeah, it’s OK to be cruel to this person because they’re a bad person. So actually, this is fine. Yeah. And this is kind of like retributive thing. And I, you know, you see, this is like a justification for bullying all the time, right? Well, it’s OK that we’ve bullied that person because they did x y z moral transgression.
Jameela [01:03:57] People, people send me messages all the time being like, well, like they @ me messages being like, Remember when we bullied at Jameela Jamil last year? That was fun. Can we do that again? I’m just like, Why did you tag me in this? Why did you find that fun? Like, it’s really like, it’s like it doesn’t. That doesn’t make me sad anymore. It made me sad about a year and a half ago, but then I discovered medication. No but not just the medication. I also just came to understand this is bigger than me and to like, you know, have an ego death of my own. I don’t really know what ego death means, but you said it and I like the way it sounds. So I’m just like using it now without as I normally do, I speak without any expertize confidently. So I yeah I had to kind of like, just be like, OK, this isn’t just about me. This is a bigger like kind of system. And I think your your videos are super helpful and insightful in understanding that and there’s a fuckin word in your video about cringe. Humiliate has the word humiliate in it.
Natalie [01:04:53] Humilitainment.
Jameela [01:04:57] Humilitainment. That was the world. I love that word. So is that kind of what we’re talking about here as well?
Natalie [01:05:01] I think that’s a lot of what, for example, goes on in tabloids, which categorizes humilitainment where you’re basically sort of creating, I mean the Daily Mail like half of it gets published. Daily Mail is a humilitainment. We’re sort of enjoying the sort of mockery. Often it is like bringing celebrities down like, I mean, I think I think the whole genre of like, Oh, look at this as celebrity’s embarrassing beach body or whatever, like, isn’t that what that is? It’s like, I think part of what people get out of that is. It’s not the most healthy way to deal with the same thing that you’re trying to confront, which is that people feel worse about themselves because they have to see all these idealized images of celebrities. But instead of like dealing with that in a more constructive way, there’s like the Daily Mail way of dealing with it, which is like, Oh, we get to laugh at them for once, for having the same faults that we have, right?
Jameela [01:05:59] Exactly, exactly. But also happens in schools, you know, it’s like, Oh, the girl who got a boyfriend, maybe before we got boyfriends. Now her nudes have been leaked. Let’s spread them around the entire school, and let’s share them to other schools like this is a whole. This goes way beyond celebrity anons. Lately, this like this is really entrenched in our culture. I don’t think I’m off the mark too far when I say that humilitainment is kind of like at the forefront of most entertainment now. Not just because, as you said, like there’s like a big market for cringe, but also it feels like a bonding currency now. It feels like the pile ons. People find them fun. They find it like bonding. They they they sometimes participate in pile ons partially to signal to other people like, I’m on the right page, I’m on the right side of history here. I I know what’s up and who the right person to like and who the right person to hate is. Do you know what I mean? Like, it’s a it’s a kind of social badge.
Natalie [01:07:01] Oh, you know, you’re I think you’re totally right. I think that I think. I mean, that’s kind of one of the most disturbing aspects of this to me, and I think that it’s was definitely sort of what got me interested in the cringe as a topic is the way its cruelty interests me. Like, how do people come to feel OK about enjoying the suffering of others? That’s a question I feel like animates a lot of my videos. Like cringe, envy, this like spreading around like these, like high school examples like spreading around another girl’s nudes it’s like a terribly cruel thing to do. How do how do people come to enjoy this? How do they live live with themselves?
Jameela [01:07:43] I know I don’t have that in me. Even when I was slut shaming, I just never thought they were going to see it. I never wanted them to feel any pain. I just wanted to get something off my chest does not make it excusable. I said it in a fucking public forum. It went completely viral. I’m an asshole, but I was a 22 year old who didn’t understand my own issues with my own sexual abuse, who was like projecting in the literally the messiest way of all time. I don’t know. Like, do you? You don’t have that right. You don’t have that kind of like, I want them to suffer and feel humiliated.
Natalie [01:08:10] I guess I’ve noticed that I have the capacity to do this. I mean, well, here here’s a difficult example in that cringe video itself. There’s a section where I kind of explore these feelings in myself talking about this viral video of a trans woman behaving badly in public. People probably aware the game style video was a huge viral thing two years ago. Like, I don’t know. Occasionally I’ll have an intense urge to bully another trans woman. And I think that it comes from,
Jameela [01:08:47] Oh god, that is what a sentence.
Natalie [01:08:49] Yeah but, I say I’m just saying,
Jameela [01:08:51] No I appreciate your candor. I really appreciate your candor. And I think this is a safe space.
Natalie [01:08:54] Yeah, I’m trying to monitor the contents of my own brain and before it becomes something terribly monstrous and hurtful. Try to be like, OK, but why am I? Why do I feel the need to do this or like it is not because I want to hurt the person. In fact, with the cringe video, the person that I was kind of targeting in that video actually reacted and was hurt by it.
Jameela [01:09:18] Oh shit.
Natalie [01:09:19] Yeah. And I felt I felt guilty. I thought bad. And I mean, I actually tried to, like, reach out to her and like, see if she wanted to talk and it never came to anything. But like, I think. This is happening for a bunch of times now where I said we were talking about earlier.
Jameela [01:09:36] You didn’t learn your lesson, fucking just went for me in your last video, Natalie for fucks sake.
Natalie [01:09:41] That’s true. Well, it’s exactly the same thing. I think you you treat these people because like you because you’re not really trying to. When you when you do this and you publish this kind of thing or you say this kind of thing or you put it on your YouTube channel, like you’re not thinking, Oh, I’m going to hurt this person. That’s not what it is. It’s not that direct. Like, but you sort of allow yourself to say you somehow allow yourself to be hurtful because it’s not about them. It’s about you. Right? Like at least, that’s what it often is yeah.
Jameela [01:10:11] Like 100 percent. It’s all about all of us. It’s all about us. And that’s I guess it’s kind of like going back to me asking you, like, how do we how do we resolve this? How do we stop this in ourselves? Like, that’s that’s why I’m asking, because I’m like, this is an us problem. This is like, obviously, if an individual is seeking to like, remove the rights of someone else. If someone has sexually assaulted someone else or someone else has taken someone else’s liberty or happiness or safety, that’s different, then all bets are off. But when someone’s just having a human error or an ignorant an accident, a clearly accidental inconsistent with that other behavior ignorant moment it is an us problem that makes us jump on that shit and like rub our fuckin hands together the way that a fly does when it kind of lands on your plate. You know, that’s what we’re like on the internet. And and I’ve had to like really make sure to check myself to not, you know, I celebrated Piers Morgan walking off Good Morning Britain, you know, when he was just being told for two seconds like, Oh, if a woman doesn’t want to have a drink with you again, you don’t have a troll her for three years. Meghan Markle. And he walked, stormed off and left his job. And I was definitely like, wahey! But I had to really identify that afterwards and just be like. Was that helpful? Did I need to say that? In the end, I’ve left it as it is because I feel fine about it fuck that guy. But yeah, but it’s in us all. None of us are above it. Hierarchy is like innate in our species.
Natalie [01:11:37] Yeah, I think that I think it’s helpful to recognize that like we all kind of do this. No one’s really above it. It’s part of our our nature, I guess. So feeling endlessly guilty about the fact that you have like the capacity to have cruel feelings about other people. I don’t think that helps. I think that well, so so I did a video about J.K. Rowling over about like transphobic J.K. Rowling stuff. And in that video, I really did my best to be to, like, constantly remind myself that she might well watch it. I never heard anything, so I don’t know if she has. But I wanted to do it.
Jameela [01:12:21] She’s too busy writing think pieces about trans people.
Natalie [01:12:28] She’s too busy writing about trans people to bother watching videos by trans people.
Jameela [01:12:30] Yeah she doesn’t speak like she’s ever spoken to a trans person or heard a trans person speak. I think you’re fine.
Natalie [01:12:36] But still, I mean, it was almost like more for the sake of being an example of how to do this, then it was about like, Oh, I’m so concerned I’m going to hurt J.K. Rowling’s feelings about which, like, I’m not that concerned about it, but I think. I don’t know. I was just I just made that video in a way where I was trying to like it would be so easy to just like, come for her, you know? And but like, I don’t know, I instead tried to like, you know, she wrote this this this cry for help of an essay about how you know, her own experiences of sexual assault that she seems never to have really processed at all and is now relating to her aggression toward trans people in a way that just honestly makes no sense at all. But it was like, I was like, Look, OK, so here’s a person in pain. She is dealing with this pain by retraumatizing other people. OK. Comment that happens all the time, but like instead of like coming out with like this and like, you’re a terrible person, how could you like? I don’t know. I just don’t think that helps. I think trying to hit because obviously I’m not really making the video for JK Rowling. I’m making the video for the millions of people who sympathize with what she is saying. And I feel that. Being super morally judgmental. Well, has anyone ever changed their mind because someone sermonized at you and told you you were a terrible person? I don’t think I’ve ever changed my mind because that was happening, so I try not to do that because it’s not helpful.
Jameela [01:14:11] That’s why the vaccine rollout is failing, because people just keep saying, you’re stupid. You’re like a bad person. You’re evil. Yeah, you’re a maga Trump supporting twat if you do like you, Don Lemon literally has recently gone on CNN and said, they’re stupid. We should shame them. And I’m just like, I understand how you feel. But I don’t think that this is going to work just if history is anything to go by. I don’t know if that’s how we’re going to achieve what we want to achieve.
Natalie [01:14:41] And I think I think you can only really learn that through long experience like you sort of I don’t know, it’s it’s also a sort of an exercise in empathy like you have to imagine a time I was wrong. Like, I’ll go through this like exercise. Almost like what changed my mind was it someone telling me I was an idiot? No, right? Because that’s like, like an ego damaging thing. And like when your ego is being wounded or threatened the impulse is to protect, like, shut down close off. No that person calling me a monster and a moron. That person can’t be right because then I would have to deal with this incredibly like, you know, ego damaging truth. So you have to somehow, I don’t know, persuasion, persuasion you. It’s like inception into you have to make it feel like that was their idea in a sense. And what you have to give them a more like you have to throw them like. Throw them an escape rope like like a way to get out without suffering too much ego damage and calling them an idiot is not a way to do that.
Jameela [01:15:53] I’m going to stay trying to become a more kinder and more empathetic and more careful person. I think we could all probably stand to do that. I know a lot of people listening to this podcast are already there and probably much better people than me. So I don’t mean to preach to the converted. But we are in a culture that is really congratulating the pile on and the ostracizing, ostrakismos as I learned from one of your videos, which is an ancient Greek term for a ostracizing. Or was this a person?
Natalie [01:16:25] No it’s where our word ostracism comes from is it is this like in ancient Athens, this procedure of everyone just voting for someone you didn’t have to have a reason, someone you just wanted to exile from the city. And you know
Jameela [01:16:40] You were pottery, right?
Natalie [01:16:41] Yeah, you write their name on a pottery shard. And it could be. It didn’t have to be for a good reason. See Twitter in a way, it’s it’s a little more it’s a little more advanced than that. And now we have a reason. But a lot of times the reason is not doesn’t really hold up on scrutiny. And so I think, you know, when people are participating in these massive pile ons, there’s a like a lot of psychological stuff going on beneath the rational surface where we’re saying, Oh, this is why I hate this person.
Jameela [01:17:13] Well, well, we have a duty to advance considering, you know, cancel cancelation via pottery and ostracizing was happening in 380 B.C. So now that we’re in 2021 A.D., we have not we are not allowed to do the same barbaric shit that they were doing back then. We know better. We need to do better. Anyone listening to this, if you find me sleeping on the internet, check me. If you don’t, I know Natalie well in one of her videos. No I’m joking. I want to talk to you for 10 years. I wish this podcast would just be 10 years long with you because I have nine billion other things I wanted to talk to you about. Will you please come back again sometime?
Natalie [01:17:58] Oh I’d love to. Yeah, this has been this has been great.
Jameela [01:18:00] So before you go, because I know you’re busy, you have another doctorate to gift us with soon. Will you please tell me, Natalie Wynn what do you weigh?
Natalie [01:18:09] I weigh that I keep trying. I feel that I failed a lot of times in my life, and I make I’ve kind of learned to make something almost sacred about the attempt itself. And that, to me, has has been like the way that I, you know, live with not being perfect. And I because I’ve been thinking about this lately because I just went back to playing the piano, which was the first thing I thought was the one I wanted to do in my career, and I didn’t think I was good enough. So I quit. I went into academia, and then I quit that because I didn’t like it. I I think YouTube was about the ninth attempt at a career I ever had, and then that worked. So at the same is true with, you know, learning to talk to learning to talk about this like complicated moral and social issues is that no one does it right the first time. But you keep trying and your willingness to keep trying. That, I feel, is like where I’ve found a way that I can value myself because I’m not. I haven’t done anything perfect, but I always tried to do it a little better.
Jameela [01:19:19] I think that’s beautiful. I talk a lot about that on this podcast that I think that there is like, I think the true heroes are the ones who try when success isn’t guaranteed, and I’m a big tryer, a big failer. I love a good fail. And I always think that the only true failure would be if I didn’t try it all and then never found out if I succumbed to my own cowardice or ego enough to never find out if I might be at some point not that shit at something, because that’s where all the color in the life comes in, like so many of the exciting things have happened to you and me have come via us risking immense humiliations and failure. And so while I totally respect that is harder for you in some ways than it is for me or for other cis people who are in very visible positions. I really admire that you back yourself and you do this unusual type of entertainment. You create this into this unusual content for everyone and you stick to your guns and you are such an individual and and I’m so happy to have have found your work on the internet, but are so thrilled to have met you because I think you’re so unique.
Natalie [01:20:35] Well, likewise, and I am very impressed that you that you had me on your show after getting less than completely fair treatment in my video. So, no, you know, I think that I know I really, really admire that I. I’m, uh, I just I’m impressed by you, but I already was.
Jameela [01:20:58] You’re very kind. Well, I think it’s part of my philosophy of like my seeing you behave in a way that I found painful or like, upsetting or whatever in the moment doesn’t take away the fact that I can see your humanity. I think you’re so brilliant. I love your work so much. I think I’d be a really egotistical prick to just be like, No, I don’t want to share this woman’s amazing work with all of my followers who have probably love all of her videos because she took a pop at me that wasn’t, you know, the end of the world didn’t call me a Nazi or something.
Natalie [01:21:36] No.
Jameela [01:21:36] You just made me out to be my fucking character from The Good Place, which is a bit of a sore spot for me, but that’s fine. Regardless. Thank you for coming on. Thank you for even being willing to also have that slightly awkward conversation with me after suggesting that we have it publicly rather than just privately in like a, you know, secretive way. I massively admire you further for that. And I really hope you come onto this podcast 10 more times.
Natalie [01:22:01] I would love to thank you so much for having me.
Jameela [01:22:06] 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 to Stitch 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. Iweighpodcast@gmail.com. And now we would love to pass the mic to one of our fabulous listeners. Here is an idea from one of our listeners, I weigh the progress I’ve made despite everything from the past two years, including several mental breakdowns. I weigh my cat who I love more than anything in this world. I weigh my two bachelor’s degrees and my motivation to attend higher education. I weigh my body, which I have not been kind to and work on mending my relationship with it every day. I weigh my extreme empathy and sensitivity and my passion to keep moving forward even when it’s hard. I love these.
November 27, 2023
This week, Jameela is joined by writer, broadcaster and feminist organizer Clementine Ford to discuss the historical roots of marriage as a tool of patriarchal control, the illusions surrounding modern matrimony and the modern marketing machinery that sustains its myth.
November 20, 2023
Jameela is joined by beauty culture critic Jessica DeFino in a candid conversation about where her current research and journalism is taking her, after years of covering a multi-billion dollar beauty industry for major women’s magazines & beauty apps in the US.