‘I’m Leading a Revolution on Shame’ : Jameela Jamil, The Instagram Ad Industry and the Rights of a Child

Lily Frost - Writer and Deputy Editor

Jameela Jamil; Actress, model, presenter, radio host and activist, started the Instagram campaign ‘I Weigh’ in March 2018. This campaign was sparked by an image that was made public by Kourtney, Khloe, Kim Kardashian and their half siblings Kendall and Kylie Jenner, which detailed each woman’s weight. In response to this Jamil posted a picture of herself in the mirror with the words,    ‘I weigh: Lovely relationships, Great friends, I laugh every day, I love my job, I make an honest living, I’m financially independent, I speak out for women’s rights, I like my bingo wings, I like myself in spite of EVERYTHING I’ve been taught by the media to hate about myself’. Since this post, the campaign has exploded with women detailing what they weigh, in non metric terms.

In addition to kick-starting a campaign tackling how society values women, she has also been successful in putting a spotlight on celebrities promoting get-thin-quick products, such as detox teas, coffees and supplements promoting weight loss. Jamil made a petition writing, ‘In the last few years we have seen a scary rise in the marriage of celebrity and diet/detox endorsement…theres little to no information about the side effects…or any of the science behind how these products are supposed to work. They are instead, flogged in glory paid adverts by celebrities and influence with no expertise or authority in nutrition/medicine/biology’. This petition has continued to gain over 241,300 signatures and counting. The reason for her doing so isn't just to stop women being manipulated into self hate, Jamil has specifically written that it is the teenage audiences who are most at risk. She has explained in many interviews that she suffered from Anorexia Nervosa from the age of 13 and the images she was viewing as a child were detrimental in fuelling her disorder. It is not just her who may have been affected by this as a child. In her petition aimed to stop toxic diet celebrity endorsements, she references Professor Stephen Powis, who has a medical license who shared, ‘highly influential celebrities are… peddling products which are at best ineffective and at worst harmful. Social media companies have a duty to stamp out the practice of individuals and companies using their platform target you people with products known to risk ill health’.

For a link to the petition, click here

The age group of people who are most susceptible these toxic self hate advertisements are predominantly adolescents. Beat UK, the UK’s Eating Disorder charity that runs helplines, have calculated statistics which show that whilst it is mainly adolescents that are the most at risk, it has been noticed that young children have also been diagnosed with eating disorders. From this data set, we can gage that the age group most at risk to developing eating disorders are 6 years old (youngest cases of ED) to 19 (end of adolescence). This unfortunately coincides with the main time frame in which teenagers start having accounts on social media platforms, such as Instagram, Facebook etc. This can be proven by looking at the age social media platforms all require users to be, before accessing and using their service. Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Musical.ly and Skype all require users to be thirteen years old to have accounts on their platforms. The only anomaly is WhatsApp who require the users to be sixteen to use their platform. It is also well known that these age limits are frequently ignored by people below the age of thirteen.

The problem with young teenagers, aged thirteen, joining these social media networks is that from a young age they are exposed to disguised adverts and misguided pictures. By following so-called “influencers” on social media, children are exposed to seeing doctored pictures which are being presented as real. For example, a celebrity with millions of followers could post a picture where they are posed in a particular way. When a teenager sees it they may just scroll on, or they may look at that picture, with an insecurity developing, they may wish they looked like that celebrity and use that picture as an achievable goal for the future. However, what they may not know is that that celebrity may have had plastic surgery, or may have an nutritionist or a personal trainer to achieve their look. In a specific photo they have a face of makeup, created by often by a team of makeup artists. Hair that looks natural, but has been done by another team of experts. Then after the picture is taken there is cropping, editing, airbrushing, photoshopping etc. Therefore in the mind of a thirteen year old, who has registered that picture as an achievable goal for what they should look like, there is little chance that they could ever achieve that. Yet, that picture has already been processed in their minds as what they should aspire to be. Then, in the most likely scenario that a child continues to not have the body or face of that celebrity, that may lead to low self esteem and other feelings of self hate. The effect is also heightened by the platform of social media; social media is a place for real people to post real photos of themselves, and children struggle to distinguish between the two types of image.

However a picture like that is one thing, whereas having an Instagram following of 91.8 million people and posting a picture of herself in a bikini with a FlatTummy Shake on her table stating that she looks the way she does as a direct result of consuming the product, is a very different thing. The perpetrator, Khloe Kardashian posted [what has now been taken down], ’Loving how my tummy looks right now you guys! I [bought] @flattummyco ’s meal replacement shakes into my routine about 2 weeks ago, and the progress is undeniable’. This post’s message to a thirteen year old, or any other woman for that matter, indicates that having a flat tummy is something to aspire to. For a susceptible child, this post could have been the start of an insecurity built on the idea that women should strive to be skinny. Or worse, that taking supplemental meal shakes is the way to have a flat tummy exactly like Khloe Kardashian. What is so damaging about this post is that she is saying that her body has been directly changed, in her view for the better, as a direct result of using the product. However, the validity of the statement is questioned as she used the hashtag, ‘#ad’, which a young child may not know means that she was paid to endorse that product. Jameela Jamil responded to this post with a tweet, ‘If you tell your fans to be thinner, you don’t love your fans. You don’t give a shit about them or their mental health or self worth’.

So, with the rise of the I Weigh community and Jameela Jamil’s continuous confrontations with influencers and companies using adverts that shame women about their weight, one question remains. If one influential person has caused such a stir, with companies such as Avon taking down adverts because of her outrage over their ‘buh-bye cellulite’ advert, what are the governmental bodies or social media companies doing to combat this? Under the Advertising Standards Authority, the only sanctionable requirements are that companies and celebrities cannot post misleading advertisements, mainly in regards to not specifying that an Instagram post has been endorsed by using the hashtag, ‘#ad’.

This isn't enough.

Under The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, there are Articles that are in place that are supposed to protect children. Article 17 (Access to information; mass media) states‘Children have the right to get information that is important to their health and well-being. Governments should encourage mass media – radio, television, newspapers and Internet content sources – to provide information that children can understand and to not promote materials that could harm children…’. I believe that social media platforms and governmental bodies are not abiding by this convention on the basis of Article 17, as endorsed adverts and celebrities disguised adverts are, ‘materials that could harm children’.

Jameela Jamil is an articulated woman who is a highly impressive advocate for women’s rights, but we cannot rely on individuals any longer. We need the Government to take action, even if small steps such as forbidding adverts designed to encourage self hate or increasing the age in which users can access this type of negative media. If we started here, we could begin the journey to stop harming children and adolescents mental health and start to adhere to Article 17 and protect children against the materials designed to harm them. As a society we would instantly jump in to protect children against kidnapping, torture, drug abuse and other forms of exploitation, which are other articles in the UN Convention, so why haven't we questioned the media’s harmful content which directly affects children?

If you or someone you know is developing signs of an Eating Disorder, on Beat UK’s website there is a helpline, a youthline and a studentline, which are all confidential. Additionally their website gives information about how to support someone with an eating disorder and also the symptoms to look out for. If you have any concerns about yourself seek help as soon as possible.


I Weigh Instagram Campaign

Jameela Jamil’s Petition to stop celebrities promoting toxic diet products on social media

Jameela Jamil’s response to the Kardashian’s post and the start of the ‘I Weigh’ Campaign

BEAT UK’s Website

Unicef’s PDF of The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

Photo Credit - https://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weight_loss


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