Jameela Jamil / The Daily Show / YouTube
This week, I watched in fascinated horror as the online world decided, by comparing a few interview clips from decades apart, that Jameela Jamil has Munchausen's syndrome and was publicly lying about diseases, ailments and accidents - from cancer to bee chases and everything in between.
Even if Jameela had lied about these things (she has since explained every single example brought up against her, and those have been corroborated by her boyfriend, James Blake), it struck me as quite disturbing how gleeful everyone was about the opportunity to tear her down.
It was like everyone had just been waiting for something like this to happen. They had been waiting for a celebrated woman of colour to fail. They had been waiting for the opportunity to publicly shame a woman who has dedicated much of her platform to dismantling the insidious media and advertising messaging that contributes to eating disorders for so many people.
They were bubbling with excitement to finally have an excuse to hate her.
In pop culture, politics and public life, this is a very common trend. When women obtain a certain level of success or when women are too universally beloved, we seem to collectively decide that they are not worthy of that success or that love. Actually, we decide, they’re deeply problematic and annoying and deserve deep hatred and unemployment for the rest of forever.
There’s a reason that the near decade long, “There’s just something about her” hatred of Anne Hathaway burst into mainstream consciousness right after she won the Oscar for Les Misérables. She had made it to the top and we just could not have that. Seriously, does anyone recall even one inciting incident for why they hate Anne Hathaway? I don’t, and I’ll admit to the fact that the words “I don’t like Anne Hathaway” have left my lips at some point. Why?! She was Princess Mia and Ella Enchanted, us 2000s kids should have protected her, but we hung her out to dry.
There’s a reason that the world decided that Taylor Swift was a demon wench from the seventh level of hell, right after she completely dominated the pop scene with 1989 and became the first woman to win the Grammy for Album of the Year twice. It’s not that there weren’t any valid reasons to criticise her, it’s that she was burned at the metaphorical stake for saying she had a good year, for having a group of friends, and for giving gifts to her fans, dating men and dancing badly, to name a few. In order for her career to recover, Taylor had to completely remove herself from the public sphere for over a year, just waiting for everyone to forget how much they loved to hate her.
There’s a reason that the people who were constantly saying; “It’s not that I don’t want a woman to be president, it’s just that I don’t want that woman to be president - I wish Elizabeth Warren was running!” in 2016 are the same ones that jumped onto the #NeverWarren Twitter bandwagon this year. It was okay to like her when she was an underdog who wasn’t asking for more.
We think we like it when women are successful. We think we like it when women are on top. We think we like celebrating women. We don’t.
What we like is women who are underdogs - underrated and underappreciated.
What we like is women who aren’t asking for a better job or winning an award or breaking records or making money or getting lots of likes on their Instagram posts.
What we like is saying one woman is undeserving of success, because actually this other woman over here is much more talented and deserving and worthy of all that love. Until we give her that love. Then she doesn’t deserve it.
What we like is pretending that we hate women for any reason other than the fact that they’re women.Support Villainesse