Jameela Jamil, the British star of award-winning series “The Good Place,” has called out the patriarchal underpinnings of U.S. and U.K. media, saying she remains “unafraid” to tackle it head on.
Jamil was delivering the Alternative MacTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh TV Festival on Thursday, in conversation with journalist and documentary maker Afua Hirsch. Jamil, who is the founder of activism platform I Weigh, is well known as a fearless, outspoken and occasionally controversial voice on feminism, body positivity and inclusivity.
Responding to a question from Hirsch where she was asked about how she feels when old, white men get triggered seeing her being herself on TV, Jamil said, “I am disobedient, I am rebellious, and I also talk back. I am so unafraid of other people’s opinions, therefore I am a scary prospect for the patriarchy within this industry. And that’s because this is still a patriarchy-run industry by the vast majority in both the U.S. and U.K., but particularly in the U.K.”
“I am potentially inspiring other women, both within and without and outside this industry, to start speaking up and calling s— out and questioning the system and other powerful celebrities within this industry,” Jamil said. “There is an endless pattern of us doing this to women; where we take a strong, outspoken, powerful woman and we will go out of our way to destroy her, discredit her. We can’t kill threatening women anymore, so we just kill their reputation and credibility.”
“You can make that choice not to disappear and keep fighting,” Jamil said. The actor said she receives most media attention when she gets online backlash, but says the extent of the backlash is generally overblown, with 90% of messages largely supportive. “I’m not just batting away the dicks, the patriarchy, all the time, I am consistently living a rewarding and engaging and fulfilling life, in my pursuit of equality.”
The underpinning theme of this year’s festival has been diversity. Speaking about the heightened awareness of race after the death of George Floyd, Jamil said, “It is now at the forefront of everyone’s mind and intention, which is bloody great, because it has taken us so long for us to get here to the point where we are having this conversation.”
“Up until the last couple of weeks, we were dealing with situations of such tremendous blind spots,” said Jamil. “Members of the BBC, for example, decisions that they made around words they are using on mainstream television with reckless abandon. There’s a lot to undo. There’s a lot to do, but I definitely feel as though this conversation is starting to happen in a more meaningful way than ever before, because the one thing we’ve never had is social media. And we never had a generation like Gen Z before who mobilize and make their point so eloquently and powerfully, before.”
“I think this is the beginning of true systemic change. I hope, anyway,” said Jamil.