Jameela Jamil And Caroline Flack Got Into A Debate. So Why Are They Being Pitted Against Each Other?

This is a far bigger issue than just the Love Island line-up

jameela jamil caroline flack

by Bonnie McLaren |
Updated on

As you (probably) already know, Love Islandreturns to our TV screens tonight. Twelve incredibly slim, good-looking, able-bodied contestants are ready to find love - or, at least the club appearances and Instagram teeth-whitening deals which will await them when they leave. And, like previous years, body diversityin the villa is pretty much non-existent. None of the contestants have what we would consider average-size bodies - despite the Independent newspaper claiming that Anna Vakii is this year's token plus-sized contestant. ITV distanced themselves from their statement and following a furore online, the paper's post has now mysteriously disappeared.

ITV Studios boss Richard Cowles fuelled the outrage further by saying they didn’t pick anyone of an average weight because, to paraphrase they’re worried that there wouldn’t be as much sex. ‘It's an entertainment show and it's about people wanting to watch people we've got on screen and then reacting and falling in love with one another,’ he said.

The line-up has caused plenty of debate, not least between the show’s presenter Caroline Flack, and body-positive activist Jameela Jamil.The Good Place star posted some photos of Anna, with the caption, ‘The producers of Love Island think this slim woman counts as their new token “plus size” contestant? Are they drunk?’ When later asked about the tweet in an interview with The Sun, Caroline said, ‘I wonder if she's actually watched it, because it isn't about what you see on face value,’ before adding, ‘I'm a massive fan of Jameela and what she stands for.’

Jameela, sticking to her original point, doubled down. ‘Sorry Caroline, the show could stand to have some more diversity,’ she wrote, retweeting an article by The Mirror. ‘It’s hard for slim, white, straight people to relate to this sometimes. I understand that. You can’t begin to understand erasure because you’re constantly represented. The show would be even better with diversity.’

You’d be forgiven for thinking that this was an eloquent and valid contribution to an increasingly pertinent conversation. Yet, according to one tabloid, you’d be wrong.

'The claws are out between @jameelajamil and @carolineflack1,' Yahoo Celeb News tweeted following the exchange. In their now-deleted headline, it was also said that Jameela attacked the Love Island presenter. It has since been changed.

Immediately Jameela made a crucial point, that, as a woman of colour, the accusatory tone of media pitting her against Flack contains damaging microagressions – that she is being painted as aggressive, in a way that a white woman wouldn’t be - when all she did was write some words on the internet. ‘How much more careful and polite do I have to be to be able to partake in discourse with white women without getting accused of attacking?’ she asked, screenshotting her earlier exchange. ‘I already have to respond to them treading on eggshells because of the aggression I am labeled with.’

‘The persistence with which white owned media try to silence brown/and even more so black women, is disgusting,’ she elaborated. ‘We are treated as if we are problematic and violent the second we stop smiling and thanking everyone one for letting us in the room, and dare to stand up for ourselves.’

The discussion between the two women has been blown out of all proportion, and reduced them to little more than cheap stereotypes in more ways than one – a cat fight; a pithy feud or playground squabble. It implies that women can’t possibly debate fairly and intelligently and it’s a sad indictment of how little we’ve progressed, in some corners of the internet.

As Lily Allen said in 2014 in an interview with Rolling Stone, ‘It's annoying being a woman since everyone pits us against each other.’ Recent examples of supposedly feuding females in the media include royals Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton; Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie; Cardi B and Nicki Minaj – a “battle” recently reawakened following Miley Cyrus singing ‘I love you Nicki, but I listen to Cardi’ on the EP she released last week. After Jessica Chastain was pitted against Jennifer Lawrence in 2013, she said in Facebook post, ‘Why do we support the myth that women are competitive and cannot get along?... Please don’t allow the media to perpetuate the myth that women aren’t supportive of each other.’

Sadly, even though it’s 2019, women are still being pitted against each other - even though most of us now know better. As somebody asked on Twitter, ‘When did defending yourself in an assertive and polite way become “an attack”?’ And, as another perfectly summed up, ‘Women can disagree without attacking each other - and women of color can speak without being the villain.’ As more women like Jameela continue to call out this boring - and offensive - narrative, hopefully things will begin to change.

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