To make the understatement of the year so far, the internet is a complicated space. Social media fills our lives with so many different voices, which all contribute to the daily noise that fills our heads. Of course, this can provide a space for marginalised voices, those previously without a platform. It also facilitates debate, and not usually of the constructive variety. This means that, any criticisms made on social media by those in the public eye now constitute news itself – for example, the fact that Jameela Jamil tweeted her dislike for Kim Kardashian West's body make-up.
Frankly, the fact that Jamil's tweet has today made headline news for so many outlets is baffling. But then, pitting women against one another is the bread and butter of so many publications – why stop now? Kardashian West has made her millions from harnessing the power of notoriety, and, with the rest of her family, turned it into big business. Social media has, clearly, been pivotal to the entire family's success, and they use it to promote everything from their own make-up lines to weight-loss teas. Jamil has been a vocal critic of such behaviour, suggesting that the Kardashians are using their overwhelming global influence to exploit women's insecurities, born of a society that has managed to convince us all that our self-worth is inextricably bound to our appearance.
Jamil's tweets are today's news because she posted the following in direct response to Kardashian West, who was promoting the launch of her new body make-up: "Hard pass. God damn the work to take it all off before bed so it doesn’t destroy your sheets... I’d rather just make peace with my million stretch marks and eczema. Taking off my mascara is enough of a pain in the arse. Save money and time and give yourself a damn break."
This, as you may expect, prompted extensive discussion between Jamil and her followers. Some began sharing their own stories of skin disorders, while some questioned Jamil, pointing out that Kardashian West said she used the make-up to disguise her own psoriasis. For what it's worth, I don't think using body make-up, or make-up of any kind, for that matter, makes you a bad feminist; everyone is surely entitled to do whatever makes them feel happiest and most comfortable. But what is valuable about Jamil's stance is that it's one of the only antidotes to the Kardashian brand of "perfection" that has been so normalised in recent years. Hers is still a lone voice in a landscape littered with plastic surgery that's passed off as someone's natural appearance and filters that are used to drastically alter someone's looks – someone who then builds an entire business from those selfies, without necessarily being honest about the truth behind the photographs.
Young people – and this is not just an issue that affect girls – are under increasing pressures, all largely generated by developments in technology, the most notable of which is, of course, social media. Cosmetic surgeons have, during the last few years, reported an increase in patients seeking procedures as a direct result of social media. The phrase "Snapchat Dysphoria" entered the lexicon, used to describe young people who were pursuing plastic surgery so that they could look like their filtered selves. Whatever you think of the Kardashians, they are undeniably at the crest of this wave, having all undergone extensive plastic surgery to look the way that they do now. Having a voice like Jamil's to counteract this can only be a good thing – young people must be able to hear an alternative, to know that these crushing beauty standards are not the only thing available to them.
I don't think it's necessarily fair to keep framing this as a feminist issue. Again, nobody is a "bad feminist" for wearing make-up or indeed for altering their appearance if that's what they choose to do. Because Kardashian West and Jamil both happen to be women on either side of this argument does not mean that this issue exclusively impacts women. I know people with scars who choose to cover them out of a feeling of insecurity, just as I know those who purposefully leave them on show. The issue here is that the brand of airbrushed, augmented beauty that the Kardashians sell (and very effectively, at that) should not be normalised.
Jamil is right – everyone should feel comfortable in their own skin. Brands like Fenty and the fashion label Universal Standard have literally built their businesses on the very concept of inclusivity. Until that is what becomes the norm, we need voices like Jamil's to cut through the noise.