Over the past few months, Jameela Jamil has had to go on the defensive in a major way.
Being publicly candid on social media about her injuries, health issues, and sexuality, she was met with skepticism from the Twitterverse, where people called her a liar and said she has Munchausen syndrome. Now, Jamil is speaking up about how social media attacks affect our society at large and especially how they affect women.
“Sometimes when I get backlash on Twitter or social media, it’s because I f—ing deserve it. So you can say I need to be called out and taught, but sometimes I also feel like we are entering an age where — especially women in particular who speak out — if discrediting is the new death, they will kill us. They’ll just smear our name and drag our reputation through the mud with lies and targeted smear campaigns,” Jamil said on Friday during the third annual Diane von Furstenberg InCharge Conversations.
Jamil took the stage at the event, held at the House of DvF in downtown Manhattan, in front of a primarily female audience assembled to celebrate before International Women’s Day on March 8 with legendary activist Gloria Steinem.
“I cannot stress to you enough that when you see us [actors] being dragged through the mud, yes it is difficult, yes sometimes it can be embarrassing and exhausting,” she said. “But generally we survive, and you will survive and please do not take this messaging as a signal to you that you shouldn’t speak up and speak out and stand up for what’s right and stick your neck out.”
“I want you to know I’m fine, I’m here sitting with f—ing Gloria Steinem,” she added, motioning to her co-panelist.
Most recently, Jamil came under fire when it was erroneously announced that she’d emcee HBOMax’s upcoming ballroom voguing competition series “Legendary.” The actor faced backlash from people, like “RuPaul’s Drag Race’s” Michelle Visage and Trace Lysette, saying that she was not appropriate for the role and that she did not have a connection to the ballroom culture.
Jamil responded, explaining that contrary to the initial press release, she had only been asked to be a judge on the show. The actor later came out as queer online, following up that she knows it doesn’t mean she is in the ballroom culture. Jamil titled the post “Twitter is brutal,” writing that “this is absolutely not how I wanted [my sexuality] to come out.”
In another case, journalist Tracie Egan Morrissey claimed Jamil was lying about her car accident injuries and other health issues, calling her out as potentially having Munchausen syndrome. Amidst the drama, Jamil took to Twitter to refute Morrissey’s claim.
Jamil’s activism ranges from promoting racial inclusivity to body positivity and defeating shame culture, and Steinem herself has been a feminist advocate for over half a century. During the conversation, the two talked about whether or not they think that it is easier or harder to be an activist in a world where backlash is the norm. Steinem agreed that the public shaming is new, but praised the community building aspect of modern activism like #MeToo, #TransLivesMatter and #BlackGirlsMatter.
“It’s easier in a sense that it’s more communal. I mean, think about Anita Hill all by herself. Now it’s more understanding. The more of us who do that, the safer it is, but still there’s an impulse to blame the victim instead of blaming the person who did the act or to shovel it under the rug,” Steinem said. “So the fact that you do speak out and that you do get punished for it online, I think that’s new isn’t it? That we’re getting threats online in a very scary way.”
“We also have to get over caring what people say about us,” Steinem added. “I mean it took me decades to figure out the times people call me a b—-, I should say thank you.”
Other panelists at the day-long event, presented by Mastercard, included Lauren Bush, Jennifer Nettles, Cambell Brown, Adrienne Warren and Katie Sturino.