My Bag


My name is Jameela Jamil. Welcome To I Weigh Community.

Two years ago we started an Instagram account to try to create a safe and radically inclusive space on social media. A lot of us want to help others and change the world for the better, but don’t know where to start.

Activism can seem daunting. Sometimes it’s just hard and lonely. At I Weigh Community, we don’t believe it has to be that way. We believe in brick-by-brick activism, and making a difference in large numbers. We’re going to have to come together and do this as one to really shift the narrative of our society.

I Weigh Community will introduce you to new voices, artists, activists and movements. These are the people we believe we need to listen to. We are still learning, and we’re inviting you to come and learn alongside us so we can all grow together. It’s never too late to want to help and understand each other better.

This movement is so important to me, and I look forward to getting to know you all.

Jam x

In Defense of Being Shameless

Growing up between London and Cairo, I heard the word ‘3aib’ more times than I wish to remember. The term, which essentially means shameful, or culturally frowned upon, is used freely and often, and weaponised in relation to a long, pedantic list of things: everything from what you wear, how you walk, talk and sit, what you’re interested in, who your friends are, your job prospects, hopes and dreams and beyond. 

In an effort to mould me into the person she thought I should be, my mum employed it on numerous occasions. “3aib! What will people think?” she’d say, in between gasps, whenever I would refuse to abide by the status-quo. Whenever I did anything she regarded as transgressive. 

For a long time, I didn’t care, or didn’t think I cared. But as I got older, I began to realise that I could hear her voice in the back of my mind, along with the opinions of what I’ve now come to consider the ‘invisible jury’ (those we’re supposed to think about when we’re told ‘what will people say?’) Despite all evidence to the contrary, and my very best efforts, I had adopted some of their opinions on how I should live my life – especially when it came to interactions with the opposite sex. 

As I got older, I began to realize I could hear her voice in the back of my mind

Growing up, I had witnessed countless women and girls being shamed for transgressing the spoken and unspoken rules that dictated sex and desire. The word ‘slut’ was often brandished in an attempt to control, and to prevent us from stepping too far out of the lines of the dictated ‘appropriate’ behaviour. From a young age, I was made to be hyper-conscious of my body and of my desires; guilt-ridden when even my thoughts would wander. 

Silenced and confused by shame, I lost my virginity before I was ready, and to someone wholly unworthy, ending up in many a predicament, including getting bullied by classmates who were previously my friends, begging a stranger in the street to buy me the morning-after-pill, and getting cheated on by this wholly unworthy character. Throughout, I wished I had had someone I could talk to and I often wonder now, if I would have ended up in such a situation had my decision-making process not been coloured in such a way.

For years after, I felt deep shame at the fact that I had sexual desires, on numerous occasions succumbing to tears because I was so immobilised by the voices in my head, on others, forging ahead, even if only to prove to myself that I was not a slave to them. In truth, it’s only after ridding myself of shame that I can say I finally have faith in my own choices. 

I felt deep shame at the fact I had sexual desires, on numerous occasions succumbing to tears because I was so immbolisied by the voices in my head

It bothered me wholeheartedly that my life was being dictated by a so-called moral compass that was not my own, that had nothing to do with me. It was a shocking realisation, but, as I came to realise, control is the primary function of shame. 

Indeed, across cultures and throughout history, shame has been used as a way to control or punish behaviour, availed time and again by society, education and family in an effort to make others abide by the status quo. It is used to instill decorum that we are expected to live by, in order to appear, at all times, as the ideal person to the outside world. Judgement and shame are real, almost tangible, and used to control women.

My grandfather is an avid advocate of shame and its supposed opposite, honour. He believes shame is a necessary tool and that without it, we would have no concept of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ and would be running wild, hurting everyone around us because we would have nothing to stop us from giving in to our animal instincts.


My grandfather is an avid advocate of shame and its supposed opposite, honour.

I wholeheartedly disagree. Perhaps for our ancestors, the cavemen, shame was necessary as a means of ensuring social cohesion – what was then a matter of life and death. But shame, today, no longer unifies us by defining acceptable values. Now, it does little more than divide us into separate groups who use shame to define and put down the ‘other’. 

There is nothing constructive, for example, about the shame that discourages rape victims from going to court, or that drives people to despair because their bodies don’t meet an Instagram ideal. There is nothing constructive about shame, which silences us from speaking up about the things that matter, from asking the questions we need to in order to make good, well-thought out decisions for our health and our happiness and our lives. 

Shame allows destructive notions to reign unchecked, and causes us all to hide our vulnerabilities. In doing so, it stifles the things that make us human, and that forge connection. The very thing that allows us to be good, considerate, moral people. 

In truth, moral codes and our personal definitions of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ are formed much more efficiently and much more authentically when constructed through trial and error, through figuring out where our own boundaries lie, outside of what other people might say. 

Our personal definitions of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ are formed much more efficiently and much more authentically when constructed through trial and error

At best, shaming leads to a shallow conformism rather than a good moral compass that is grounded in true interpersonal respect. Surely, it’s the latter we should care about, rather than just sticking to a norm that other people have decided. Particularly as those norms are prone to change. 

Indeed, shame has a history of being wielded against people who don’t deserve it: people of colour, LGBTQ people and women first and foremost. Refusing to be led by shame challenges the longstanding perversion of ‘honour’–a wholeheartedly patriarchal, capitalist notion.

Perhaps rather than holding up an impossible ideal of goodness and shaming ourselves and others for not living up to that, it’s more realistic and more constructive to accept that we are made up of all sorts of nuances, and that that is reason enough for mercy and kindness – both towards ourselves, and the world around us. Perhaps by giving ourselves and each other more credit, more room for error and growth and understanding, instead of assuming the worst and policing through shame, we’d all have more reason, and more ability, to let our innate goodness shine through. 


  • Alya Mooro is the author of the bestselling The Greater Freedom: Life as a Middle Eastern Woman Outside the stereotypes – out now.

    Photo Credit: Courtesy of Alya Mooro