Gwen Stefani’s Chubby Picture

Gwen Stefani Chunky PictureGwen Stefani tweeted a picture of herself from about 30 years ago getting an autograph from Sting, commenting “Chunky Me 1983…”  Then the internet exploded with comments like “Please don’t call yourself chunky. Too many girls and women look up to you for you to talk like that.” and “Come on Gwen chunky? Really?!!! Not cool-to many girls look up to you for you to call that a “chunky” pic!”

So I’m wondering, what about chunky girls who look up to Gwen Stefani?  If Gwen calling herself chunky is so absolutely horrific, what are those chunky girls supposed to think about themselves.

I sincerely hope that Gwen was using chunky as a neutral descriptor, in the same way that many of use use the world fat, but that may not be true.   I’m not interested in trying to be a psychic (I’ll leave that to the people who think that they can divine information about our eating, exercise and innermost thoughts from looking at us).

What I do want to suggest is that we be careful with the “don’t call yourself chunky/fat/chubby/etc.”  Whether or not Gwen in this picture meets your personal definition of chubby (we are all allowed to have such a definition, none of us is in charge of having THE definition, so there’s no point in arguing about it) the idea that she shouldn’t call herself chubby is problematic since it suggests that being chubby is a negative thing, which is not likely a point that  actual chunky people are going to miss.

We have to be careful that we aren’t suggesting that we protect thin girls from body hatred at the expense of fat girls. Suggesting that we shouldn’t call ourselves chubby or fat or whatever as a path to body positivity is seriously messed up.  Fat people face a ton of shame, stigma, and oppression – which for thin people often turns into an all consuming fear of being fat – and   I do not think that making fat people into Voldemort is going to help anybody out.  I think we’ll be much better off working to take the stigma away from descriptors than trying to ban them.

This is an especially big deal when we’re talking about kids since:

Researchers who studied the effects of “school based healthy-living programs.”  found that these programs are actually triggering eating disorders in kids.

Research from the University of Minnesota found that “none of the behaviors being used by adolescents for weight-control purposes predicted weight loss…Of greater concern were the negative outcomes associated with dieting and the use of unhealthful weight-control behaviors, including significant weight gain”.

A Canadian study found that eating disorders were far more prevalent than type 2 diabetes in kids.

The American Academy of Pediatrics reported that hospitalizations of children younger than 12 years for eating disorders rose by 119% from 1999 to 2006. (Children UNDER 12) There was a 15% increase in hospitalizations for eating disorders in all ages across the same time period.

The Journal of Pediatrics has identified bullying of overweight/obese children as the #1 type of bullying that takes place.

I think that the best thing that we can do for kids (and ourselves while we’re at it) is to give them access to a wide variety of foods and movement options and encourage them to see their bodies (and everyone else’s) as amazing and worthy, and that includes describing those bodies without fear or shame – skinny, thin, chunky, fat or otherwise.

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18 thoughts on “Gwen Stefani’s Chubby Picture

  1. It’s late, and I’m tired. However, I had to post something that came to mind as I read this:

    Voluptumort, the Pork Lord.

    I need that shirt.

  2. I did a quick google search and she has admitted having weight issues since childhood, and judging by some interviews she’s done, her relationship with food is complicated. Now, it’s her choice, she has every right to do what she wants. But I’d be inclined to think that she did use “chunky” as a derogative term.

  3. I think we lost our perception of what is “normal” in respect of size, shape and whatever else years ago. To me, Gwen appears to be a perfectly normal young woman in her picture. A good friend of mine is a UK size 18, and is around 5 feet 6 ins tall. She runs around ten exercise and dance classes a week, so must be physically fit. To me, she appears in good proportion, has beautiful blonde hair, bright blue eyes, and a wonderful smile, yet she’ll describe herself as “fit but fat”. As I said, we seem to have completely lost sight of what truly matters.

    1. Hi Catherine,

      I hear what you are saying here, and I would ask you to consider that we abandon the idea of “normal” or “good proportion” when it comes to bodies. People are many different sizes for lots of different reasons and suggesting that some bodies are “normal” and “good” automatically means that other bodies are “abnormal” and “bad” (on both sides of whatever someone is considering “normal”) I think everyone is better off if we have respect for all bodies and allow people to label them as they choose, and that none of those labels be considered bad. When you suggest that someone isn’t “fat” because they are “normal” it’s problematic because you are denying that person her right of self-labeling, and you are suggesting that people who you do consider fat aren’t “normal” and that it’s something that someone shouldn’t want to be.


      1. Maybe “average” would be a better word? When I look at the picture, the not-average person in there is Sting. (fans herself).

      2. Hi Ragen – I totally agree, it was really for want of a better term that I used “normal”. Perhaps I have been affected more by this whole thing than I thought! I’ve battled my weight since I was in my early 20s, and frankly, I’m sick of it. I’ve done virtually every fad diet there is, achieving weight loss with all of them, but, inevitably, putting it all back plus some every time. At 48, I’m now a UK size 16, which, according to statistics, is what around 47% of British women are. Your confidence in yourself is really infectious, even over the internet, and I so admire your determination to always speak out at the outrageous discrimination which takes place daily against people who do not appear to conform to what others think is “normal” in respect of size, weight etc. I remember overhearing a colleague, in discussion with another regarding a team recreational outing, saying “Well, we can’t do that, Catherine will never manage the walk!”. I was a UK size 20 at that time, but, in fact, was pretty physically fit, as I was swimming regularly, and attending a weekly exercise class. I would have managed “the walk” easily, but because of my size, it was assumed I wouldn’t. I never said that I’d overheard them, but I recall feeling mortified that this is how I was perceived. They didn’t even ask me what I thought of doing “the walk” before assuming I couldn’t! I most certainly consider myself to be “normal” and I truly never meant to imply that anyone, whatever size or shape, isn’t.

  4. I stand 5’2″ and wear a size 18/20 most of the time (depending on manufacturer and cut, it can go a size or so in either direction), but I have been chastised for calling myself fat many times.

    So what precisely do they think is a word I can use to describe my body? Am I allowed portly? Exuberant? Rubenesque?

    No, they don’t want to allow me those words, either, because any reference to girth is automatically considered an insult. But it is patent nonsense to call me thin. I am quite clearly not thin.

    This leaves me with no linguistic existence, if I accept it.

    So I reject it vigorously. I glory in words like fat, portly, and extra-wide. I do exist. I will not be verbally erased.

    What Gwen Stepahni’s relationship with the word chunky may be, I do not know. I’m not even sure I care, beyond the level of generally wishing her as positive an image of herself as she can find.

    I do believe that girls need to be able to play with all the words to describe themselves. I do believe that expanding vocabularies to allow for the judgment-free description of more kinds of bodies is a good thing, no matter the individual relationship one person has with any of the words involved.

    The words are not the problem. The problem is with the way people use the words as weapons or disallow them to people as simple descriptors.

    Call me fat with respect, and we’re good. Call me fat as an insult, and we’re not. Refuse me the right to describe my own body as I see fit, and we’re not good, either.

    See how simple it is?

    1. I once read a book about the passengers on United flight 93 and they described one of them as “a capacious woman.” I loved that word, especially once I had looked it up. It means containing or capable of containing a great deal. Describes me perfectly. I contain a great deal of compassion, intelligence, wit and many other attributes, including body fat.

      It’s also fun to see the befuddled looks on people’s faces when I use it.

  5. I was a fan of hers (and No Doubt) for a while and learned a few things. She admitted to being continuously hungry (there is a song about exactly this on their first album which sounds a lot like a bulimic’s binge). What makes me sad is that her disordered image of herself and her problematic relationship with food have translated into fashion for millions of her young fans. I wish she would see it as in her interest and in their interest to make some kind of statement that she sees all of them as beautiful, no matter what their size. (And I so wish that someone had been there to tell her that she was beautiful at any and every size.)


  6. My partner and I attended a family wedding. The bride’s grandmother was saying, to a group of us, something nice about the family of one of the bridesmaids. We did not know any of the bridesmaids. All were of approximately the same height, hair color, race and other potentially distinguishing characteristics except that one of them was fat. The grandmother clarified that she was referring to the family of the “chunky one.” The group gasped in unison, except for my partner & me. We immediately knew who grandma was talking about and could have easily moved forward in the conversation without another thought about grandma’s choice of descriptors.

  7. Reblogged this on Sly Fawkes and commented:
    Trouble is, I don’t think Gwen meant “chunky” in a neutral way, I think she meant it in a self-deprecating way. She seems to have body dysmorphic disorder, or at any rate, a troubled relationship with food. Sad thing is, a lot of girls will follow in her footsteps, because they don’t want to be “chunky” either.
    I love Gwen’s work with No Doubt, but as far as a positive role model for young women, I prefer Beth Ditto, who is accepting of her plus size body, or Pink, who is slender but sends out bold feminist messages of self-acceptance in songs such as Pretty Please (You’re f***ing Perfect). Otep is another positive role model for self-acceptance.

  8. I have more issues with the guy on the left wearing bowling shoes and shorts. That makes me queasy.

    But really, that picture is fantastic because it was Sting in his sexy black leather days, and man, I’d eat him with a fork and side dish of chocolate sauce. I LOVE that hair. HOT CHA CHA!

    Sorry, what were we on about??

  9. Oh, yeah. Stefani, who brought us some of the world’s most annoying and overrated pop music in the Nineties, and who made an all-star ass of herself ten years or so back with her “Harajuku Girl” phase.

    I wouldn’t expect any more insight and understanding from her than I would from any random stranger on the street, personally. :/

  10. “The Journal of Pediatrics has identified bullying of overweight/obese children as the #1 type of bullying that takes place.” I would love to have a cite to this if it’s easily available. Anyone got it?

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