Gwen 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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