It’s definitely not OK to call someone “chunky.” But what if that person is yourself?
— Gwen Stefani (@gwenstefani) February 2, 2014
When I first saw the photo, I was like, “Whoa, Sting on a motorcycle? Sweet!” But the photo also shows an almost unrecognizable 14-year-old Stefani from 1983, getting an autograph from the Police frontman.
Dirty blonde and sporting a T-shirt and khaki shorts, Stefani tilts her Synchronocity copy toward Sting at what seems to be a county fair. Her next tweet closed the circle by showing a video of No Doubt and Sting performing at the 2003 Super Bowl. “#dreamsdocometruetimestwo.”
Despite the celebration, the photo has stirred up controversy with fans. Some found her use of “chunky” offensive to those who may be the same size as 1983 Gwen.
@gwenstefani please don't call yourself chunky. Too many girls and women look up to you for you to talk like that.
— Katharine (@kategoesboom) February 2, 2014
At 44, Gwen Stefani still thinks she was overweight as a teenager, even though she very clearly wasn't. Yahoo… http://t.co/uE45zUGL1D
— Curvye TV (@CurvyeTV) February 3, 2014
Reports on Yahoo! and E! (who both love exclamation points) have also solicited less than savory comments and tweets. But it raises an interesting debate: Should women in the spotlight watch what they say… even about themselves?
The use of “chunky” is equivalent to excusing yourself to a houseguest for a messy apartment or apologizing for a bad hair day to your coworkers — both things I think are stupid and unnecessary, yet I still do it. A woman (or man, for that matter) should never have to apologize for their appearance, whether they’re going makeup-less or describing how they looked in the ’80s. I mean, it’s the ’80s… of course things aren’t going to be the same.
What Stefani might’ve been doing with her “chunky” adjective was preempting the body shaming the Internet is so good at. By telling your friend that you’re having a bad hair day, they won’t catch you off-guard by asking you what’s up with your hair. (And if you have honest friends, it very well might happen). Of course, body weight seems to be way more of a touchy subject, so, subconsciously, Stefani might’ve been warding off the “fat” and “pudgy” tweets that may have followed with her own milder modifier.
The backlash following a simple tweet (which was never even supposed to be about body image in the first place), shows that people are becoming more aware of body issues online. Some think that, as a public figure, Stefani shouldn’t point out what is “chunky” and what isn’t. Others believe that, as a human, she should be able to say whatever she wants about herself… at least others aren’t doing it.
If Gwen Stefani wants to call her 1983 self chunky she has every right to. Don't base your self worth on others. http://t.co/DPqfZQtg7V
— CJ McMac (@Cynjja) February 4, 2014
The tweet also brings up Gwen’s past. It isn’t the first time she’s been blasted for making comments about diet and appearance. Just last year, she told women to “torture yourself” if you want to look good in a Harper’s Bazaar interview. Also, I found this old MTV News interview from 1996 in the midst of her No Doubt touring days.
“I was like a chubby girl, a chubby kid my whole life,” Gwen began. The interview took place on a treadmill, so there’s that. “So that’s something that I’ve always had to work on.”
The interviewer points out that Gwen’s mom put her on a diet at a young age, to which Stefani replied, “I had a really a big Italian grandma, like this big,” she spread her arms wide, “like a house. She was really cute and I used to cuddle in her chubby arms.”
The haunting part of the interview is when Gwen admits “I’m kind of over that whole thing” and claims to work out only to keep in shape onstage. But with the recent tweet, maybe it proves that the way we look in the past will never escape us, no matter how much change we’ve been through.
And in Gwen Stefani’s case, that’s what she was doing the whole time.