Marie Claire has published an article about the practice of force-feeding young girls in Mauritania. This form of, what we perceive as, child abuse is performed in order to improve a girl’s chances at finding a husband, Apparently, Mauritania has some fairly archaic views on body size that stem from nomadic times. Basically, a woman was a status symbol for a man back in the day as much as it still is now. Men who had large wives were deemed to be wealthy, basically because it showed they could feed their wives. This concept is taken to an extreme when considering girls as young as 12 are sent to force feeding camps where they are manipulated into consuming 14.000-16.000 calories a day to become obese as fast as possible. In practice, it does not say anything about a man’s wealth anymore, because parents are sending their girls off to force-feeding camps before they are married off. Somehow, obesity is considered to be sexy in this culture. Unfortunately, there are serious health concerns associated with forcing young women to become obese.
Millions of women in the west try to get rid of, or prevent, stretchmarks. These annoying scars are considered the ultimate turn on in Mauritania! Everything the Western world depicts as unhealthy, unappealing, and grotesque is held in the highest regard in Mauritania. We know obesity causes a number of very serious diseases, and considerably shortens life-span, however, the Mauritanian traditions dictate that a girl is not beautiful or worth marrying unless she is tremendously obese. The culture is so ingrained that even women find a healthy body weight unattractive and “sickly”.
Although each culture has their own views on what is considered attractive or sexy, there is a problem when women are forced to adhere to a certain ideal and this ideal causes them (no pun intended) bodily harm. As much as anorexia might be a problem in our culture, obesity in Mauritania is a much bigger issue than we will ever face in North America.
This article is definitely one worth reading, and I look forward to hearing what you think in the comments.