Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Plumping of Women for Beauty

Lavender, this one's for you:

New Views In Desert Culture On Fat Women

Not that I envisioned you when I read it.
I was thinking about your comment a few weeks ago, in reference to women who didn't lose weight on a diet: "Maybe they have husbands that don't like skinny."

Below are a few excerpts from the article. They refer to the people of Mauritania, who have traditionally revered obesity in women.
"Mint was 4 when her family began to force her to drink 14 gallons of camel's milk a day. ... By the time Mint was 10, she could no longer run. Unconcerned, her proud mother delighted in measuring the loops of fat hanging under her daughter's arms."

"Many men say they prefer voluptuous women. ... Isselmou Ould Mohamed says he loves his wife's 200-pound body and was pleased when she began adding even more weight during pregnancy. When he learned she had started walking around the soccer stadium to try to shed the extra pounds, he was revolted."

"A man's goal is to marry a woman that fills his house."
The article states that this image of beauty, and subsequent obesity, is "popular across much of the Arab world," so that today:

25% of Mauritanian women over 15 years of age are obese, as are,
33% of women in Saudi Arabia,
33% of women in Bahrain,
46% of women in Egypt,
52% of women in Kuwait.

I'm going to wager that the pursuit of beauty isn't the only reason today why these women are large. I suspect something in their culture is similar to something in our culture that is making women (and men) here large too. I don't know what that something is. Or, at least, I'm not brave enough to express a hunch, not after years of tedious education. But the bright little girl in the PBS Documentary was brave enough to express hers. I admit, she's onto something.

These stories of how different cultures define beauty, and the methods they enlist to acquire it (Chinese foot binding, American surgical breast augmentation. Can anyone name another?) fascinate me.

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