and Mauritania is one of them. The fatter a woman is, the more desirable she is. In fact, being a fat woman in Mauritania is so desirable that parents go out of their way to fatten up their daughters, doing things that border on torture, like making girls
as young as 5 and as old as 19
drink up to five gallons of fat-rich camel's or cow's milk daily, aiming for silvery stretch marks on their upper arms. If a girl refused or vomited, the village weight-gain specialist might squeeze her foot between sticks, pull her ear, pinch her inner thigh, bend her finger backward or force her to drink her own vomit. In extreme cases, girls died.
It's hard for us living in a society where the accent is almost too much on being slim, to understand why any culture would go so far in the opposite direction. But now, Mauritanian officials are finally looking at this from a health viewpoint, realizing that way too many Mauritanian women weigh between 220 - 300lbs and that just maybe, that's not such a good idea.
So now a campaign has started to get the women to slim down:
One television and radio skit depicted a husband carting his fat wife around in a wheelbarrow. Another featured house guests raiding the refrigerator because their host was too obese to get up to feed them. Doctors were recruited to explain health risks.
But Mauritania is primarily desert, and in the desert, messages spread slowly, not to mention that few watch TV or use the net. And there's the added problem of a culture that for years has valued fat women and skinny men. Oh yes, the women want the men skinny because fat men = lazy men in a woman's eyes, while the men think a slender woman just looks like a stick wrapped up. Hence, a 35-year-old mother carrying 200lbs on her 5 foot frame makes her husband very happy, but her slimmer sister who lives close to a city and therefore is more aware of the health issues involved worries about her sister's excessive weight.
Ironically, a 2001 survey showed that 2 out of 5 Mauritanian women were overweight. I wonder if they'd be surprised to learn that by American standards, 3 out of 5 of our women are overweight! However, I'm willing to bet that the bottom line of what constitutes "overweight" in America is quite a bit less than it is in Mauritania.
Despite the campaign to get Mauritanian women to work off the weight, it's going to be a tough battle:
A 2001 government survey of 68,000 women found that 1 in 5 between ages 15 and 49 had been deliberately overfed. And nearly 70 percent -- and even more among teenagers -- said they did not regret it.
I've always wondered at what point in history, given the art of the masters which depict women with lots of curves, heavy bellies and boobs, did the focus shift in our ideals of what is beautiful. And after reading this article, I can't help but wonder how Mauritanian men ... and women...would view the stick insects that we show on all our magazines and on tv. I daresay they'd find them quite unattractive and definitely, unsexy.
What do you think? Are fat woman sexy?