Ed’s note: Today’s post comes from our contributor Andrea Reitano.
Some time ago, a friend of mine began a “plus size” modelling gig. She was really proud of herself and was eager to become a role model for girls of all ages to be comfortable with their own body shape. I have a lot of respect for her wonderful attitude, but the thing is she’s a size 10. Size ten equalling “plus size” is a cultural perception that our society has concocted. However, there are many countries that see us as nuts for revering slender bodies. For the purpose of this post, I’m going to mention just one – Mauritania.
Now where is this lovely country that pressures you to go for that second helping? The answer is in Africa. But it’s a bit more extreme than idolising curvaceous women. What we call obesity, they call the ideal body shape. The philosophy; the bigger the better. The government has attempted to intervene and deter the obesity epidemic which has worked to some effect. Those who live in the city are generally thinner and more affiliated with Western perceptions of health. But in rural areas obesity in women can still be found.
A fuller figure is something men find particularly attractive. It’s not just largeness in body mass that’s appraised, it’s also height. It indicates higher fertility rates and power, especially higher levels of wealth. It’s quite startling for us to read about young girls being force fed in order for a man to want to make her his bride, but it was quite the norm for a period of time. Today, not as many young girls are suffering from force feeding, but there’s still a small percentage who have food unwillingly shovelled down their throats.
There are health implications of course to obesity, but it’s a sacrifice in the name of beauty. It’s just the opposite sacrifice Western women can feel pressured to make.
Ed’s note: Andrea Reitano is a Communications student, computer whizz and ice-cream connoisseur who spends her spare time studying Grade 7 piano. That’s what I call one talented lass. Follow her on Twitter.
For more information you can watch this disturbing CBC report on force feeding in Mauritania. As a warning it contains quite disturbing images of young girls being force fed.