Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Force-Feeding in Mauritania

This video is absolutely shocking to me. I had no idea there was such an issue.

In this video, shot by Al Jazeera, girls in Mauritania are force fed to cause obesity as it brings on puberty earlier. There is also a perception that larger wives are treated better by their husbands. There is much denial in the country that the tradition is still being practiced but this video shows othewise.

Initially I was glad to find a country where we curvy women are considered "in." After watching the video, one can't help but be appalled that there is yet another archaic practice forcing women's and girl's bodies to conform to a societal standard. It confuses me that there is one country in Africa where some are force fed and so many others where people do not have enough to eat.

Of course, we Americans know that if Mauritanians want to be overweight, all they need is a McDonalds on every corner. No need to force feed when customers are lured in by the promise of fries and a cute toy in each happy meal. It's also quite interesting that there remain countries that have not been effected (yet) by the western idea of beauty. The end of the video suggests that this might be changing.


PurrPrints said... strange--and so sad that it seems like every society has standards on beauty that exclude much of the population...

Wai Mun said...

It is difficult to change culture and societal conformity. What may be right or acceptable to one's society or cultural beliefs may not be so for another.

It is good to understand deeper why locals there practice such habits before we judge the act. There may be good in what we fail to see and understand on our side of the world.

Anonymous said...

Very, very interesting. I came across a reference to gavage just about a year ago in a Global Voices article when I was looking at comparing FGM with other cultural traditions harmful to women and children. Chinese foot-binding was the one that came to mind first. It's now universally condemned and has completely died out. Yes, we may fail to see something of the cultural reasons, but harmful practices against children in particular can never be condoned in my eyes.

They nearly always come down to the reason that the parents think they will never manage to marry off a daughter who doesn't comply, and in the end, the results are considered "sexy" - fat women in the case of Mauritania, bound feet as was once the case in China.

It takes years of education to eradicate a practice of this sort, because it is one generation forcing its views on the next, unlike for instance, smoking where the individual decides for himself or herself. I just hope the pendulum doesn't swing too far in the other direction and we see a generation of anorexic girls.

SheR. said...

Hey you are right.. just send those girls off to America to fatten them up.
Sorry to joke, this matter should be taken seriously. Thanks for bringing it to our attention. I'm sure your post can help in your bit in letting the world know about these girls' plight.
Leave the girls alone! They are not geese!

Tracee said...

Thanks for an eye opening video. Hard to believe things like this still occur

DineometerDeb said...

Great comments everyone.

I do agree with you wai that we should be careful in judging other people's cultural values. To me, it's the whole issue of women's bodies being such a commodity that is so disparaging. In my mind, there is no difference between this practice and girls in Western countries starving themselves to be thin. As A. points out, hopefully Mauritania will not just swing in the opposite direction and start a trend towards anorexia.

I think it would be great if there were a de-emphasis on valuing women worldwide, based on physical characteristics.

jonny said...