Friday, October 9, 2009

Forced to Be Fat

I came across this article today that seriously broke my heart. It's about young girls in Mauritania being sent of to "camps" to be force-fed and fattened so that men would find them attractive (a process known as leblouh). Girls as young as seven, being forced to eat between 14,000 and 16,000 calories a day. Let's put that into perspective: An adult male bodybuilder usually eats 4000 calories a day.

Even worse than the fact that this practice is extremely unhealthy, it is abusive! From the article:

Tijanniya chokes down the thick gruel — she has no choice. An older woman dressed in pink robes threatens to beat her with a long cane if she refuses. Worse, if she throws up, the woman will make her eat her own vomit.... How do small girls eat these gargantuan amounts of food? "I'm very strict," boasts Elhacen. "I beat the girls, or torture them by squeezing a stick between their toes. I isolate them and tell them that thin women are inferior." Desert settlements like this 1000-strong farming community with no electricity or running water are popular spots for leblouh because there are no distractions and no easy ways to escape. But Elhacen denies that her work amounts to child cruelty. "No, no, it's for their own good," she almost shrieks. "How will these poor girls find a husband if they're bony and revolting?"

What disgusts me the most is the fact that this society as a whole supports young girls going through such a degrading, unhealthy practice in the hopes of getting a man. As the author states, it's like our obsession with thinness in reverse. It's sad that these women, as well as women here and in many other countries I'm sure, feel that who and what they are is inferior. It's sad that we feel we have to alter who we are, inside and/or outside, just to be "acceptable" and to be loved. And it's heartbreaking to think that the cycle of damaging young girls' self-esteem just to get a man will more than likely continue.

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