Last Tuesday I came across an interesting article in the Chicago Sun-Times. According to Country struggles to end force-feeding of girls by Rukmini Callimachi obesity is considered attractive in Mauritania, North Africa and parents sometimes force-feed their daughters to make them more beautiful. One girl was forced to drink 14 gallons of camel's milk each day from the time she turned four years old.
Some of the quotes were completely opposite of what you might hear from a typical woman in the U.S.A. One North African woman said, "My husband thinks I'm not fat enough." Another wants to gain more than 20 pounds and wants to be big "because men like that."
Whether the cultural definition of beauty is fat or thin, women are making themselves ill trying to be beautiful. Mey Mint, one of the women quoted in the article, said "My mother thinks she made me beautiful. But she made me sick." So while women in the U.S.A. starve themselves in an effort lose 20 pounds or more, women in North Africa are suffering from health risks associated with obesity (diabetes, heart disease, etc) as they struggle to gain weight. Both countries objectify women, encouraging them to unhealthy extremes of weight without regard for their health.
While I am glad that there is not a single definition of beauty, I wish women were encouraged to be healthy instead of being a particular weight or build.