Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Body Image and Culture

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.


Stacey said...

Sounds like I should move to North Africa ;)

Thanks for this post. I've linked to it on my current blog so you can see my progression of thought kind of on the subject if you want to.

Ellen said...

Thanks, Stacey. I, for one, hope you do not move to North Africa;)

I think any place where appearance is valued more than personality and character will leave us striving to change our bodies to fit in just a little better.

We were watching "The Devil Wear Prada" and one of the lines that caught my attention was something like "Size 4 is the new size 6." Even if we can make our bodies conform to popular standards, society (or at least Hollywood) changes it to something even more unrealistic and unhealthy.

I prefer VeggieTales to Hollywood. "God made you special and he loves you very much!" And I happen to think you're a pretty great person too ;)

L.L. Barkat said...

Sometimes this is why I'm so glad Jesus came as a man (I'm assuming that God had his choice when choosing which gender to take on?)...

for Jesus loved women for who they were. And this was and is a powerful thing.