Beauty in Africa

What if women in America all strived to be as overweight as possible in hopes of attracting the right man? Countries like Mauritania have beauty ideals that the western world would find downright outrageous. With it being international women’s day/month I wanted to discuss the beauty standards of different countries in Africa. Women of Mauritania go to extreme lengths to fatten their daughters up for their future husbands. Some parents even send their daughters to fattening camp,  ran by women such as Fatematou who explains in this BBC article the diet the girls are kept on to maintain their round figures,

“I make them eat lots of dates, lots and lots of couscous and other fattening food,” Fatematou, a voluminous woman in her sixties who runs a kind of “fat farm” in the northern desert town of Atar, told BBC World Service’s The World Today program.”

For the men in Mauritania its more desirable for a woman to be larger because it represents wealth while a skinnier woman may represent poverty or not being able to eat enough. However in Mauritania this tradition is starting to be seen as a little bit old fashioned as explained in the same article,

“Young people in Mauritania today, we’re not interested in being fat as a symbol of beauty. Today to be beautiful is to be natural, just to eat normally.”

Another beauty phenomenon, at least in the western countries is skin bleaching. All though it isn’t as far fetched as fattening women for marriage it is a big thing in the area. Women will use many different kinds of dangerous chemicals all in the name of having fair skin. This beauty trend isn’t only practiced in parts of Africa but all parts of the world including the U.S. However in western African countries the number of women who turn to this practice is staggering as this article breaks it down,

“The prevalence of skin lightening reported among those interviewed in Africa shows some disturbing results. In Bamako in Mali, researchers calculated 25% prevalence, while in some studies in Dakar, Senegal, up to 52% prevalence was observed. A study in Pretoria, South Africa revealed up to 35%, while the most disturbing was a study in 2002 which showed up to 77% prevalence in Lagos, Nigeria.”

Whether women are eating large quantities of food to gain weight or using dangerous bleaching products, beauty practices are different all over the world, so who are we to judge. The only thing you can do is be comfortable in your own skin

Photo by Maindru Photo

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Categories: Africa, Journalism | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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