Forced Obesity

 Posted by on 11 January 2005 at 7:27 pm  Uncategorized
Jan 112005

The obesity epidemic in America is bad enough, but at least it’s not forced. Daniel Pipes writes:

Specialists on the Middle East have their own brand of gossip, and one staple of the genre is how Arab men appreciate rotund women, a fact pregnant with implications for Arab-Western social relations. Now, various organizations have issued facts and figures confirming this propensity, as reported by Gautam Naik in today’s Wall Street Journal Europe.

The article begins with a mildly horrific tale of gavage (French for force-feeding, the technique used to fatten geese for foie gras) applied to an 8-year-old girl in the western Sahara, Jidat Mint Ethmane.

Then here’s the bit quoted from the WSJ article:

Ms. Ethmane says she was required to consume four liters of milk in the morning, plus couscous. She ate milk and porridge for lunch. She was awoken at midnight and given several more pints of milk, followed by a prebreakfast feeding at 6 a.m. If she threw up, she says, her mother forced her to eat the vomit. Stretch marks appeared on her body, and the skin on her upper arms and thighs tore under the pressure. If she balked at the feedings, her mother squeezed her toes between two wooden sticks until the pain was unbearable. “I would devour as much as possible,” says Ms. Ethmane. “I resembled a mattress.” …

Force-feeding is usually done by girls’ mothers or grandmothers; men play little direct role. The girls’ stomachs are sometimes vigorously massaged in order to loosen the skin and make it easier to consume even greater quantities of food. … Local officials say some women are so fat they can barely move. In [a Mauritanian] survey, 15% of the women said their skin split as a result of overeating. One-fifth of women said one of their toes or fingers were broken to make them eat.

It strikes me as highly significant that, just as with clitorectomies (a.k.a. female circumcision or genital mutilation), obesity is forced upon Arab girls by their female relatives. All too often, women seem to be their own worst oppressors.

Honestly, it’s less than clear to me how such perverse cultural norms are developed, sustained, and enforced. The feminist line about oppressive male patriarchy is clearly little more than wishful thinking about the moral superiority of women. Some complex explanation by way of deep commitments to ideology, social metaphysics, and the like is surely necessary, but the details elude me at present.

(Via Andrew Sullivan.)

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