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Overweight, Divorced Women Welcome in Mauritania

Oprah sang during her show yesterday “There is a place for us…,” as she learned that Mauritania, a west African nation, classifies beauty as being overweight. Her Nov. 20 episode featured a look around the world at how different countries define beauty in women. In Japan it was having flawless, porcelain skin; in Iran it was having a petite nose (the nose job capital of the world); in New Zealand, the women tattoo their chins and have their lips tattooed blue.

Mauritanian men and women define beauty as being “plump,” said Houda, a native of the country. From a young age, girls are force-fed couscous and camel’s milk, which is high in fat, all in an effort to make the girls gain weight so that they can find a husband. Often times, the girls are stuffed so full that they get sick, but given little recovery time before the feeding begins again. It seems the fatter the better in this culture.

Houda’s father is a doctor and treats women with all the obesity-related medical problems, but she says none of that deters these women. “When you’re skinny, you’re even considered as sick or there’s something wrong with you,” she says. “Women that are fat, they’re really happy.” Houda explained to Oprah that what women want to see in themselves is exactly what men are looking for- big butts, thick ankles, plump arms, stretch marks, and even a couple of divorces.

She said the culture does not frown upon divorce, and that the more a woman has the more attractive she is to men.

The episode also looked at the beauty trends in Brazil and found that the women there want to be in tip-top shape. Brazilians consume more diet pills than anyone else in the world, and they are second to the U.S. for plastic surgeries. The average Brazilian woman weighs 110–125 pounds, and given their proximity to the beach are constantly aware of having to show off their bodies and want them to be presentable.

November 21st, 2008