The West African country of Mauritania is known for its so-called fat farms. Women, especially young girls, are taken into the Sahara Desert and are given (or sometimes force-fed) camel’s milk to fatten them up, in a practice known as ‘gavage’. Being a well-rounded or even morbidly obese woman is a sign of opulence and beauty. Mothers often start fattening up their daughters at a very young age to ensure they are big enough by the time they are ready for marriage – often around 14.
This practice has now taken an even darker turn. Modern-day Mauritanian women-on-the-go find it to be too time-consuming. The wonderful answer? Appetite-inducing pills. VICE has made an interesting documentary exploring the risks women are willing to take in order to be considered beautiful and desirable by men.
This pharmaceutical gavage often leads to infertility and unequal distribution of fat as it enlarges certain parts of the body, leaving arms and legs skinny. Scary? Yes.
This is very much an act of patriarchy as women continue to measure their sense of desirability and value against what a man finds appealing – disguised as tradition.