Beautiful varies by culture

What is seen as beautiful in women varies from generation to generation and culture to culture. This isn’t exactly news, but Oprah decided to talk about it on a show aired last week and my wife took notes for me.

Oprah pointed out that Mauritania has long revered obese women. Young girls are force fed in order to become fat for their man. Lots of figs and couscous according to this BBC article, which interviews a lady who runs a fat farm, only not in the way we Americans think of a fat farm. The BBC article, from 2004, specifically calls it a “wife-fattening” farm.

Of course, the appreciation of rotund female physique hasn’t been limited to African countries. One of the reasons Mauritanians prize their overweight wives is that it is a sign of wealth. The same held true for many Western countries a few centuries ago. If you were wealthy, you worked less and ate more. Naturally, you’d be fatter.

Apparently, though, times are changing in the African country. Only about 11% of Mauritanian girls are force fed anymore, and mainly in fairly remote areas. A 19 year old shop owner (male) was quoted as saying, “We’re fed up with fat women here.” And women are fed up with being fat. “Young people in Mauritania today, we’re not interested in being fat as a symbol of beauty,” said one woman who was force fed as a child. “Today to be beautiful is to be natural, just to eat normally.”

To be beautiful is to be natural. Sounds like a plan to me; sounds like what I’ve advocated on this blog, to be “healthy.”

Someone should tell this to people in Iran, a country known as the nose job capital of the world. Women flock to plastic surgeons to do away with their Iranian noses. The juxtaposition is worth noting: In certain cultures, you’re intentionally fattened, your neck is lengthened or you have a plate in your lip. These are intentional modifications which exaggerate a certain aspect of the physique. In Iran, people are doing away with their birth noses, exchanging a unique aspect for a supposedly more ideal olfactory instrument.

One of my writing professors in college was Iranian. She had an Iranian nose. She was beautiful with the nose.


About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at

One Response to Beautiful varies by culture

  1. Sarah Irani says:

    My hubby has an Iranian nose. I totally have a Iranian nose fetish. Big and awesome!

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