It is interesting to compare standards of beauty in different cultures. I discovered an article from BBC news that described the culture of the African country Mauritania. Traditionally, women that are considered attractive are significantly obese. From a young age, girls are encouraged, and sometimes forced, to overeat, often receiving a greater amount of food than males. Although the prevalence of this practice is dwindling, the origins of this attraction stem from obesity being a symbol of wealth. It is interesting how ideals of beauty in many cultures are blown out of proportion, sometimes resulting in the physical harm of an individual striving to fit a social norm. In Mauritania, this is the force-feeding of women from a young age to reach an extreme.
When comparing this to standards of beauty in the US, it is interesting to find connections with the standards in Mauritania. Obesity is a growing problem in the US. Many individuals that suffer from obesity develop serious health problems, such as diabetes and heart disease. Obesity is often linked to poverty, where individuals do not have adequate access to, or understanding of, healthy food choices. Women that are considered healthy in the US are often thin. Sadly, this obsession takes a different direction than in Mauritania, where women here may develop severe eating disorders to reach a different extreme.
On a different note, it is interesting to look at Mauritania's unique social ideal from an alternative, evolutionary viewpoint. Perhaps the fact that many Mauritanian men are attracted to obese women stems from genetic factors. Perhaps fathers that are attracted to this type of women pass on their genes, and therefore their offspring share this preference. In a community that lacks access to food, these women are more likely to survive and produce healthy offspring. It is possible that men who were attracted to thin or unhealthy women had fewer offspring, therefore not passing on this preference.