Fattening: The social implications on the Azawagh Arabs and the real meaning behind it

Fattening: The social implications on the Azawagh Arabs and the real meaning behind it

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Throughout the ethnography, “Feeding Desire” written by Rebecca Popenoe, we see one consistent theme that is brought up time and time again – women and the fattening of them to obtain a desired look. From the perspective of a Western third party, the idea of fattening to appear beautiful/appealing seems ridiculous. It simply makes little sense because fattening, is incredibly unhealthy, something that is recognized in Western culture and at the same time we prefer women to be as fit as possible. Looking through the ethnography we see that there are many reasons for fattening being a key factor in making women “an object of desire” (Page.. citation) as stated by Popenoe. We can examine these cases through the work of Popenoe and determine as to how she came to this conclusion.

At the start of the ethnography we can see from Popenoe’s initial experience while working with the Peace Corps in Niger, that the idea of fattening and how the women she saw originally seemed as “unattractive lumbering” (Popenoe 2004: 20). It was however while working with the Peace Corps that Popenoe noticed that this rounded shape that was the norm among the women and was far more appreciated and desired. After having decided to live with the Azawagh Arabs, Popenoe expresses the obvious indication of her being the outcast when it came to female sexual competition shown through the statement, “With collar bones protruding and not a stretchmark to be found on my upper arms, I believe many women considered me a poor specimen of my sex.” (2004: 20). Even though it is shown that women and men are usually separate, Popenoe’s lack of physical beauty as per the Azawagh Arab women, allowed her to communicate with the men with no fear from the women that...

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...dent that his job in gathering better subsistence is going very well, likely meaning he is wealthy. It is not something which is meant to show off, but just happens in cases of abundance (2004: 112). Most importantly is the control a woman can have over their husband, by waiting till the night to discuss what is on their mind as that is the point in the time where a man can’t refuse them, their lust and sexual desire forces them to listen pretty much.

Popenoe does an excellent job in her ethnography giving us the perspective of the Azawagh Arab society. We see how the culture is in such a society where women are fattened for many reasons that are important such as sexual desire, marriage, and the passage towards womanhood. Such fattening has run societies in the area including the Azawagh Arabs since they were discovered and continue to do so today.

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