Wife fattening

Ransom Riggs

Fat, apparently, is in the eye of the beholder. If the beholder lives in the African nation of Mauritania, he's much more likely to believe that big is beautiful. In fact, fat women are so revered there that only a generation ago, a third of girls were force-fed, making it one of the few African countries where girls received more food than boys.

These days, the practice is in decline, but even now 1 in 10 girls are treated this way. Wife-fattening has its roots in the idea that fat equals wealthy, and skinny equals poor -- and as such, is undesirable. "Fat farms" are still operated in rural parts of the country, which force girls to eat voluminous amounts of food and punish them if they resist. One professional fattener defended her business, saying "When they are small they don't understand, but when they grow up they are fat and beautiful. They are proud and show off their good size to make men dribble. Don't you think that's good?"

However, not all Mauritanian men agree as to what a "good size" is anymore. "We're fed up of fat women here," said 19-year-old shop owner Yusuf. "Always fat women! Now we want thin women." (Whatever you want, guys. Wasn't this whole "fat" thing your idea in the first place?)