The Fattening Hut

the fattening hut

Body Image Revolutionary Kate emailed me this morning, with a link to a vid of Jessica Simpson’s Pric eof Beauty TV Show, specifically to an extract of an episode called Fattening Hut (opens in a new window; you’ll get an ad too, sorry).

the fattening hut

Image from http://blog.vh1.com/2010-04-06/jessica-simpsons-the-price-of-beauty-recap-episode-4-priceless-quotes/

Kate said “aaaggghhhh !  SANDY!! FAT IS BEAUTIFUL!!!??? but YIKES! look what happens HERE!”. So I did go look, because while I’ve heard of the show I’ve never watched it.

So in Uganda the Huma tribe take great and probably expensive pains to prepare a bride-to-be for marriage. They sit her down with a couple of her female relatives in a hut for a couple of months. There she does nothing but attend to calls of nature, rest, and drink 5 litres of fresh milk, straight from the cow, everyday for months. In this episode, the bride-to-be has been in the fattening hut for two months where she gained 80lbs/40ish kgs.

She’ll be going to her husband luscious and round and clearly healthy (though two months of sitting around is probably bringing on some stagnation that can have life-long health effects). So the fattening hut is a rite of passage from childhood to womanhood and presumably motherhood.

Physiologically, I can see why this is probably a good idea – a well-nourished woman is much more likely to be fertile. Fertility is obviously essential for community survival in rural populations in “undeveloped” countries, where starvation and its resultant drop in fertility, and high death rates, are so heartbreakingly common.

So a fertile woman is highly, highly valued. She is valued equally with a man’s cows which are his livlihood, and a major part of the tribe’s ability to survive. More on this in a minute.

The fact that this story is featured on a show called The Price Of Beauty is interesting. From what I remember hearing about the show, it’s meant to show us all that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that we’ll do pretty much whatever it takes to conform to the expectations of our society’s idea of beauty.

We’re seeing this Fattening Hut extract right out of cultural context so there’s lot of information missing. For example, what do men do to prepare for marriage? What happens to the bride’s size after the wedding when she resumes her pretty active life? What other cultural norms don’t we know about, like infant mortality, maternal mortality, life expectancy? What are the other expectations and rights of women in this culture? Can they divorce an abusive man? Is abuse even recognised? What about property? Does anyone even own individual property, or just other creatures?

Not knowing those answers, there is a question I feel compelled to ask: Is this just another way to make women conform to the desires of men? After all, here women are prized equally with that other highly valuable possession, cows.

Except that we women also shape society, being half of the sky and all…  We ‘educated’ women in developed countries choose to conform to the expectations (currently the Thin Ideal) that society has for and of our bodies, and we are part of the structure imposing those expectations onto other women.

The truly great awesome amazing exciting thing about being a woman in a developed country in this time, is that we can make a different choice.

Each one of us can say “I choose to love my body exactly the way it is, today, and recognise what an amazing gift this body of mine is”, which frees us up to take better care of ourselves. All it takes is a shift in our own personal perspective, because clearly it’s possible to see our fat bodies as desirable in every sense – the Huma clearly do.

So is the fattening hut, as I said above, a smart practice in a continent where even as I write, thousands of people are dying of starvation and complications of malnutrition, or is just what appears to most Westerners to be a weird unhealthy practice?

If you’ve seen the full episode, or know much about the fattening huts, or have another opinion, please feel free to comment below.

And thanks Kate for this interesting heads-up 🙂

13 Comments

  1. Britt on October 25, 2010 at 11:17 am

    Most men say our homes are our fattening huts. Of course after marriage I mean. In some cultures fat may mean sign of wealth, in developed countries it is just the opposite. We do great things to attract men , because we want to get married and have kids. If men attracted they court and then marry us. We are the future without us no reproduction. That`s why I think most countries protect their women from combat they are really valuable as reproductive tools. Men are expendable ,lose a lot of them and still will be ok. Lose a lot of women and your society maybe in trouble.

    • Sandy on October 26, 2010 at 5:38 am

      Britt, it’s a fact that in the first year after marriage, both parts of a newly web couple tend to gain some weight – domestic bliss I guess 🙂

  2. Britt on October 26, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    I felt so fat after our first year of marriage I gained over 15 pounds. That didn`t seem to bother him. He gained a few as well.

  3. Britt on October 27, 2010 at 9:13 pm

    I think we are more concerned with weight than many of our spouses are. It is just hard to accept yourself sometimes when you see the size and shape of others and see the attention they are getting. Lets face it certain sizes are preferred in this culture. Mostly for women ,but some men may have problem as well.

    • Sandy on October 29, 2010 at 8:34 pm

      Yep, research tells us that again and again – men are pretty oblivious to the size changes we obsess about. So who’s telling us to obsess about it? And why? It’s pretty sobering when you come up with the answers, isn’t it?

  4. Britt on October 30, 2010 at 1:32 am

    I feel that for some of us we see a body part that we are not happy with and think others are staring at it. Women seem to have this problm really bad when they are young maybe it ades in later life.

    • Sandy on October 30, 2010 at 10:41 pm

      Britt, it’s my experience that it doesn’t fade later – my clients are all ages, even in their 60s, and still self-conscious about their bodies. It makes me feel so sad, so much wasted life…

  5. Britt on October 30, 2010 at 11:08 pm

    I was thinking that we all start accepting things as we get older. This seems to be a sign of maturity in most people I `ve observed. Sometmes older women will tell me of the things they accepted that they ddn`t like over time. I`ll bet most of them would still change that part even when they are still old though.

  6. Reigh on May 27, 2011 at 9:37 am

    Great article. I wish I lived in one of those countries where curvy women were seen as beautiful. Sigh.

    I disagree with the comment above that says “men are pretty oblivious to the size changes we obsess about. So who’s telling us to obsess about it? And why?”

    In my life I have found men to be very critical of the female body – especially any tiny bit of weight gain. My father in law insults his wife in front of all the family telling her she’s fat.

    I also know several other in my life at the moment who are very derogatory towards the female body if it is not stick thin. 🙁

    This just reinforces my own body insecurities.

  7. Sandy on May 27, 2011 at 9:07 pm

    @Reigh, ugh – men who think it’s okay to tell women that their bodies are not acceptable…. really hard to deal with. And while it’s easy to say “they’re not the men you want in your life”, I get that it’s just not as easy as that!

    What I’ve found over and over though, is that when a woman learns to love and accept her body and treats herself with greater respect, the criticism from men goes away… I know, sounds weird. But it seems to work….

  8. turkan on October 17, 2013 at 11:55 am

    My husband weighed me every monday morning for 5 years, and after few kilos i gained after having children made him sleep with other women and after i lost all i had gained he came back, and i divorced him. Sadly a marriage ended even though he was a jobless slim trim man. hahhahahha

    • Sandy on November 11, 2013 at 7:54 pm

      Turkan, wow – self-entitled control freak much? Just – *highest* five to you chick for sending him on his way 🙂 Any guy who thinks he is in any way entitled to control his wife/partner’s body is not worth a woman’s time and energy. I love your self-respect 🙂

  9. Lisa on October 19, 2015 at 2:42 am

    I’ve read that the fattening hut is also where they practice female genital mutilation. So sad.

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