What do women and cows have in common?

Many are likely to answer “more than you’d think”.  They are, in fact, right.

During a research for a project I came across a horrifying news regarding commercial sex workers in Bangladesh (home country to some of the most brutal acid attacks on women and other lovely expressions of love -and no, no racism or generalization is intended here, you can check statistics here).  The news made me think of all cases I know of in which women, for some reason or another, are treated like animals.

I list here a few:

1. Bangladesh and Oradexon

Bangladeshi men seem to find women more attractive when they are a little plump, a lot could be said about beauty standards, but we don’t want to fight against everything, do we?  No, I acknowledge that beauty standards exist and that in some way or another we all have them.  All people are equal is a statement that applies to almost everything, except to the people you invite in your bed.  We all have beauty standards, and that is true, but what if the beauty standard kills you?

Oradexon is a steroid used by farmers to fatten cattle before selling them.  It is used to treat asthma in developing countries as, as almost all steroids, it makes the receiver temporarily stronger.

Commercial sex workers of all ages are forced to take it for years, regardless of its addictiveness and of its effects on the liver.  It does eventually kill them, but in the meantime they have allowed the brothel to make so much money that they could well be replaced once they are gone, right?

2. Pump the Bride!

In Mauritania, as in many other West African countries, grooms demostrate their interest in a bride by offering food to her family so that they can forcefeed her and he can marry a nice, curvy woman.  In many cultures, especially from the desertic areas of Burkina Faso and Mali, a future husband shows his health by providing salt, that the bride must drink with water in order to retain liquids and have a nicer, bigger, bottom.

What does this entail?  Remember the old statement “all people are equal”?  Well, it does apply here.  The internal organs of a woman from Burkina Faso and of one from New Jersey are not that different, and obesity  has the same effects and same risks or both.  However the bourkinabe’ wife is unlikely to be covered by Medicare (and also.. like… have three pre natal check ups…) so what happens is that in a warm climate she becomes a big woman (and has to stay that way) who works and bears children with constant high blood pressure, swollen limbs and sky high risk of heart conditions.  Why?  Coz her husband likes big butts and he cannot lie…

Oh, I forgot to mention, the average age to start the process is 6 and by the time she’s 12 a girl should be around 80kg.

3. The Chinese village wife

It is still a very common practice in countries like China, where the one child policy AND the male preference have turned entire villages to men’s domains, to put together the money to “court” (No, sorry, I don’t want to use this word…), to buy a wife from another village or country.  I am currently living in Vietnam where an astonishingly high number of young women are charmed by marriage brokers who promise them a wealthy husband in Beijing and end up in a village in rural China, married to a man (not wealthy, not a businessman) but really at the mercy of those who have chipped in to buy(ok, ok.. court ) her.

Again, women must be young and the average age is between 16 and 24.

Now, what made me think is the fact that very often it’s the muslim culture that is being pointed out as the most misogynous, and it is true that many of the acts that happen worldwide against women, do happen by the hand of muslim groups.  But, in my opinion, the problem goes a lot deeper than this.  None of the examples above, for instance, has anything to do, even remotely, with religion.

The problem, or at least part of it, is that women, in many parts of the world and scaringly in many parts of our own extra civilized countries, are still considered the adjective to the male noun.  “I here declare you man and wife” is my favourite example.  You are a man, will be no matter what, but she exists because she’s your wife.

Now I work on gender based violence and I don’t mean to roll over a field (that of philosophy) that doesn’t belong to me, but what would the world be like if it was women writing the beauty standards?  Would we want ourselves chubbier? Skinnier?  What would we consider pretty? What would we consider a sex crime? Harrassment?  Would we behave as men (gentlemen, excuse the generalization!) do now because this is what happens when you’ve ruled history for thousands of years?

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