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32 Responses

  1. olivia
    olivia July 27, 2011 at 3:52 pm |

    This issue is more about how females are still held responsible for the behavior of males than it is about the world trying to control female bodies.

  2. Brandon
    Brandon July 27, 2011 at 4:29 pm |

    The world owning your bodies? Don’t you mean one sick mother who assaults her daughter with an iron because she thinks men are savage brutes who want to impregnate her 9 year old.

  3. Thomas MacAulay Millar
    Thomas MacAulay Millar July 27, 2011 at 4:39 pm |

    Brandon, how is it you get “one sick mother” out of one in four girls? Or did you comment without actually reading the OP?

  4. Emolee
    Emolee July 27, 2011 at 4:39 pm |

    @Brandon – but it is not just one mother, it is a widespread problem and practice that is sanctioned and encouraged by several cultures.

    @Olivia – this is an example of the world trying to control women’s bodies because women are held responsible for the behavior of males. There is intersection of the two issues here.

  5. Annaleigh
    Annaleigh July 27, 2011 at 4:57 pm |

    Brandon:
    The world owning your bodies? Don’t you mean one sick mother who assaults her daughter with an iron because she thinks men are savage brutes who want to impregnate her 9 year old.

    Wow, I hope this is the same Brandon we tried to get rid of after the plastic surgery boyfriend thread. It would suck to have another Brandon who makes excuses for the patriarchy.

  6. igglanova
    igglanova July 27, 2011 at 5:03 pm |

    olivia: one coin, two sides.

    It’s gotten to the point where I’m feeling some sick desire to see the following headline: ‘Fathers burning dicks off sons, cite catastrophic rate of rape’

    but haha of course it ain’t gonna happen, kids, that would be barbaric.

  7. Echo Zen
    Echo Zen July 27, 2011 at 6:35 pm |

    I absolutely must use this example next time I give a presentation on double standards. :-)

  8. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable July 27, 2011 at 7:05 pm |

    Thomas MacAulay Millar:
    Brandon, how is it you get “one sick mother” out of one in four girls?Or did you comment without actually reading the OP?

    Are you suggesting this lady isn’t Octo-moming all of Cameroon’s children every nine months? Of course it’s one mother. Otherwise, it might indicate there’s something fucked up with society, and that can’t be it…

  9. shockedandamazed
    shockedandamazed July 27, 2011 at 7:11 pm |

    wow… ok normally I’m in violent disagreement with some of the positions put forth on this blog but Christ on a bike id like to add a 2nd to the “WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK?!” notion. How the hell is it we hear about forced female circumcision but not this stuff! At least the circumcision thing (barbaric as tho it may be) is claimed to be done for “traditional” purposes and only happens ONCE but REGULARLY?! Man, just when I thought I was well versed in the going’s on of our little sick sad world…

  10. Mack Lyons
    Mack Lyons July 27, 2011 at 7:28 pm |

    It always gets me how women are still considered responsible for male behavior, and how men are always portrayed as “mindless sexual beasts” who lack self-control and therefore go nuts every time they see a feminine figure or body part.

    No mother should have to literally iron their daughter’s chest so she won’t get looks from men who, honestly, have no business looking. And the men should learn some self-control and respect.

    Brandon:
    The world owning your bodies? Don’t you mean one sick mother who assaults her daughter with an iron because she thinks men are savage brutes who want to impregnate her 9 year old.

    Maybe you shouldn’t talk out of your ass so much, skip. It’ll cut down on the amount of shit that flies out of whatever it is you call a mouth.

  11. Echo Zen
    Echo Zen July 27, 2011 at 7:48 pm |

    Breast ironing might not get the attention that FGM does, but there’s been some press coverage of it in the past. I think the BBC first began running stories on it in 2006.

  12. preying mantis
    preying mantis July 27, 2011 at 8:47 pm |

    If I’m recalling correctly from earlier BBC stories, there’s been some traction in fighting it by mounting information campaigns about the devastating effect breast ironing can have on the girl’s future ability to breastfeed (ie, your grandchildren will die because you’re ironing your daughter’s breasts), and some groups are trying to promote less harmful alternatives like breast-binding, which is miles from perfect, but better than the knead-into-oblivion-with-hot-rocks approach.

  13. Miku
    Miku July 27, 2011 at 9:55 pm |

    I’m surprised less people have heard about this practice. Along with those people who put holes in their lips and fill the holes with plates, this, to me, always appeared to be the west’s conception of tradition in Africa…

  14. justine baily
    justine baily July 28, 2011 at 3:49 am |

    Mack Lyons:
    It always gets me how women are still considered responsible for male behavior, and how men are always portrayed as “mindless sexual beasts” who lack self-control and therefore go nuts every time they see a feminine figure or body part.

    No mother should have to literally iron their daughter’s chest so she won’t get looks from men who, honestly, have no business looking.And the men should learn some self-control and respect.

    Maybe you shouldn’t talk out of your ass so much, skip.It’ll cut down on the amount of shit that flies out of whatever it is you call a mouth.

    I’m with you there, except for one thing. The mother didn’t “have to” iron her daughter’s breasts. She chose to. Under the pressure of social norms, superstitions, taboos, and a lot of other stuff? Sure. But she made a choice, an evil, abusive choice reflecting a deep seated evil in her society. Her daughter, on the other hand, had no choice. That’s one of the defining differences between the abuser and the abused, no matter how much cultural misogyny influenced the abuser.

  15. Jameseq
    Jameseq July 28, 2011 at 7:11 am |

    A bbc documentary came across breast ironing a few yrs ago. It appeared to be not a prevalent practice. So the numbers in that cnn report dont make sense, 25% of girls are unfortunately breast ironed which means 75% are not. Yet the claim is that all 200, that is two hundred nations/ ethnic groups in cameroon supposedly engage in this normal practice

    Id believe that all groups saw breast ironing as normal if most girls were ironed.
    Someone in that cnn report is overstating their case for whatever reason

  16. Jameseq
    Jameseq July 28, 2011 at 7:21 am |

    And it would be interesting to see the study that found that 25% of girls suffer breast ironing too

  17. Xeginy
    Xeginy July 28, 2011 at 12:33 pm |

    This is awful. And I HATE that message that says, yet again, that it is a 9 year old girls responsibility to “prevent” anyone from lusting after her (that feels icky just writing it.) Hell, and I thought training bras were bad.

  18. james
    james July 28, 2011 at 2:40 pm |

    I won’t name names, but I’m very unsure about some of the comments here. It seems like some of you are suggesting the idea works; and that girls who’ve been ironed are less likely to get raped – almost as if the practice is a sensible response to a crazy world. That’s a bit too close to the old anti-feminist rape myths about how attractive women are more likely to be raped for my liking.

    I think Brandon – however inadvertently – is closer to the truth with his suggestion that the idea’s just irrational. I think that probably the real problem, lots of women in Cameroon are doing stupid things because they’re not very well educated. Not that things are so grim in Cameroon that this is a sensible anti-rape strategy.

  19. Tim
    Tim July 28, 2011 at 2:42 pm |

    Good night grief! Just when you think you might have heard of just about everything, you find out you haven’t. And you wouldn’t even have been able to think up such a thing in a million years.

    Homo sapiens is a very peculiar species.

  20. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig July 28, 2011 at 10:16 pm |

    Preying Mantis: I think you’re right. I’ve heard of the practice of breast ironing before, somewhere, around 2006. I don’t think the story mentioned Cameroon, though, but someplace near it. (Ghana? maybe.) From what I understand, it was started to keep adolescent girls from being married off before they could finish school.
    Mack Lyons: And the men should learn some self-control and respect.
    Have you seen the stats on rape in the Congo and South Africa? I can kind of see why the mothers would prefer to iron their daughters’s breasts rather than trust in the good intentions of the men around them.
    Not trying to paint with a broad brush here, I’m just saying that
    self-control is a lot easier when there are actual consequences to an illegal/immoral/unethical act.

  21. Lis
    Lis July 28, 2011 at 11:12 pm |

    Jameseq:
    A bbc documentary came across breast ironing a few yrs ago. It appeared to be not a prevalent practice. So the numbers in that cnn report dont make sense, 25% of girls are unfortunately breast ironed which means 75% are not. Yet the claim is that all 200, that is two hundred nations/ ethnic groups in cameroon supposedly engage in this normal practice

    It does make sense–25% of the girls in Cameroon are subjected to breast ironing. In that 25%, all 200 ethnic groups are represented.

  22. Azalea
    Azalea July 29, 2011 at 12:35 am |

    justine baily: I’m with you there, except for one thing. The mother didn’t “have to” iron her daughter’s breasts. She chose to. Under the pressure of social norms, superstitions, taboos, and a lot of other stuff? Sure. But she made a choice, an evil, abusive choice reflecting a deep seated evil in her society. Her daughter, on the other hand, had no choice. That’s one of the defining differences between the abuser and the abused, no matter how much cultural misogyny influenced the abuser.

    In total agreement! Part of me wonders why she would choose to do it, does she really think it will prevent her daughter from becoming pregnant? If that is her issue why isn’t talking or birth control or any other number of ways to address that issue not on the table? Why is harming her own daughter, in a way she herself may have been harmed before, the way to go?

  23. preying mantis
    preying mantis July 29, 2011 at 7:15 am |

    “From what I understand, it was started to keep adolescent girls from being married off before they could finish school.”

    The idea behind the actual ironing (as presented in the doc) was that it would slow or reverse the growth of breast tissue, as opposed to what it does (destroy it). So your daughter would keep looking pre-pubescent instead of pubescent for a few more years, at which point she might be ready for marriage or at least better able to fend for herself. It seemed more prevalent in areas where there was more instability or less protection from any sort of authority (ie, more fear of rape) or in families where there was a greater investment in the girl finishing school (ie, economically tenuous).

    Given how many girls in the west report an onslaught of sexual harassment, overtures, and threats from predatory men when they start developing breasts, it’s hard not to be a little sympathetic to mothers in an area where those same sorts of men face little if any consequence for following through and refuse to self-regulate. The information campaign seemed to have a good shot on account of the ironing being done to protect rather than to punish or hurt. Once you know there’s potential for dire consequences to your daughter’s happiness in the future, you’re weighing the thing you’re doing to help ensure her safety and future happiness a lot differently. Of course, it’s probably not going to be nearly as effective as it could be until, you know, local ten-year-olds are at least reliably safe from rape, so I’m going to go watch some bunny videos.

  24. Spay Your Sea Kitten
    Spay Your Sea Kitten July 29, 2011 at 7:41 pm |

    Jesus fucking Christ… I’d heard of breast ironing but naively assumed it was a thing of the past. Inhumane practices like this are the logical result of blaming women and girls for everyone’s sexuality.

  25. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig July 29, 2011 at 7:41 pm |

    Preying Mantis: Exactly. Condemning breast ironing as an irrational behavior does the whole issue a disservice. It’s not irrational, it’s just an over the top response to real problems.

  26. Spay Your Sea Kitten
    Spay Your Sea Kitten July 29, 2011 at 7:43 pm |

    And for rape, not to mention…

  27. Miss S
    Miss S July 29, 2011 at 10:55 pm |

    This is heartbreaking. That said, social conditions in some African villages are very different than they are here in the U.S.

    In the documentary I saw years ago, I didn’t see mothers who were evil, malicious, or unstable. I saw mothers filled with grief and despair. Most of them had been raped, and were trying to prevent the same thing from happening to their daughters, especially with the likely threat of contracting AIDS.

    Yes, the women were ‘putting the burden of rape’ on their daughters, What choice did they have? How were they going to stop the men from raping them? It’s a fucked up practice, but many of these women are living in fucked up situations with no protection. It’s not like an American woman who can call the cops, or march through a relatively safe neighborhood shouting Take Back The Night. They don’t have the options that most of you commenting do.

  28. Brandon
    Brandon July 30, 2011 at 10:17 am |

    I was juxtaposing the story about Terisia Techu with that of the OP last paragraph.

    Do I think breast ironing is a terrible practice? Yes.
    Do I want young girls to not have their breasts smashed with stones? Yes
    Do I think the mother using the justification of “keeping boys away from her” is bad thinking? Yes.

    But the OP made the the grandiose statement that this serves as an example of women around the world are viewed as “owned property”. Cameroon has a population of 19 million, cut that number in half to remove the men from the equation which is 9.5 million. The article claimed one in four women so that makes 2.375 million women are affected by this in Cameroon.

    Is 2,375,000 people a lot of people? Yes.
    What percentage of the world population is affected by this? Something like 0.07%-0.15% of the population.
    Does 0.15% of all women = world controlling your body? Doubtful.

    Lastly, I find it interesting that men are very much removed from this whole process. It is mother’s that subject their daughters to this brutal abuse. It’s like the poster child of “women oppressing women”. In fact, the only way men are involved is the assumption by the mother that breast ironing their daughters could possibly prevent rape and sexual assault. Seems like a pretty bad assumption.

  29. Politicalguineapig
    Politicalguineapig July 30, 2011 at 11:37 am |

    Brandon, I think you’re missing the point. It’s not supposed to be an oppressive practice. The mothers who are doing it are trying to give their daughters a better life. Unless people understand the underlying motives, breast ironing will continue.

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