…and after you’ve stopped with the bathing suit pictures, maybe stop having breasts.

The following may be triggering for some, as it concerns the physical abuse of young girls.

I can’t even. What the fuck.

I’m working on the afore-mentioned “white Jewish lady” post (more accurately: I appeared on Russian TV yesterday to discuss Israel/Palestine but am having a hard time embedding the video) but in the meantime, just saw this, and: What.The.Fuck.

Breast ironing sparks anger in Cameroon

Every morning before school, 9-year-old Terisia Techu would undergo a painful procedure. Her mother would take a burning hot pestle straight out of a fire and use it to press her breasts.

With tears in her eyes as she recalls what it was like, Terisia tells CNN that one day the pestle was so hot, it burned her, leaving a mark. Now 18, she is still traumatized.

Her mother, Grace, denies the incident. But she proudly demonstrates the method she used on her daughter for several weeks, saying the goal was to make her less desirable to boys — and stave off pregnancy.

A study found that one in four girls in Cameroon have been affected by the practice.

The U.S. State Department, in its 2010 human rights report on Cameroon, cited news reports and said breast ironing “victimized numerous girls in the country” and in some cases “resulted in burns, deformities, and psychological problems.”

There are more than 200 ethnic groups in Cameroon with different norms and customs. Breast ironing is practiced by all of them.

“To stave off pregnancy”… Just when you thought you knew everything there was to know about the ways in which the world tries to own and control our bodies, you get slapped upside the head with something new.

Breast ironing sparks anger in Cameroon.

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32 Responses to …and after you’ve stopped with the bathing suit pictures, maybe stop having breasts.

  1. olivia says:

    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 says:

    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. Emily Hauser says:

    olivia:
    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.

    Well, I suppose I would say that that’s two ways of giving expression to the same problem. However you say it, we’re told that it’s our bodies that are The Problem.

  4. Emily Hauser says:

    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.

    I don’t usually feed trolls but in this case I want to point out that even in the snippet that I blockquoted — which is to say, you don’t even have to go to the trouble of clicking through, you can just read what appears on the screen before your eyes right now — you can see that this problem affects 25% of Cameroonian girls, and is practiced in all 200 ethnic groups.

    (Though I would like to award you double the troll points for shifting the entirety of the blame for a society-wide problem which causes [given Cameroon’s population of 19.5 million] hundreds of thousands of girls to suffer regular, daily violence onto the shoulders of one woman, who may very well have suffered the same violence when she was a girl. Kudos!)

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

  6. Emolee says:

    @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.

  7. Annaleigh says:

    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.

  8. igglanova says:

    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.

  9. Echo Zen says:

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

  10. PrettyAmiable says:

    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…

  11. shockedandamazed says:

    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…

  12. Mack Lyons says:

    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.

  13. Echo Zen says:

    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.

  14. preying mantis says:

    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.

  15. Miku says:

    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…

  16. justine baily says:

    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.

  17. Jameseq says:

    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

  18. Jameseq says:

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

  19. Xeginy says:

    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.

  20. Emily Hauser says:

    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.

    Thank you for this. This is a very, very important point, and one that is often overlooked.We can feel compassion for the abuser in this case, for any number of reasons, but that doesn’t change the fact that she is, in fact, the abuser.

  21. james says:

    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.

  22. Tim says:

    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.

  23. Politicalguineapig says:

    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.

  24. Lis says:

    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.

  25. Azalea says:

    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?

  26. preying mantis says:

    “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.

  27. Spay Your Sea Kitten says:

    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.

  28. Politicalguineapig says:

    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.

  29. Spay Your Sea Kitten says:

    And for rape, not to mention…

  30. Miss S says:

    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.

  31. Brandon says:

    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.

  32. Politicalguineapig says:

    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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