My, What Big, White Teeth You Have: The Trials, and Petty Triumphs of the Widows of Kosovo


Oh, the many ways in which women around the world suffer. And prevail.

Atop everything else, the women, and in particular the widows, of Kosovo have to deal with the horrific fall out from beauty ideals there even as they seek to resume something resembling a normal life. You’d have thought it was only dark women (black and Hispanic) who lighten their skin. You’d be wrong.

From Women’s Enews (hat tip to Salon’s Broadsheet for hipping me to the site):

Victoria Schultz returned to Kosovo after six years and was amazed at how life had improved for two war widows. Now they have a good pension, houses of their own and new teeth with which to smile. Remarriage, however, seems out of the question.

SKENDERAI, Kosovo (WOMENSENEWS)–The two women had new teeth!

I couldn’t believe the white sparkle of their welcoming smiles when I returned to Kosovo last month for the first time since 2001 and went to see Shehrije and Fatime Kastrati at their farmstead in a resource-poor rural area.

Six years earlier, at the end of my two-and-a-half-year stay in Kosovo, I had despaired for these two women. Only in their 30s, all they had left of their teeth were a few darkened fangs. A local doctor familiar with Kosovo’s folkways told me that many young girls whitened their skin with a zinc-based cream that made their teeth fall out at an early age.

Still, even with the efforts of humanitarian doctors and the relief groups that help these lone women, and their children survive with their menfolk gone, they have almost no chance of remarrying. A widow with children is about as marriageable there as one of their cows. But at least some are getting their smiles back. All they need now is a reason to ‘cheese’.

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