Neck stretching begins when a Padaung girl gets to the age of six. At first little girls will be made to wear a single coil of heavy brass around their neck. Over the pursuing years more coils are added at intervals that could be something from weeks to months.
This will keep on over a couple of years until a limit of 20 rings have been added despite the fact that there are reports of some women who wear as much as 25 coils but this is more the exemption. The weight of the coils will ultimately place sufficient pressure on the collarbone to cause it to deform and create an impression of a longer neck.
Origin of the Custom
There are many different details as to the beginning of this tradition the most rational being for its aesthetic value. The beauty and elegance of a long neck is shown by the addition of heavy golden jewelry showing both wealth and beauty.
Other facts include protecting the ladies from evil people and another rumor is to disfigure them so that other communities will find them unattractive.
I think I’ll stick to the first and most clear explanation.
Regardless of the fact that the elongated neck is illusion it certainly is convincing and to strangers gives the women an unusual appearance. It is for obvious reasons that they are referred to as the “giraffe ladies”
What Does the Future Hold For Padaung Neck Stretching Traditions?
For noticeable reasons these women have now become a major tourist interest and individuals travel miles to come and gawk at these “giraffe ladies”. As a result of this disrespect for their privacy some members of the tribe removed their neck rings in 2006 in object against their exploitation and the fact that the visitors were making a mockery of their culture and traditions. The improved contact with Westerners influenced a number of the women to leave the tribe and additional their education.
After these drastic modifications took place many of the other women followed suit. Most of the staying Padaung women no longer wear their neck rings nor do they initiate the process on their daughters.
The few leftover Padaung women who do still exercise this ancient tradition constantly bear the brunt of their loyalty to their culture. They are belittled for their willingness to be exploited, their exploitation of themselves and the tourists, and the devastation of their bodies.
They do not seem too perturbed as they move slowly around the villages and stop to pose for tourist photos. There is almost a market atmosphere and the locals sell bracelets and other trinkets to the many tourists that flock to see these “Freaks”.