The Horrific Practice of Chinese Foot BindingWomen have done many things for beauty throughout history – from indifferently using arsenic or lead-based cosmetics, suffering broken ribs from over-binding corsets for a smaller waist, to yet more extreme forms of body modification. One of the most agonizingly painful of such practices is the Chinese custom of foot binding. This required the feet of young women, most typically young girls, to be broken and bound until they were able to fit inside a tiny shoe. The ideal was a three-inch-long foot. The process itself took around two years, but the feet would stay bound for life.The tradition was believed to have begun around 970 AD when the consort of Emperor Li Yu of the Tang Dynasty performed a dance on a ‘golden lotus’ pedestal, wrapping her feet in silken cloths. The ruler was so entranced by the beauty of the movement that other women in the court imitated the look.For over a thousand years, tiny bound feet were considered highly erotic, and the resulting ‘lotus gait’ – caused by women needing to walk on their heels in a unsteady, ‘mincing’ manner was not only arousing for men but thought to make the sexual anatomy “more voluptuous and sensitive”. During the Qing Dynasty, love manuals apparently detailed 48 different ways of fondling a woman’s bound feet. However even while in bed, women wore special slippers to conceal them.Chinese women upheld foot binding believing it promoted health and fertility, in spite of the crippling pain they suffered. The practice also took the perceived disadvantage of being born a woman and turned it into a social advantage in terms of the marital opportunities it afforded. Women with unbound feet were highly unlikely to enter into a prestigious marriage, forcing those of the upper classes to ‘marry down’ while those of lower social status risked being sold into slavery. Women with bound feet were the ‘lily footed’ ladies of Chinese society. Fortunately, the Chinese government outlawed foot binding in 1911. A thousand years of women with bound feet.
For goodness’ sake, can we talk about how this is not just a matter of “beauty” (“women have done many things for beauty throughout history” — silly women!) but about literally and physically restricting women? About how beauty norms and constructions of femininity under patriarchy are designed to make women less powerful? It’s not an accident. When it’s impossible for women to walk or run without pain or injury (e.g., footbinding, high heels, etc.), women are less in control of their own bodies and physical movement and are thus more vulnerable. Attaching erotic and social value to those looks—even calling them “healthy”!—is a very effective way to get women to “willingly” participate. And can we talk about how another factor at the heart of “beauty” norms is that women’s bodies in their natural state are flawed, unattractive, and need fixing (whether by footbinding, corsets, cosmetic surgery, makeup, dieting, waxing, etc.)? Presenting footbinding as taking “the perceived [sic – it wasn’t/isn’t just a perception, because girls and women were and are actually worse off!] disadvantage of being born a woman” and “turn[ing] it into a social advantage in terms of marital opportunities” completely misses the point: that footbinding was an example of how women’s social inequality (as well as class differences between women) were physically cemented in their bodies.
“the resulting ‘lotus gait’ – caused by women needing to walk on their heels in a unsteady, ‘mincing’ manner was not only arousing for men but thought to make the sexual anatomy “more voluptuous and sensitive”.” - men think women in pain and women who can’t move are sexy. that’s nothing new. it’s why we have HIGH HEELS.
the point of beauty practices for women is that they take time, are painful and makes women unable to move freely. that’s WHY THEY EXIST.
THAT IS THE PURPOSE OF FEMININITY, no matter the culture or the country.
In a few days, many college freshmen will be going home for the first time since August. They’ll retreat to what is comfortable – spending time with family, old friends, and for some, a high-school sweetheart. Thanksgiving will also be a time for big questions, particularly for those freshmen still in high-school relationships. Did they take advantage of their first three months in college, or did they lose out by spending too much time on Skype? During their first trip home, freshmen have to decide whether they stick it out with their first love, or succumb to what is known as the “Turkey Drop”— the phenomenon of high-school couples breaking up when they come home for their first Thanksgiving.
Read more. [Image: kidoki/flickr]
Halloween has come and gone, and with it that most terrifying of Halloween costumes: princesses. Angst about the ubiquitous, frivolous, artificial, beauty-obsessed femininity of Disney princesses is year-round, but is perhaps especially intense at this time of year, and that may be why David Trumble’s anti-Disney-Princess satire—a gallery of 10 inspiring female heroes, from Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Harriet Tubman to Malala Yousafzai, reimagined as princesses—is making the rounds on the web again after first appearing last May.
Trumble was initially responding to Disney’s “girlification” of Merida from Brave in their princess marketing. Trumble started thinking of great female role models, and wondering, as he put it, "How many of these women would be improved by a few extra sparkles?" The point here is supposed to be that, contrary to what Disney might be suggesting, strong, inspiring women—female role models—don’t need to be princesses, and that turning them into princesses trivializes them. Heroes don’t need sparkles, and sparkles distract from the heroines. In fact, though, Trumble’s drawings don’t so much satirize princesses as, rather wonderfully, validate them.
Read more. [Image: David Trumble]