Foot Binding

21 12 2007

Our book club chose Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See for our January book. I finished it earlier this week and really enjoyed it. It will provide us with a great discussion (when we manage to stay on topic…). Since several of the book club members visit this blog, I won’t give away my thoughts yet.

The Chinese tradition of foot binding is a major theme in this book. The author does a great job of presenting the custom and all that it entails.

The photo shows what a bound foot looks like when uncovered. Women with bound feet often cannot walk well and have to be carried (note how small her shoe covered foot is).

As young girls, the Chinese go through torture to get the perfect foot, only a few inches in length. Their toes break, they often have infections and some die. The mother forces her daughter to deal with the pain, because a smaller foot will improve their social standing in the future. But the bound foot hobbles the woman, forcing her to rely on others. All of this for what amounts to an additional sexual orifice. Luckily, it has been outlawed and is no longer practiced. It seems tantamount to female castration.

I wonder if future generations will look back at some of our customs and be horrified. Women go through a lot of trouble to conform to society’s ideals, some even getting plastic surgery to make their physical body more ascetically pleasing. It is a shame that our society values men for what they can do and women for how they look.
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