February 16, 2015

"The truth, no matter how unpalatable, is that foot-binding was experienced, perpetuated and administered by women."

"Though utterly rejected in China now — the last shoe factory making lotus shoes closed in 1999—it survived for a thousand years in part because of women’s emotional investment in the practice. The lotus shoe is a reminder that the history of women did not follow a straight line from misery to progress, nor is it merely a scroll of patriarchy writ large...."

40 comments:

Anonymous said...

Rule of Thumbelina

MayBee said...

Some of the shoes women wear now remind me of Lotus shoes. Or at least show me how women might have gotten themselves into a bound-foot-like mindset.

Bill Harshaw said...

"experienced, perpetuated, and administered" it may have been, but it was in response to a code which gave prestige to the smallest foot, and ended when China's best and brightest males came to see it as a badge of backward behavior. See Prof. Appiah's take on the subject in his short book on the honor code. http://www.amazon.com/The-Honor-Code-Revolutions-Happen/dp/039334052X

Anonymous said...

Women are technically the perpetrators of female genital mutilation as well, but I don't think that's a huge conscious statement of any kind. History and literature both show a propensity of women to visit their own restrictions on their daughters. Sometimes it is unconscious and sometimes it is because they think they know what trouble lurks for the daughters that don't toe the line.

Alex said...

It's more like foot crushing than binding. Binding makes it seems so benign compared to what really happens.

Mitch H. said...

Huh. I've figured out recently that the majority of the Western patriarchal cultural norms were maintained and perpetuated by women, but assumed that Chinese patriarchal norms had been enforced by their prized Confucian patriarchs. I guess I was wrong about that, and that the Victorian notion that women are the soft enforcers of all civilization is less an ideological artifact and more the cryptic, underlying truth of culture, everywhere, every-when.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

There's apparently a market out there for a type of pr*n where a woman masturbates a guy using her feet.

Maybe it's a Chinese thing.

I wouldn't understand.

Douglas said...

I might be mistaken, but my understanding is that footbinding was performed solely to satisfy a sexual obsession of Chinese men. For millenia, small female feet were powerful sexual turn-ons for Chinese men. Indeed this was probably the most widespread and longest lasting sexual perversion in all of human history.

Big Mike said...

What SOJO said, except drop the word "technically."

Zeb Quinn said...

I've always said that whatever men do to women pales in comparison to what other women do to women.

tmitsss said...

I watched Marco Polo and I know it was evil men

Emil Blatz said...

I knew it!

Jim in St Louis said...

Let's not get on our high horse since its important to remember that Chistians did some horrible things during the crusades and the inquisition.

buwaya puti said...

Confucianism is an admirable and quite practical ethical system. I have had a fair bit of fun with the San Francisco school district with respect to "multicultural" studies, when I suggest they have the kids study the Analects of Confucius instead of the ridiculous Joy Luck Club.

Gabriel said...

Is that any surprise? Foot-binding is a fashion, and fashion is largely important to women.

Objective evidence is seen in the differing prices and selection of women's styles vs. men's styles. Of course there are individual men and women who buy contrary to stereotype, but the state of the market tells you about the average behavior.

Similarly with hairstyling for men and women. Yes, there are men who get $600 haircuts, but there are far more women, as a percentage, who do. The fact that women, in aggregate, are willing to spend more on it shows that women, in aggregate, care more.

And some fashions are painful and unhealthy, and are nonetheless followed.

traditionalguy said...

The women were the tribes breeding livestock. That seems to have been normal in 10,000 years of evolving of tribal authority that placed male warriors as masters of the female doing the child bearing and child raising. The males had to show the power to protect their own women.

Today the power is the billionaires. money. Orgy Island is one result where young girls are trained to service the wealthy pigs

Some women still long for that submissive role wanting to experience all 50 shades of it as the best way to feel protection from a strong man. Some former men such as Bruce Jenner also want to feel protected by strong wealthy men.

tim maguire said...

Mothers might have encouraged (forced) their daughters to bind their feet, but it would be facile to claim that the trend was perpetuated by women. They didn't do it for fun, they did it to improve their daughter's prospects.

Same with genital mutilation.

Drago said...

I do not yet see a pathway by which this can effectively blamed western white conservative Christian males so I expect this and related stories to fizzle rapidly.

YoungHegelian said...

It's always been a mark of the upper classes that they could afford to have their women be totally useless, & that uselessness applied to pale skin, bound feet, elaborate hair or nail stylings, etc. Anything that obviously marked them as unfit for physical labor.

It's interesting that now a marker of high class is to have the women work outside the home, but always, of course, in some sort of tony symbolic analyst job (e.g. a lawyer, not a plumber). Now, women signal they're high class by still being useless for physical labor, but by bringing in the bucks by non-physical labor.

YoungHegelian said...

Reading the article brought back to me just how brutal Chinese dynastic politics could be. Such infighting is one reason that China, with few exceptions, always seemed to be a culture turned in on itself.

Years ago, I had a buddy whose PhD was in Ancient Chinese History & language. He told me that the first Europeans to visit China described the Chinese as "warlike", and, as my buddy put it, "these Europeans guys weren't exactly pacifists themselves".

FullMoon said...

Douglas said... [hush]​[hide comment]

I might be mistaken, but my understanding is that footbinding was performed solely to satisfy a sexual obsession of Chinese men. For millenia, small female feet were powerful sexual turn-ons for Chinese men. Indeed this was probably the most widespread and longest lasting sexual perversion in all of human history.


A millennium (plural millennia) is a period of time equal to 1000 years.

Ummm, yeah, Douglas, you might be wrong. What in the world gave you that idea? Any ols Chinese pornography showing a Chinese man getting a hard on by little bitty feet? Thousands of years.eh? You must have at least a couple of links to back that up.
And, if all the Chinamen were turned on by it for thousands of years, iy would be more the norm, than a peversion. Am I right?

Dave Schumann said...

Modern academic writing is really terrible, isn't it? They try to use fancy words to sound intelligent, but they all use the SAME fancy words in the same way, so all social ills are "perpetuated" by this or that. Always "perpetuated." It's a perfectly good word but modern academic writers and others trying to sound like them use it in place of a whole host of clearer words.

They've never had anyone say to them, "this writing sounds ridiculous." Ever! Because anyone that did say that would be a cismale racist misogynist perpetuating -- always perpetuating -- oppression.

Dave Schumann said...

Our hostess must encounter terrible overwrought academic writing all the time. How does she possibly suppress the urge to say "this prose is horrible"??

FullMoon said...


Blogger buwaya puti said...

Confucianism is an admirable and quite practical ethical system. I have had a fair bit of fun with the San Francisco school district with respect to "multicultural" studies, when I suggest they have the kids study the Analects of Confucius instead of the ridiculous Joy Luck Club.


Confucious say: Woman who do handstand, have crack-up.

OK, I,m done. Carry on.

Big Mike said...

Of course while we're at it, among Jews circumcision is experienced, perpetuated and administered by men.

Just sayin'

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

It bothers me that I am nominally Christian, and circumcised, and that it is theoretically possible that I may, one day, starve to death without so much as having savored one last taste of cheese.

pm317 said...

women are women's worst enemy.

Brando said...

Women are wooman's greatest enemy. Practically every painful, damaging or uncomfortable beauty regimen or fashion choice taken by women has more to do with female peer pressure than male preferences. I'm not surprised it's the same way with foot binding--what guy ever says "nothing hotter than tiny, tiny feet, preferably with deformed toes!"

Anonymous said...

You have to start from the proper perspective. Women can do no wrong.

If we start from that correct premise, then the discussion changes significantly.

Now we realize these are women suffering from battered woman syndrome. They don't know they are battered. And they don't know that they are doing it to their daughters.

Women are good. Men are bad. If a woman does something bad, there is a man standing behind her.

kfb said...

The 1959 Ingrid Bergmann movie "The Inn of the 6th Happiness" was based around this very issue. I was 9 years old when I saw this movie and I remember one dramatic scene where an older woman was forced to have her feet unbound and the pain she experienced was portrayed as being excruciating.

Revenant said...

I might be mistaken, but my understanding is that footbinding was performed solely to satisfy a sexual obsession of Chinese men

You're mistaken.

Down Valley Scum said...

In my neck of the woods some butt binding seems to be in order.

Robert Cook said...

"It's always been a mark of the upper classes that they could afford to have their women be totally useless, & that uselessness applied to pale skin... Anything that obviously marked them as unfit for physical labor."

This was not a matter of marking them as "unfit" for physical labor, but of them displaying their freedom from having to perform physical labor, due to their wealth.

Nowadays, as most working people work indoors, in offices or as service employees in restaurants, retail stores, etc., and therefore pasty white, (the white ones, that is), the wealthy show off their tanned skins to display their freedom to enjoy outdoor pursuits, such as playing tennis.

Big Mike said...

Dammit Cookie, your comment above is right on the mark. The only point I'd add is that the tanned skins that wealthy women so avidly pursue lead to wrinkles and prematurely aged skin later in life, and put them at risk of melanoma. But what is the risk of cancer against the ability to flaunt wealth?

Char Char Binks said...

By women of color, no less.

William said...

I read Mrs. Trolllope's book about her visit to America back in the 1830s. Women back then wore floor length skirts. Men back then chewed tobacco and weren't 100% accurate in hitting the spittoon. Mrs. Trollope's major complaint about America was that no matter how careful she was, she ended up with a fair amount of expectorant on the hems of her garments. I can sympathize. No one wants to travel trailing gobs of spittle. Still, the thought occurred to me that the simplest way out of this pickle would have been to raise the hem of her dresses an inch or two. This idea never occurred to Mrs. Trollope, or, if it did, she would have dismissed it out of hand. Women are willing to pay any price for respectability.........In this context, I can understand foot binding and hoop skirts, but I can't find the context for the tattoo of a dolphin on a woman's ass. It doesn't add much to a woman's respectability or, for that matter, to get sex appeal. The dolphin on the ass tattoo is completely inexplicable.

Revenant said...

Nowadays, as most working people work indoors, in offices or as service employees in restaurants, retail stores, etc., and therefore pasty white, (the white ones, that is), the wealthy show off their tanned skins to display their freedom to enjoy outdoor pursuits, such as playing tennis.

A parallel to this is the modern habit of claiming ancestry as non-white as possible.

It used to be that a person with, say, an African great-grandparent or a Cherokee great-great grandparent would consider that a deep, dark secret. These days they downplay the *white* part of their ancestry, because that's the part that is socially rewarded.

E.g., Barack Obama referring to himself as "black", when he's half-white and raised in non-black environments by white people.

Kirk Parker said...

FullMoon,

You left off "I am NOT Laslo".

But it's OK... we could tell.

Lydia said...

Robert Cook and Big Mike,

Or maybe the tanning craze is all due to Coco Chanel:

"According to one popular theory, tanning caught on by accident. In the early 20s, Vogue magazine ads were still peddling bleaching creams that claimed to 'get rid of tan.' Doctors in the early 1900s thought sun exposure caused nervousness and insanity. In his 1905 book The Effects of Tropical Light on White Men, Dr. Chas Edwards Woodruff wrote, 'The American girl is a bundle of nerves. She is a victim of too much light.'

But in 1929, French fashionista Coco Chanel inadvertently spent too much time in the sun while vacationing in the French Riviera. She shrugged and proclaimed, 'A girl simply has to be tanned.' That year, there was a sharp uptick in the number of Vogue and Harper's Bazaar articles trumpeting the allure of darker skin. While a Jantzen swimsuit ad from 1927 depicted models sitting under umbrellas and wearing wide-brimmed hats, one from 1929 showed them 'frolicking in the sun without sun protection,' as one study in the American Journal of Public Health found."

Douglas said...

For those without access to Google, here are some articles about the perverse sexual obsession that Chinese men had with bound feet: e.g., http://www.angelfire.com/sc3/ws301/html/dworkin.html,https://robertlindsay.wordpress.com/2008/12/31/the-reason-for-footbinding/,http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/183048. The practice began sometime between 1,000 and 1,500 years ago. More recently some writers have begun to argue that footbinding wasn't about sexual obsession so much as male privilege. E.g., http://www.ucpress.edu/book.php?isbn=9780520253902. YMMV.