Wherever I go, I always feel great pride and honor by being able to say that I come from China – a vast piece of land that serves as a home for the famous Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the Bird’s Nest and, of course, me. I have lived in other parts of the world after my marriage, but I have never lost my love of China. She remains home in my heart always.
However, even if I love China, I am not unaware of the fact that it has some flaws that have impacted the lives of many Chinese men, women and children at varying intensity for decades. Particularly, I am referring to the case of the Lotus Feet.
It may not be an over-exaggeration to conclude that all women, regardless of nationality and religion, love to wear shoes that can make their feet look dainty, elegant and outright beautiful. In the modern day, women wear stilettos and high-heeled shoes to work or to any occasion, as it empowers anyone in a way that flats or sneakers cannot do. Wearing such shoes tend to be painful for the legs and feet if you stand on it for too long, but women often choose to ignore the pain because this is what adds beauty to their outfit, what makes them look attractive to the opposite sex.
The same ideology has been used by a lot of women for centuries in China until the 19th century. Their only difference to the women of this age though is that they have been willing to go through lengths as extreme as breaking the bones on their feet and binding them forever to lotus shoes just to be able to conform to the social norm at that time. As horrible as this sounds, most Chinese women starting from the 13th century have had their underprivileged mothers bound their feet because they believe that this is the only way for the wealthy men to like them and eventually marry them.
The Chinese tradition of binding feet is basically a part of a superstition that is sex-related. You see, they think that the longer a Chinese woman wears the lotus shoes, the stronger and tighter her vaginal muscles would be for lovemaking because of the amount of time she spends in trying to walk carefully in these shoes. This practice was slowly wiped out in parts of China beginning in the late 1800s, but was banned entirely when the Communists took control of China in 1949. Even after society began to see footbinding as cruel and unnecessary many Chinese women still chose to continue this excruciating beauty treatment. Why did Chinese women bind their feet?
To be honest, I am not sure about the right answer for that. I was born during the time when this tradition is already outlawed, so I never had to worry about my own mother wanting to subject me to this kind of beauty torture which is previously acceptable for many. My great grandmother and grandmother, however, did not share the same luck that I have since they both have had their feet bound. What is interesting here is that even though the mothers have already experienced the pain of feet binding, even though they get nightmares about it during old age, they still decide to bind their daughter’s feet too – probably because they think that this is what makes a Chinese woman desirable. My mother would have been subjected to it too by my great grandmother, if not for family members vetoing to it.
No matter how much I try to put myself in the shoes of these women (no pun intended), I still cannot comprehend why they have let this occur. Maybe it is because of social pressure, maybe it is because they have seen no other way by then to not be scoffed at for having normal-sized feet and to find a husband – I do not know. Back when this practice was popular, no doubt for the Chinese men though, seeing a Chinese woman with bound feet was probably the equivalent of seeing a woman wearing latex – a kink that they were not suppressing because they knew that they had more power than women in this patriarchal time. As a modern-day Chinese woman, I am concluding this article by saying: “Never think of binding your feet just to get male attention. Ever.”
Tags: Chinese Society, Old Chinese women, Traditional Chinese customs., Traditional Chinese women
Category: About Chinese Women