“These women were shunned by two eras,” Yang says. “When they were young, footbinding was already forbidden, so they bound their feet in secret. When the Communist era came, production methods changed. They had to do farming work, and again they were shunned.”
Wang Lifen, above, now 79, was just seven years old when her mother started binding her feet: breaking her toes and binding them underneath the sole of the foot with bandages. After her mother died, Wang carried on, breaking the arch of her own foot to force her toes and heel ever closer. Now 79, Wang no longer remembers the pain.
“Because I bound my own feet, I could manipulate them more gently until the bones were broken. Young bones are soft, and break more easily,” she says.
At that time, bound feet were a status symbol, the only way for a woman to marry into money. In Wang’s case, her in-laws had demanded the matchmaker find their son a wife with tiny feet. It was only after the wedding, when she finally met her husband for the first time, that she discovered he was an opium addict. With a life encompassing bound feet and an opium-addict husband, she’s a remnant from another age. That’s how author Yang Yang, who’s written a book about them, sees these women.
Another woman, with a history like Wang Lifen’s.
Some estimate that as many as 2 billion Chinese women broke and bound their feet to attain this agonizing ideal of physical perfection. Author Yang Yang says that women with tiny feet were a status symbol who would bring honor upon the entire clan by their appearance.
…In Liuyicun, the practice persisted so long because of the village’s economic prosperity — and its inhabitants’ desire for obvious wealth signifiers, like daughters with bound feet.
Some scholars say footbinding deepened female subjugation by making women more dependent on their men folk, restricting their movements and enforcing their chastity, since women with bound feet were physically incapable of venturing far from their homes.
Certainly the “three-inch golden lotuses” were seen as the ultimate erogenous zone, with Qing dynasty pornographic books listing 48 different ways of playing with women’s bound feet.
For those unfortunate women who paid the ultimate price for beauty, there was little choice involved.
The shoes depicted below are considered fashionable and are available for purchase today.
Does anyone actually believe that outside of male supremacy women or girls would design and wear shoes like any represented here?
Hat-tip to Donna Hughes’ Dignity Listserv.