|86 year old woman`s bound feet|
Photo Credit: John Bullas
Although I do not get into the graphic details of this practice, this post may be upsetting to read.
Foot binding was a painful, crippling, and sometimes fatal practice in China done to a young girls' feet. Girls, usually between the ages of 2 and 5, would have their feet wrapped in tight bandages in order to stop their growth and development. Eventually the foot would break, if not done forcibly. Bound feet remained small for the rest of their lives, and were prone to infection, paralysis and muscle atrophy.
|Photo Credit: John Bullas|
We took a measuring tape to see quite how small 3-4 inches is. We then put this length in our hands and next to our own feet to compare.
|Comparing bound feet with an American woman's shoe and a teacup|
Source: Otis Historical Archives
Foot binding is believed to have begun with an emperor's concubines in the 10th century, and was initially reserved for the wealthiest in Chinese society. It was a symbol of prestige, status and wealth for the entire family: when daughters and wives had bound feet, it meant they weren't needed to do physical labor of any sort. This was an important source of pride.
Photo Credit: Kellie CA
|Wealthy Chinese women with bound feet|
|Peasant girls with bound feet, in hopes of attracting marriage that would elevate their status.Source|
|Peasant women with bound feet, working a stone grinding mill. |
Despite the pain of bound feet, they have had to continue living a life of physical labor.
My Several Worlds has a post about foot binding, that includes a short description of the process and photographs of an 86 year old Chinese woman with bound feet. Some of these photographs show her feet unbound, and therefore can be disturbing. I include the link here because though graphic, the images are of the least disturbing I have come across, if you were interested in learning more.
Rather than reduce this as a barbaric practice of the past, this subject has led to many discussions with the girls - about cultural norms, women's issues, male dominance (past and present), status and social classes, and even current fashion and ideals of beauty in our today's society - important discussions to have with our daughters.