Drop Dead Gorgeous: Happy feet"When I was just a little girl" (cue Doris Day in the background), it was not an uncommon thing to hear the time worn adage, "A woman must suffer for beauty". Even then, I thought it was a load of guff. After all, this was before the advent of the metro-sexual, and I didn't see any men putting themselves through any torturous beauty regimen on my behalf. So here goes, the first installment in the Drop Dead Gorgeous series; from the Australian Museum Online, a first hand account of foot-binding:
...my feet were bound when I was six years old...(Link, Image credit:Candace Hutchins, Song credit:Que Sera, Sera)
My grandmother took about one metre of white cloth which was woven by herself at home and divided it into three long one-metre strips, then the binding started. She left my big toe, and folded down the rest of the toes under the sole of the foot and then used the strips to tie it in many layers... You can imagine, a six-year-old girl's feet and how delicate they were, but if they were tied very tightly and changed the natural shape, how painful it must be... With the pain of the feet, I was forced to push around a big rock used as a mill for grinding. I walked and walked, step by step, many, many circuits in order to form the binding cone shape and to make the process more efficient. The suffering is really beyond people's imagination.
A few years later, the Revolutionary Party broke into the unenlightened village. The members of the Party spread the idea of revolution which included women's liberation. They tried to stop men wearing plaits and women's feet binding. They went to every house and checked and forced the girls whose feet had been bound to remove the strips of cloth...
When the feet were unbound, my sisters and I cried, because of the pain which was caused by the unbinding. But when my grandmother rebound our feet, it would be more painful and we cried again.
"When I was just a little girl
I asked my mother
What will I be
Will I be pretty..." Careful how you answer that question mommy.
For Abeni->A further glimpse into the deleterious effects of foot binding:
But besides just the pain of the process, there were many after affects that were detrimental to the young girls' health. The pain of the bound feet never stopped. The most common consequence was infection (Hwang 1). There were many ways a girl could get an infection. One was the ball of the foot would folding directly into the heel. A second was that the toenails continued to grow, eventually curling into the skin. This led to flesh rotting off, and sometimes even a toe. The worst part of the process was that the feet would practically die after three years. The feet being dead caused a terrible smell the girl carried with her everywhere (Chinese Footwear 1). Diseases followed infections, and death could even result from foot binding (Hwang 1).(Link)
The women who had their feet bound were more likely to fall, less able to squat and less able to rise from a sitting position in their older years. The combination of the lower hip bone density, along with the fact women with bound feet were more likely to fall, put these women at an extremely high risk for hip fractures...