Thursday, August 23, 2007

Would you?

This picture rips at my heart, this little angel has such sadness in
her eyes...

Do you see beauty?

I recently just finished reading "Snowflower and the Secret Fan" , it was set in the nineteenth century China in Hunan province. It is about the friendship between two young girls, an emotional match that lasts a lifetime. I will not give any details of the story away, it is a must read, so I 'll leave you discover it on your own.

There is some details of the ancient practice of foot binding. Having a wife with bound feet was a status symbol for men(and it was very sexually arousing) and consequently having bound feet increased a woman's chances of marriage into a wealthy household. Feet were usually bound around the age of six and the binding was done by the child's mother. The child's bones were softened by eating red bean dumplings, celebrations began, women meeting in the upper chambers to wish the child good luck, singing, stories and eating of many sweets.
The feet were first washed and rubbed with alum to contract the tissues and limit the secretions of blood and pus. Next would be the trimming of the toenails past the quick so they would not grown in to the tissues or break the skin to risk infection. During this time the bandages were being soaked so when they dried they would constrict, one bandage would be placed on the child's instep and wrapped on the four toes to begin the rolling of the toes to break them and pull them into the heel. All this time as this process was taking place the child was forced to walk on their feet to aid in the breaking of the bones. The ultimate goal was to to get the toes and the heel to meet creating the cleft which was the big toe that eventually the child's walked on.
The size to be achieved was 7cm, about the length of the average thumb!!!!! The shape was to be like the bud of the locust flower, a perfect point at the front and a full heel.
The poorest of girls do not have their feet bound and are destined to be sold as servants to work alongside of their husbands in the fields. Binding ensured marriage into a wealthier family with servants, standing in the community and the thought that this would bring a son the ultimate goal for a woman.
Now, my question to you, in the nineteenth century as a mother would you have bound your daughter's feet, knowing the outcome our her futures?


kris said...

I don't see anything beautiful in that suffering except the sacrifice that the mother and daughter made for the sake of "family", which even then I question.

That book was one of my favorites. Sadly, I can't seem to get through Peony In Love (her second book).

crazylady said...

Diana wrote about this and it churned my stomach.
In my previous life, I was poor poor field servant with boatfeet. said...

I find this so upsetting. I couldn't imagine, especially considering my girls are currently wearing a 6.5 and 7.5 already! It's abuse.

nikki said...

I can't imagine doing this...I don't like my girl to be in ANY pain. Money doesn't buy happiness anyway -- she could be happy in the field next to her husband, right?

ladyinblack said...

Oddly enough I was talking about this just the other day.. Of course we would have done this! And it would have been done to us before that. We would have known no better and accepted this as our fate without a second thought. I hate pain and would kill to keep my son, my only child, from facing it, but it's easy for us say how cruel and painful this was - we have choices in this century!

secret agent said...

to answer your question
I would not do it.... status means nothing to me
better to work hard outside healthy than be crippled indoors
with a sadistic pig that finds that arousing.
Have you read "Waiting"?
It's set in China after feet binding was outlawed
It became a source of embarassment for those with bound feet.
Though that isn't what the story was about... it was very interesting.

A Special Family said...

It is so hard to imagine what their lives were like to be able to answer the question. Easy answer no way, but then I wonder for them was it survival??

very very sad, I actually felt nauseous looking at the pictures...

Diana said...

What a coincidence! I just finished reading "Snowflower and the Secret Fan" also. I would have been the younger sister who so desperately tried to run away and know the rest.
I also just finished "Waiting"(after Secret recommended it) ...very good too...the story is written from a man's perspective.
I think I probably would have done the foot binding thing if I lived in that time and place. As gross and obscene as I think it is, I believe I would have done it. Back then if you didn't bind your daughter's feet you would have been considered a "bad" momma. Like Nikki said I can't imagine inflicting ANY pain on my daughters and I agree with Lady-In-Black....we would have accepted our fate just as they did.
Thankfully foot binding is a thing of the past.
Thanks for the kind words on my post today....I feel better already.

Headmeister said...

Ok, now that someone else has already answered boldly, I'll say my truth:

Yes. In the nineteenth century I would have done it, for the EXACT same reasons that ladyinblack stated. That was the culture, and if it was done to us, we would have followed suit with doing it to our daughters, not knowing any wiser. Would I have WANTED to do it? Of course not. But what would we have been able to do differently as women during those times. Thank god we live in different times and we as women have choices we can make for ourselves. However, how odd that many still let society dictate the choices they make for themselves...Hmmmm.

Good question - great post!

and BTW - I read Snowflower & the Secret Fan as well, and it was amazing. Strangely though, like Kris said, I'm not able to get through Peony In Love either.

Glinda said...

I fancy myself a renegade and like to think I would have eschewed this Kafkaesque practice. However, I believe that the women who continued to carry on, of course, knew nothing of how to vanquish the very tradition to which they themselves had been subjugated and for them I am very sad.

Very informative post; thank you.

Jeter's Mama said...

that was a great book.
I don't think any of us could honestly say what we would have done unless we lived during that time.
It is so easy to sit here in our "cushioned" lives and say what we would or would not do...but who REALLY knows.

redmaryjanes said...

That picture is so disgusting to look at.
But to be truthful, I probably would have carried on the tradition. I am very big on etiquette. So, if that was the cultural tradition of that day, I most likely would have carried it on. I am so glad that we are not faced with that as women today.

Beverly said...

I probably wouldn't have done it because I can't stand to cause suffering. I can't even squish a bug that is an inch or bigger. But having said that, these women didn't have a future without it and no one could have predicted the future that became what China is now. I cannot condemn what people did based on my culture's views. Footbinding at the time was culturally acceptable for a girl to be married well.

Now genocide and slavery is wrong in all cultures in all times so I can look back to say that was wrong of whomever to practice these things.


Ms. Dragonfly said...

I don't know. I find it facinating. Of course I would say no now, but if it meant the one prospect of marrying well and living a life out of poverty... I can't say I wouldn't do it for sure. though I bet another woman in the house would hve to do it for me. But truly, in difficult times, you do what you must.

Jewels of My Heart said...

This breaks my heart... I understand desperation but not at the price of causing your child pain and anguish... I wouldn't, I couldn't do this... I just don't have words...
Thank You Jesus that my daughter is born in this time and is my daughter.

Cindy said...

I also loved reading the book, but to have foot binding, I would not do it in this century.