In China, foot binding was used on women in order to give them the coveted “golden lotus feet,” believing it would make women more desirable. However, a new research suggests that this might not have been the reason why women endured this painful practice.
According to CNN, Lauren Bossen, co-author of the book “Bound feet, Young hands”, said that the concept of foot binding being seen as a way to please men in China is widely misunderstood.
In 2015, SCMP (via Business Insider) reported that foot binding was believed to make the pelvic muscle unusually tight because it forces women to walk in a mincing manner, which lead to the thinking that it makes the vaginal muscles tight, thus favoring males and their sexual satisfaction.
But Bossen claims that foot binding existed and persisted because of its economic contribution. Because foot binding was an excruciatingly painful process that limited women’s mobility, it became a way to make sure that the girls sat down and worked to make yarns, cloths, fishnets, mats, and shoes.
“You have to link hands and feet. Footbound women did valuable handwork at home in cottage industries. The image of them as idle sexual trophies is a grave distortion of history,” said Bossen.
Bossen and Hill Gates, who are both professor emeritus of anthropology at their respective universities, interviewed around 1,800 elderly woman spread across the rural parts of China to dig deeper into this well-known and eerie tradition.
Authors of the book began to link the ages of the women when they started foot binding to when they were subjected to do work.
“My mother bound my feet when I was around 10 years. At around age 10, I started to spin cotton. Each time she bound my feet, it hurt until I cried,” said one woman they were able to interview.
Foot binding, which was considered stereotypical back then in China, was frowned upon by several groups like missionaries, reformers, nationalists and then the communists. It began to decline in the early 20th century leaving only various stories, scars and disfigured feet of those who had to endure this Chinese practice.