The not so forgotten art of foot binding

I just recently finished Rice Bowl Women, a collection of short stories from China and Japan as early as the 600s which, of course, includes stories of foot binding. Coincidentally, I had dinner at a friend’s house recently and she was telling us a story about her Chinese friend — a strong independent girl. Her grandmother had her feet bound (in my ignorance I hadn’t realized foot binding happened as recently as the 1930’s). One day, this young woman had her feet up in plain view and her father said to her, “Who’s going to marry you with those giant feet!”

Everyone knows that the ideal of beauty is varied and diverse, but it seems to me that the idolization of these tiny, little feet must not have extended to the naked foot. If you do a Google images search on foot binding, you’ll find actual photos of feet that were bound. I have a hard time imagining men found those deformed feet sexy. Surely men only appreciated the foot when clothed in elaborately embroidered litle shoes, no? But shoed or unshoed, the little feet were adored — and apparently, that adoration hasn’t been completely forgotten.

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