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Foot Binding Essay

1648 words - 7 pages

The practice of Foot-Binding entered into Mainstream Chinese culture around the 12th and 13th centuries (Feng 236), a time when the emerging conservative movement and the creation of a new social class system severely lowered the status of women. The restructuring of the social class system was driven by new and increased prosperity and created a new and higher standard of living that was enjoyed by the new upper class of scholars and farmers. The higher standard of living of the once lower stature classes and the emergence of the increased emphasis on a women’s chastity, left women only one clear option, that is to use the one thing that could be under their and their families control, that is their bodies. The foot-binding movement and ultimately the anti-foot-binding movement were vehicles for a female voice and participation in the social and political changes of the day. The foot-binding movement was not a fashion statement nor was it an un-sensibly inhumane to the women of china; the foot-binding process was a process that was viewed, as part of one’s culture and that must be continued. It was through this understanding of the necessity of the continuance of the tradition, which women discovered that foot biding was a way for them to gain power and social mobility.
Throughout the book, The Three-Inch Golden Lotus, The main character, Fragrant Lotus, demonstrates the slow understanding how she can use her bound feet and how bound-feet in general, had allowed for increased power for women since the 12th century. Moreover, Fragrant Lotus developed an understanding of how foot binding allowed for the historical maintenance of the Chinese societies sole reliance on cultural and customs to dictate the path of society as a whole. Subsequently at the time that the novel is based, 1940’s, the Western influence and a new economic and political climate, such as in the Song Dynasty where foot-binding started, began to put an end to cultural norms, such as foot-binding. This clash of western and eastern culture clashed the Chinese notion of the cultural and customary aspect of the importance of foot binding against the western notion of what was fashionable to wear. This clash created the shift of the psychological reasoning of maintenance of customs and family pride that had maintained the foot-binding custom to a psychological reasoning of, “What Should Chinese Women Wear” (Finnane 6).
The crucial part behind understanding the psychology behind foot binding is for one to understand the strict emphasis that Chinese Families had on strong tradition. The Tong family was built and gained notoriety through the perfectly bound feet of the women of their family. Thus, when the anti-foot binding movement came to the doors of the Tong family the first reaction of Fragrant Lotus was to repeat and ensure that this strong emphasis on rules and tradition was maintained. This un-willingness to alter family tradition, despite the changing political culture is...

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