Our in-class discussion about Chinese foot binding traditions sparked a lot of thoughts and contemplation on my part. As an outsider, it is easy to look at foot binding and say it is disgusting and gross and argue that the practice should not have continued as long as it did. However, trying to imagine being a young Chinese girl tends to change my mind a bit. If I were a seven year old girl with a choice to have my feet bound, I would probably agree to it. The girls knew, even at a young age that having bound feet was the key to getting married and having a “good life” that was respected by the community.
We, as Americans, also do many things that can cause life-long damage to our bodies along with many smaller “everyday” things that do not cause much damage. I, like many other teenagers and young adults, do things to myself almost every day that are painful. I have gotten waxes, I have plucked my eyebrows, I have pierced my ears, and I have worn uncomfortable shoes. While these examples are nowhere near as extreme or damaging as foot-binding, they do serve as some type of comparison.
Another example that I thought of the other day is ballerinas wearing pointe shoes. Pointe shoes allow ballerinas to dance on the tips of their toes and make the dancing appear “magical.” For those of you that don’t know, pointe shoes have a tip that is made of fabric, cardboard, and paper that is hardened by glue. When these shoes are new, they are extremely stiff and uncomfortable. Girls would often beat the new slippers against hard surfaces like concrete or brick, pound the box of the shoe with a hammer, and open and close doors on the shoes to “wear them in.” I took ballet for seven years as a child and the entire time I wore normal ballet slippers but always dreamed about being able to wear pointe shoes. As I got older, I started noticing the feet of older girls who wore pointe shoes. They had blisters and cracked nails along with toes that were permanently bent. Once I was old enough to wear them, I decided to stop taking ballet lessons. I had heard the girls complaining about the pain they had and I did not want that. After thinking about this the other day, I researched “pointe shoe damage” on Google and saw pictures of feet that looked so familiar to me. There was also a diagram of a foot that showed a displaced bone, a rotated toe, and large bunions. While dancers can still walk and participate in activities without lifelong pain, the altering and damaging effects that pointe shoes have is perhaps comparable to Chinese foot binding.