Mao: China’s Feminist

It's nice to believe that China was a happy place for all before the Cultural Revolution. Foot binding was an excruciatingly painful practice expected of every young girl, but Mao banned the practice of foot binding, liberating women

It’s nice to believe that China was a happy place for all before the Cultural Revolution. Foot binding was an excruciatingly painful practice expected of every young girl, but Mao banned the practice of foot binding, liberating women

Before the Cultural Revolution in China, did you know that women were forced to bind their feet? Foot binding was the act of painfully binding the feet of young girls to stop further growth. The ideal length of a woman’s foot was 3 inches (or 8 centimetres) and although the practice originally started off among the wealthy upper class it made its way down to the peasant classes. While most of China did practice some form of foot binding, It seems that only one group of Chinese, the Hakka, did not observe this practice.

To quote wikipedia

Foot binding completely changed the look of the foot, deforming it into a shape that was considered desirable and making a woman eligible for marriage

Foot binding completely changed the look of the foot, deforming it into a shape that was considered desirable and making a woman eligible for marriage

“By the 19th century, it was estimated that 40-50% of Chinese women had bound feet, and among upper class Han Chinese women, the figure was almost 100%. Bound feet became a mark of beauty and was also a prerequisite for finding a husband. It also became an avenue for poorer women to marry into money; for example, in Guangdong in the late 19th century, it was customary to bind the feet of the eldest daughter of a lower-class family who was intended to be brought up as a lady. Her younger sisters would grow up to be bond-servants or domestic slaves and, when old enough, either the concubines of rich men or the wives of laboring men, able to work in the fields alongside them. In contrast, the tiny, narrow feet of the “ladies” were considered beautiful and made a woman’s movements more feminine and dainty, and it was assumed these eldest daughters would never need to work. Women, their families, and their husbands took great pride in tiny feet, with the ideal length, called the “Golden Lotus”, being about 8 centimetres (3 in) long”

This practice, as you can imagine, was very painful for young girls. The way the foot was bound varies. The following, performed in Sichuan known as “cucumber foot” saw the four toes being folded under the flat of the foot, but this form did not force up the heel and taper the ankle the way other forms did. This version was slightly less severe….slightly

A shoe made for a special foot. Imagine shoving your foot into that thing

A shoe made for a special foot. Imagine shoving your foot into that thing

Also, we must note that not all women stayed bound. Some remained bound all through their lives, while some were only briefly bound. Others were bound only until their marriage.

Foot binding was banned from 1949 when Mao Tse Tung took power in China. This was one act among many that he did to liberate women from the old ways in China.

Mao also gave women equal rights in marriage, and allowed women to own their own land. This saw tens of millions of women leaving their houses for the first time to go out and work for themselves. From their own mouths, some of the women were quoted as saying that not only had their feet been bound, up until Mao’s rule over China, their minds were bound too. As a result of Mao building more schools, girls and women gained more education. Community nurseries and kindergartens were even set up so that when the mothers were out working, the children could be looked after. Finally here it was: Women had their newfound freedom under Mao’s leadership.

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