This blog will focus on global perceptions of beauty and the effect of this on the physical and mental well-being of women internationally. Throughout the quarter, this blog will look at how perceptions of beauty have changed over time and also the extensive measures women go through to conform to such perceptions of beauty. Furthermore, this blog will show how what is considered “beautiful” varies between different countries and cultures.
For my first blog topic, I will focus on the rather painful cultural beauty practice of foot binding because I believe that it is a topic that many people are vaguely familiar with, but do not know the history of foot binding or its harmful consequences.
The Chinese tradition of foot binding began in 10th century and was practiced until 1912, when it was banned . Despite the ban though, many women still continued to bind their feet in secret. Foot binding was initially very popular among court circles and the wealthy. Over time though, the practice spread to more rural areas, where young girls realized that having bound feet was not only a status symbol but it could also help them to marry someone wealthy. By the 19th century, approximately 40-50% of all Chinese women had bound their feet. In the upper classes, virtually all women bound their feet .
The process of foot binding was very painful. Generally before the age of 14, when the bones were softer, a girl would have almost all the bones in her foot broken. Then a tight binding was wrapped around the foot, so that the bones repaired themselves in a new and smaller form. Eventually the soles of the feet would bend inwards. Sometimes, the foot binding process even occurred as early as the age of three.
Women went through all this pain because of the cultural belief that binding their feet would turn them into a highly desirable “three-inch golden lotus,” with the three inches referring to the ideal foot length . Not only was having bound feet considered beautiful and alluring, but for men, bound feet became a sexual fetish, as reflected in the pornography of the era .
Foot binding had many notable effects on women. Besides the physical pain that many of these women felt during the binding process, infections were common and ulceration, gangrene and paralysis sometimes occurred. Furthermore, some scholars claim that the practice of foot binding made women more dependent on men and thus increased female subjugation, by restricting their movements and preventing women from traveling far from their homes. Indeed, feet were generally so compressed that women had to hobble around and lean on either other people or stationary objects for support .
Unfortunately the effects of food binding are generally not reversible and this ancient practice has continued to affect the lives of elderly Chinese women today. A UCSF study that looked at the consequences of foot binding found that elderly women with bound feet were less able to rise from a chair without assistance and were more likely to have fallen within the previous year in comparison to women with normal feet. Researchers also found that these women had a harder time squatting .
Throughout a large part of China’s history women participated in foot binding for social mobility, the chance to marry into wealth, and because small feet were considered beautiful. However, as we have seen foot binding perfectly exemplifies the old-saying that “beauty is pain.”
 npr.org “Painful Memories for China’s Footbinding Survivors.” By Louisa Lim
 The Sex Life of the Food and Shoe by William Rossi
 The Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco. http://www.sfmuseum.org/chin/foot.html
For more information on foot binding, please watch this informative YouTube clip. Chinese Foot Binding