Bound by Beauty- Ruth Fanlight "Flower Feet"

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English 1102 Bound by Beauty British poet, Ruth Fainlight, visited the Whitworth Museum in Manchester, England. An artifact there inspired her to write the poem “Flower Feet” in 1989. What she saw were silk shoes that had been worn by Chinese women. Although the shoes are beautiful and intricately detailed, the emphasis of Flower Feet is not actually the shoes, but was the women attached to the feet they housed. She wrote that “Real women’s feet wore these objects that look like toys or spectacle cases stitched from bands of coral, jade, and apricot silk embroidered with twined sprays of flowers” (636). Fainlight reveals in her poem empathy for the women who wore these shoes. Is it acceptable to cause harm to another human being for the sake of “beauty”? As a magnifying glass is placed to the poem “Flower Feet”, the words of the poem bring forth a desire to examine what footbinding is, the history and dynamics of China, and why footbinding was an iniquitous practice. Footbinding is performed to prevent a female’s foot from growing. Indeed, in her book “Splendid Slippers”, Beverley Jackson states that “The key attribute of the perfectly bound foot, of course, was length. Three inches, or even less, was the ideal” (24). In order to achieve this size, there had to be assurance that the foot would stop growing. If the foot was too long it was thought that these women would not get a husband. To achieve this, “the usual age for beginning the binding of a girls foot was between five and seven years. It could be done as early as two and attempted up to age twelve or thirteen” (Jackson 27). The procedure performed to achieve this task entails breaking the foot. At the age of six, the “foot is still composed primarily of pre-bone cartilage which is predominantly water, and is therefore more easily molded” (Jackson 27). In fact, in the academic journal Postcolonial
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