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Until 1949, the ideal length for women's feet as long as this bar   

The bound feet of an adult woman


The 'ideal' length of a perfect foot, called the "Golden Lotus", was three inches long. This was a rare occurrence, this 3 inch perfection, but it was something to strive for nonetheless. Perfect feet were seen as a type of dowry to sweeten the pot when trying to marry off your daughter to someone with Standing. If your feet ended up over four inches long you could pretty much forget them bringing you any extra leverage when marriage offers came around - they were considered too large, and ruined; all the work done to mutilate them had been a "waste" of time.

When a girl turned anywhere from three to six years old in China, her mom would rip up strips of cloth and start binding her feet. The wrappings would be taken off daily, then rewound tighter and tighter. Sometimes the toes would be broken right away and folded under the foot; otherwise they would just be gradually bound in that direction so they'd end up there. The many bones in the top of the foot would be broken and the ball of the foot buckled in, then wrapped to the heel. It was common for the bound toes to develop gangrene due to lack of circulation and fall off. This was thought of as a blessing because it would enable the feet to be made smaller still. The girl would never be able to stand again; or play. If by some chance they even managed to stand up for one second, it was unstable and painful. That was considered insignificant in the quest for tiny feet.

All in the name of sex.

The story goes that the practice started in the 9th century when an Imperial concubine had her feet bound because her Prince loved her little feet. Other women started copying this "desirable" look, and the teeter-totter sway it produced as you tried not to fall on your face somehow got to be seen as 'erotic'. In ancient Chinese sex manuals, the fold between the ball and heel of the foot was the preferred site for intercourse. Whether the women got a thing out of the whole act was less than unimportant. Foot binding was designed to literally keep women in their place. Regarded as property, they couldn't walk more than a few steps with out someone to support them. This guaranteed they weren't going to get anywhere unless they were willing to crawl.

In spite of all this, they were expected to keep up with all daily duties including house cleaning and child raising. Stools were often put in chains in the homes and kitchens so all the women could scoot from one to the next without their feet touching the floor, or they would endure a life of traveling on their knees which would cause blistering and swelling of excruciating proportions. Many women spent their "leisure" time making elaborate shoes for themselves. The ability to decorate the deformity was also seen as an expected part of the "art".

Yet sadly and strangely, mothers with bound feet were willing to do this to their own daughters. Poor families saw it as a possible ticket to better days for their daughters; for the wealthy it was status and proof of a girl's worth.

The practice of foot binding wasn't made illegal until the formation of the People's Republic of China in 1949.
An attempt had been made to outlaw it around 1911 but by then so many were in the process of having their feet bound that there was no turning back.

This means there could be women today as young as their late 50s who are living in this very modern world with feet that will never allow them to walk it

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