Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Women, Culture & Beauty

I have been reading a book called "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan" written by Lisa Lee a Chinese American writer. The story takes place in China in the time when girls were considered a burden and their sole worth was making a good marriage and producing a male heir. To obtain a good marriage it was essential that the girls have very small feet referred to as their 'Golden Lotus'. Feet were considered small if they were three inches or less and had to have a perfect pointed shape. To obtain this mothers bound their young daughter's feet, breaking their toes. The process was very painful and sometimes the girls either died of infection or they were completely crippled for life. Successful foot binding made it ackward and painful for women to walk keeping the women confined to their houses and out of the world of men.
When I first read about the practice I was completely horrified that mothers would do this to their children and I wondered how the women themselves could ever think this was something of beauty. Then I began to think of all the things modern women do today to make themselves beautiful or at least our concept of beautiful. Cosmetic surgery, breast enlargements, liposuction, tattoos, piercings and even hair removal all have some elements of pain involved in them and all of them can be dangerous to some degree yet we do it and accept the pain and the risks. Every woman has heard the saying "It takes pains to be beautiful" and what woman has not envied a stick thin model seen in a magazine even though we know that most of those models have to put their health at risk by starving themselves to succeed in the world of modeling. Why do we do this to ourselves. Does it really accomplish anything important in our lives and what makes us strive for the perfect body or face? Really is there such a thing as perfect when it comes to our bodies or faces? Isn't it like trying to define the term normal when applied to human beings. What is normal or perfect? I think the terms of normal and perfect are dictated by society and men have pretty much ruled society and some of these normal and perfect things that have been dictated to us all our lives have kept us out of the world of men and dependant upon the approval of our peers as much as foot binding kept the young women of China confined to their houses and dependent upon their husbands and families.

1 comment:

  1. I read this book too. Our reading lists seem to be eerily similar. ;-) I was struck by the sadness these women seemed to experience after they were "saved" by the practice. After reading the book it was clear the practice was more than skin (or bone) deep.