Saturday, 29 November 2014


This week’s theme has so much scope, I’ve found it tough paring down ideas to something that can be shoe-horned into the Saturday blog. Nevertheless, here it is, containing not one pome, but two, you lucky things. We’ll kick off [loving the pedestrian allusions] with a pithy verse lifted straight from The Corrected Works of the Metatarsal Poets. It’s both untitled and uncredited:
God sure wasn’t no Da Vinci
Ma shoes is fine but ma feet feels pinchy!
I think we know where that writer was coming from, don’t we?

Skipping smartly along… Having dated a dancer I’m in no doubt that feet are the most important part of the human anatomy after the heart! I'm told they take an unholy battering in the name of art. I was never a proficient dancer myself, though I have been known to move it, move it on occasions and music is an abiding love of my life. 

One of my favourite bands from the psychedelic sixties was Blossom Toes, so called “for no good reason and no bad one either”, though the name was suggestive of happy flowering feet. There may even have been oriental overtones to it, which is a neat side-step into the much more serious main theme of the blog, the historical practice of foot-binding (also known euphemistically as “lotus feet”).

The origins of this custom are somewhat obscure, but it became prevalent in China during the Song dynasty when bound feet in women apparently became both a mark of beauty and a pre-requisite for finding a suitable husband. Despite attempts by sectarian powers and religious groups to ban it, foot-binding was still practised until well into the 20th century in parts of that country. 

The process had to begin when girls were as young as four and consisted of them having their toenails pared right back, their toes bent under – and in extreme cases the bones deliberately broken – before the feet were bound tightly to restrict their growth and alter their configuration into the unnaturally compressed shape evidenced in the image above. Professional binders were frequently employed to do this, as mothers would be too sympathetic to their daughters’ suffering to make the bindings tight enough! The deformation took several painful years to complete but by the time a girl was in her teens, if she had overcome the twin hazards of infection and poor circulation, she would possess perfect – but perpetually difficult to walk on – lotus feet! She could only walk by taking tiny, dainty steps, placing most of her weight on her heels because any pressure on the deformed toes was unpleasant at best, excruciating at worst. The supposed attraction of this ‘fashion’ was that it lent women an erotic gait which also had the alleged advantage of strengthening their vaginal muscles! In practice, of course it just served to disenfranchise women, restricting their mobility and opportunities to socialise, literally making it difficult for them to step out into the world of men, keeping them docile and domesticated. I'm thankful that we live in slightly more emancipated times.
My poem this week is still a work-in-progress, so any feedback is appreciated...

Lotus Feet
Love that breaks? Ties that bind?
I thank my parents for being so kind!
See me totter, see me poise,
my pain is dainty.

So, you have bartered, you have claimed me
as your prize.
Take my person. Take my rose. No tears flow.
You have shackled my feet,
but never my mind -
and if I dance, and if I flower,
my satisfaction and my sadness
both in equal measure
are that you will never know,
for they are secret pleasures.
I won’t be sharing them with you!

Thanks for reading. Have a good week. S.


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Adele said...

Women in the Westernised world have taken giant leaps. And yet there are so many subjugating practices still to be resolved worldwide. Thank you so much for this blog Steve.

Christo said...

Thanks very much for such and interesting and informative post, Steve.
It is alarming the lengths male-dominated societies (ie. all societies still) will go to in order to keep docile the women who outnumber and are so often much brighter than blokes.
And your poems are serious garbed as giggles.