Painful Chinese Foot-Binding Was More Than An Erotic Practice, Study Finds

Chinese foot-binding is perceived today as unusual, gruesome, an antiquated fetish, an erotic tradition. 

For decades in China, young girls? bones were broken and their feet tightly bound in a painful process that would eventually make them appear more desirable to men, according to historians. Their deformed feet, known as lotus feet, were tucked into embroidered shoes and viewed as delicate and dainty. It was a way to show off their social status. It was, at the time, chic.

One study, however, suggests that there was another reason girls were subjected to the practice ? and it wasn?t all about beauty or sex.

Research published in the book Bound Feet, Young Hands suggests that some women?s feet had been bound at a very young age so they could be trained to sit still for hours and help create textiles and clothing for the family.

?What?s groundbreaking about our work is that [foot-binding was] not confined to the elite,? Laurel Bossen, the book?s co-author, told HuffPost. The study, Bossen added, dispels the view that the goal was only to try to please men.

To uncover this little-known history of foot-binding, Bossen and the book?s co-author, researcher Hill Gates, interviewed over 1,800 elderly women in remote villages across China and found that foot-binding was widespread among peasant populations, shattering the belief that foot-binding was a status symbol of the elite.

All the women surveyed were born when foot-binding was still an accepted tradition. It?s unclear when the practice began exactly, but Bossen believes foot-binding in China goes back as far as 1,000 years.

?As the last generation of these foot-bound women disappears, we fortunately managed to interview many of them,? Bossen told HuffPost. ?There is no other body of data based on interviews with foot-bound women that is as comprehensive as this. It was really a last chance to do it.?

The type of foot-binding practiced in rural communities was a form of discipline, the book argues. Mothers bound young girls? feet so they would stay still and work with their hands, creating yarn and spinning thread, among other things, which families could use or sell.

?Women who bound their daughters? feet had their own interests in controlling the labor of young girls and young women,? she said. ?We reject the view that women were exempted from work, treasuring their precious bound feet and not economically important. They developed hand skills and worked with their hands throughout their lives.?

These new findings, Bossen believes, prove that women in rural areas who had bound feet didn?t get the recognition they deserved.

?Chinese women were contributing more to society than they received credit for,? she said of the rural women with bound feet. ?They were making very important contributions in the form of textiles [that have] been undervalued and mostly just forgotten.?

And while this new research suggests that this painful practice wasn?t solely for men?s desire, it doesn?t make the practice any less oppressive.

Bossen explained, ?It robbed young girls and then women throughout their lives of their ability to do other things, to move around and play, to have more choices. Of course it?s oppressive.?

The practice of foot-binding began to be banned in the early 20th century, though some women, like those interviewed by Bossen, kept their feet bound their entire lives. Bossen believes the stories of the women she interviewed might have gotten lost in history as their generation passed away. 

Still, Bossen and Gates? book doesn?t deny that ?lotus feet? were created to make a woman appear more desirable. Accounts written by feet-bound women in 19th century China, published by the University of Virginia, show that women often believed the tighter the foot-binding, the better the husband they?d attract. 

The research does, however, show that these women were more than just sexualized objects. They worked hard to contribute to their families and to the larger society.

?We often underestimate how important handwork was in China?s pre-industrial economy,? she told HuffPost. ?The intense pressure on women to work with their hands, to spin, weave, sew, and stitch cloth, bedding and textile products for their families and for sale has gone unrecognized.?

Their research, Bossen added, aims to look at the whole woman and not just her bound feet.

?Somehow, people have been so fascinated by the feet that they ignored the rest of the woman and what she did,? she said.

?It?s very rare to find people who notice the role of handwork in the lives of foot-bound women or who ask these elderly women what work they did when they were young girls.?

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Jared Kushner Reportedly Discussed Setting Up Secret Communication Channel With Moscow

Jared Kushner, President Donald Trump?s adviser and son-in-law, reportedly discussed opening a secret communication channel between the administration?s transition team and the Russian government, The Washington Post reported Friday.

According to the report, Kushner discussed that possibility with Russia?s ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, in December, before Trump?s inauguration. Specifically, Kushner reportedly asked about using Russia?s diplomatic facilities to secure the channel to avoid being monitored.

That suggestion surprised Kislyak, who is widely believed to be involved with Russia?s spying operations, according to the Post:

Kislyak reportedly was taken aback by the suggestion of allowing an American to use Russian communications gear at its embassy or consulate ? a proposal that would have carried security risks for Moscow as well as the Trump team.

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was fired in February after he discussed U.S. sanctions against Russia with Kislyak and then lied about it, also attended the meeting, as was reported in March

The White House didn?t immediately return a request for comment on the Post?s report.

Read the full Washington Post report here.

The article comes one day after the Post reported that Kushner is under investigation as part of the FBI?s probe into whether Trump?s campaign team actively colluded with Russian officials to try to sway the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.

Kushner is one of Trump?s most trusted advisers and has been tasked with myriad policy issues in the White House. He is married to Trump?s eldest daughter, Ivanka, and had spent his career as a real estate developer.

In March, it was revealed that Kushner had failed to disclose his meeting with Kislyak in December as well as a sit-down meeting with the head of a Russian state-owned bank on his security clearance forms for his White House post. Kushner has agreed to meet with the Senate Intelligence Committee to discuss those meetings.

The White House has described both meetings as routine.

On Kushner?s talk with Kislyak, the White House said in March: ?The two spoke about potentially establishing a more open line of communication in the future. The meeting was similar to dozens of others that took place over the course of the campaign with representatives of other foreign countries. They have not reconnected since the initial meeting.?

The Post?s article about Kushner is just the latest in a string of reports about Trump associates? alleged ties to Russian officials.

Earlier this week, The New York Times reported that Russian officials had discussed how to influence several Trump campaign officials, including Flynn and onetime campaign manager Paul Manafort. Both Flynn and Manafort are under FBI investigation for their ties to Russia. 

The Washington Post reported Monday that Trump had allegedly asked his intelligence chiefs to publicly push back on the Russia investigation, a request they denied.

And last week, reports emerged that Trump allegedly asked then-FBI Director James Comey in February to stop his bureau?s investigation of Flynn. Trump fired Comey roughly three months later, citing ?this Russia thing? as part of why he decided to terminate the FBI director. 

Amid increased scrutiny and talk of impeachment, the Justice Department has appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller to serve as special counsel to oversee the Russia probe.

Trump and the White House, meanwhile, have denied any wrongdoing and have dismissed the Russia investigation as a ?witch hunt.? 

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