In the U.S., when we think of Chinese foot binding or female genital cutting, we may be horrified or even saddened by the practices. We automatically assume “mutilation” and “disfigurement”, without truly understanding the practice and what it means for that culture. As discussed in the power point, foot binding and female genital cutting are since as expressions of ethnic identity, religious piety, obedience towards parents, signal of an obedient daughter-in-law, that she will be a good wife, sexual appeal, wealth, moving up in social class, faithfulness to ones husband, etc., depending on the people and culture in question. The article “Foot binding” discusses what this means for a young girl and what it signifies for her and her family. Not binding a poor child’s feet automatically forces her into being a servant or they become “little daughter-in-law”, which are both very low standing positions in the home and signify how they will be treated throughout their own lifetime. The ways in which a mother treats her daughter during this time signify the love a mother feels for her. In this instance, this first show of love comes from the mother spending her dowry on special pieces of silk for the binding of her daughters feet. Upon being slapped by her mother for her “special circumstances” and her multiple beatings after, the girl explained that this was the “first time Mama had shown me her mother love”. In this culture, beatings and slaps are a form of motherly love, luck, and warding away of bad spirits. During the times of learning, the daughter learns many skills that will make her into a worthy wife and elegant woman worthy of being someone’s daughter-in-law. Foot binding makes the daughter “marriageable”. The girl explains that, her feet, “would be offered as proof to my prospective in-laws of my personal discipline and my ability to endure the pain of childbirth… show the world my obedience to my family, particularly to my mother… my feet would be something that would hold my husband’s fascination during the most private and intimate moments between a man and a woman”. For the daughter, her foot binding decides her whole life and how she will fit in in her home, in her society, and in her social sphere. It is very important that if a family can afford to wrap their daughters feet, that they do. For Muslim identities, female circumcision is also extremely important to the culture. Circumcision occurs at high rights in the Muslim community and are essential to continue on with the culture. In Madura, “98% of men and 94.7% of women interviewed were circumcised”, which are extremely high numbers compared to other countries. This is because children link preceding generations with those yet to come. This makes children of high value in the culture. This idea means that rituals at birth are extremely important and necessary because they “imbue the child with the values of the preceding generation that will maintain the quality of the family vertically through the generations as well as enhancing horizontal communal relationships”. Circumcision of the child at birth is important to the families values and qualities, and can have lasting affects for the family. To not perform this circumcision could mean poor values and qualities for the family that would result in a lack of wealthy or ability to prosper. If we outlawed the practices in this countries, I feel that people would turn to more crucial ways in order to carry them out. There would be far reaching affects because there would be no way to signify which women were more worthy of marriage and there may be a turn towards finding something new to signify why they are more worthy.
In the video “The Perfect Vagina”, we see an increase in vaginal plastic surgery by 200% in the UK. The vagina and having one that is pretty is linked to being able to hold a relationship, having the perfect body, and feeling attractive. This surgery is quickly being normalized and becoming socially acceptable. The increasingly interesting thing that seems to be disregarded is that female circumcision and vaginal plastic surgery are very similar concepts and ideas. While we normalize it in places like the UK, which is considered a developed or Western Society, we are horrified and disgusted by the practice in what we consider to be developing societies. If we outlawed vaginal plastic surgery, I feel that the girls would try and find some other way to look like other women or feel more attractive. The fact that we have normalized the practice leads me to believe that they would just as easily normalize another practice to make young girls feel pretty or comfortable in their own skin.
Newland, L. (2006). Female circumcision: Muslim identities and zero tolerance policies in rural West Java. Womens Studies International Forum, 29(4), 394-404. doi:10.1016/j.wsif.2006.05.005
See, L. (2006). Snow flower and the secret fan: A novel. New York: Random House.