The smaller the foot, the higher in society a girl could rise. The girls with big feet were doomed to fall in society, or to become pitiful peasants.
I first encountered foot binding in Pearl S. Buck’s The Good Earth and later, in more detail, in Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. I looked down at my own size ten feet after reading about the long, painful, bone-breaking process of making feet smaller. My feet are twenty-four centimeters, more than three times the ideal size. I could picture my prospects in old Chinese society sinking, because of the awful trait of big feet. That was not the worst that could happen though: I read that ten percent of girls died from foot binding. My feet felt uncomfortable at just the thought of foot binding, and I was sure that I would have been in the ten percent that died.
I get my feet from my dad, who wears size fourteen shoes. We both even have toes that hide behind the middle toe. From the time I was a baby, my feet have been big. When I was born, doctors took a foot print from me. My foot print bled over the allotted space and into the text above it. I have always been fond of my feet. I was surprised to find in China, a little more than a hundred years ago, my foot size could have determined my whole life.
I had first encountered an emphasis on small feet when I saw Disney’s Cinderella. I recreated the story in my mind so that a girl with big feet got the prince. The prince in my story would say “See, there is an empty space in the shoe. You can’t be the girl I love. The girl I love has the biggest feet in the land!”
As I grew older, though, I did not want to be Cinderella. The only things she accomplished were being nauseatingly chipper and marrying a prince. Marrying a prince just did not seem like enough to me.
I am glad I live in a time, in a place where everything does not depend on having small feet or marrying a prince. I want my life to be more interesting than that. I believe in the freedom of having a life that is not determined by arbitrary standards. I believe in big feet.
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