Footbinding: A Cultural Signifier

Moving forward with the topic of foot binding, we shift our focus to semiotics to dig deeper into the subject. Through a semiotic analysis, we can use our analytical skills to further understand foot binding on another level.

start from here: This image is from the 2011 movie, Snow Flower and The Secret Fan, written by Lisa See. The movie was set in nineteenth century China and it focused on how women are victims of problems like foot binding. According to See, she wants her fans “to imagine how a few such women might have found voices of their own within, rather than in opposition to, the Confucian social order, and how they found ways to self-fulfillment without flouting their culture’s fundamental values.” (Lisa See, introductory note, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. New York: Random House (2005) p 18) .

This image accurately demonstrates the control that men have over women. nice statement

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In this image clip from the film, there is a man and a woman. The woman’s face is hidden in intricate headwear. Her foot, however, is the focal point of the image and is in the man’s hand. The foot is also is dramatically adorned, further cementing it’s importance. The environment of this image is primarily red. Both the man and the woman are wearing traditional outfits. All of this is taking place in a bedroom.

The atmosphere of this photo is intimate and sexual between the man and the woman. When looking at this image, the female’s face is hidden, demonstrating its unimportance.The identity is insignificant compared to the success of the individual’s foot binding practice. In addition, the man gazing at the foot shows the cultural norm of the feet being sexualized.

organize the analysis in a structure of denotation-connotation, complete one pair before moving to another one

This image represents control that men have over women on a greater scale. Seeing women as objects, and focusing on the ‘beauty’ of their body parts emphasizes this control. Women are mutilating their body to become what men want.

This image shows the control that men had over women in nineteenth century China. The ‘attractive’ women is one who has a small, delicate feet, that is only achieved through the torture and mutilation of oneself. Foot binding is a cultural expectation that women feel obligated to oblige by in order to have a future with a man.

We can connect foot binding to traditions such as the wearing of corsets, which were worn in order to maintain and show off an hour glass figure for men. Or the idea of the lighter the skin the more wealthy it proved someone to be. If you were tanner, it meant you were working in the fields.

Each of these traditions are somehow implemented into society’s expectations and are difficult to remove.

-Kelsey Mullaney