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Huanyuan Li: BINDING


Huanyuan Li

Oil on Canvas

The history of foot binding in China reflects changes of women’s roles and social status. The convention was prevalent in China for centuries. It originally catered to men’s sexual interest. A pair of small feet in the past ensures a woman’s competitiveness in the marriage market. Because a walking disability assures loyalty to the marriage: the wife cannot run away from the husband. In the name of love to children, parents and female relatives play inevitable roles in the prevalence of this practice. Most girls start the practice at only 5-7 years old with help of female family members. In my painting series, through overlapping found historical images of women with bound feet and my own photographs, I want to create a visual dialogue between Chinese women from now and the past. Through the angle of feet, I raise questions about how individuals’ lives were violently attacked by traditional morals and beauty standards defined by the patriarchy and discuss equal rights and feminism in our current time. (This oil painting series is funded by the Stamps Undergraduate Research Fund 2020)