I’m delighted to introduce you to my guest blogger Rona Steinberg, co-founder of an exciting new event for women – and men – called IN THIS BODY. In this exclusive essay for the Bound Feet Blues blog, she writes about her response to the practice of footbinding and reflects on how it can open up topical and relevant discussions for us as modern women about our relationship to our bodies.
I’m sitting drinking coffee with Yang-May last week in the tranquil surroundings of the courtyard of Southwark Cathedral. It’s late afternoon and it’s been raining but now the weather is clearer and while there’s a chill in the air, we want to sit outside where it’s fresh and mellow and we’re close enough to the river to feel its energy.
Yang-May describes some of the background behind Bound Feet Blues and while I’ve heard some of this story before, I find myself as usual caught up in the compelling drama of her narrative. The story feels urgent, important, it’s vital to bear witness, to stay calm and focus, I tell myself.
And yet my body protests.
Distorting our bodies
My stomach twists with the horror of her description of the actual physical process of the foot binding, my heart cries for the suffering of girls and women, their pain and helplessness and for their mothers, conditioned to believe they do this in service of their daughters. My whole being rages at the sheer injustice, cruelty and harshness of a society which says you must deform and distort your bodies for the pleasure of men.
We wonder if despite how awful it is to listen to all this, if perhaps it’s more possible to stay with the narrative because it feels as if it comes from history, from a different world. And even as I think this, I counter that argument with the knowledge, that no, terrible things are still done to women’s bodies as a way of controlling them, as a way of giving pleasure to men. And still perhaps even more sadly, some women continue to believe that this deception must be maintained for some skewed version of how the status quo must look.
I think how fortunate I am that such things have never happened to me, how would I react if it did, what would I do? Would I submit or resist? Comply or rebel?
A woman’s body in a man’s world
And I reflect on my own experiences of being a girl, a woman in my body. I think about becoming a lawyer, how much my own body, mind and sensibilities resisted the logical thinking that the law requires, how in those sombre, masculine offices how much of myself I denied – my creativity, quirkiness, imagination, intuition and emotional intelligence – in favour of drab documents and endless legal argument. I tried so very hard to be and look professional and competent but I don’t think I was very convincing.
Rona Steinberg, Out Loud Coaching
I remember crying because I couldn’t grasp the mysteries of a balance sheet however much that irritated Continue reading