Smashing stereotypical portrayals of East Asian women in books and theatre [video]

Yang-May Ooi, writer/ performer of Bound Feet Blues spoke at the launch of the Anglo Asiatic Arts & Heritage Alliance launch in April about “Tiger Spirit Women” – dynamic, intelligent, independent and fierce East Asian women who are the anti-thesis of the stereotypical portrayal of them in books and theatre in Western culture.

Yang-May says: “My creative work is dedicated to smashing the stereotype of the docile, passive China-doll like East Asian woman who exists solely in the domestic sphere and to portraying us as we really are – active agents taking our place in the world, capable, empowered and forces to be reckoned with.”

In her talk, she discusses her two novels, The Flame Tree and Mindgame, and Bound Feet Blues as well as her new theatre and book project Butterfly in Blue Jeans.

You can watch her whole talk in this video below (approx 8 mins):

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You can  BUY BOUND FEET BLUES, THE BOOK – please click on the links below:

AMAZON.CO.UK

AMAZON.COM

URBANE PUBLICATIONS 

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Doing the Unimaginable – Bound Feet Blues at the Oxford Literary Festival

Writer/ performer Yang-May Ooi will be featured at the Oxford Literary Festival in a solo event as part of the St Hilda’s Writers Day on Saturday 09 April. Yang-May will perform an extract from Bound Feet Blues and talk about Doing the Unimaginable – how and why women in China practiced the brutal process of footbinding on their daughters for a thousand years.

Yang-May writes:

I’m delighted to have been invited back to Oxford by my old college St Hilda’s as part of the Oxford Literary Festival. Bound Feet Blues opens in Oxford as I stroll across Magdalen Bridge from St Hilda’s to a summer ball with a gang of my friends in our ball gowns with our boyfriends in black tie. So it feels just perfect to be heading back to Oxford to talk about my show and the accompanying book of the same name.

Here’s some blurb:

The brutal practice of footbinding is unimaginable to us today but was the norm for women in ancient China. In her one woman show Bound Feet Blues – A Life Told in Shoes, inspired by her great-grandmother who had bound feet, writer/ performer Yang-May Ooi explores what led those women to do the unimaginable in breaking and binding their daughters’ feet for the sake of beauty – and why footbinding is still relevant in modern times. In this talk for St Hilda’s Writers Day, she draws from the themes of love and courage in her theatre piece to discuss what it means to do the unimaginable as mothers, daughters and creative artists today. Yang-May will also be performing a short extract from the show.

There’ll also be the chance to buy a copy of the book – and I’ll of course be around to sign your personal copy.

Bound Feet Blues performance photo: Yang-May uses her hands on stage to demonstrate footbinding

If you’re in the Oxford area on Saturday 09 April, it would be lovely to see you at this one hour event. If you’d like to say hello afterwards, please do drop me a line and I’ll keep an eye out for you – or just come up and say “hi”.

If you know anyone in the Oxford area who might be interested to come along, please do tell them about the event. It would be great to see some warm and friendly faces in the crowd.

EVENT DETAILS:

Bound Feet Blues: Doing the Unimaginable – Yang-May Ooi

When: Saturday 09 April 2016, 12pm (1 hour)

Where: Jesus College, Oxford – Lecture Theatre

Tickets: £12

BUY TICKETS NOW

 

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If you can’t make it you can still Continue reading

Bound feet and what it means to be a woman – The Women’s Institute, East Dulwich 03 February 2016

Writer/ performer of Bound Feet Blues, Yang-May Ooi, will be speaking about bound feet and what it means to be a woman at the WI (Women’s Institute) East Dulwich SE22 on Wednesday 03 February 2016.

eastdulwichwi

Yang-May writes:

I’m delighted to have been invited to speak at the WI at the Literary Evening with Local Authors. Here’s the line up for the evening;

Lloyd Shepherd is an author of three historical thrillers, The English Monster, The Polished Island and Savage Magic.  He will be speaking to us about his latest book, Savage Magic.

Yang-May Ooi will be presenting on her newest book, Bound Feet Blues which is a story told through the shoes she has worn in her life. Yang-May is also author of the best selling novel, the Flame Tree.

Rebecca Mackenzie will be reading an excerpt from her debut novel, In a Land of Paper Gods.

Harry from Dulwich Books will also be joining us with the above mentioned authors books as well as a selection of their top picks.

I’ll be talking about why bound feet are still relevant to us today as modern women in the West and how feet and shoes can invite us to think about what it means to be a woman.

bound foot in chinese slipper

 

normal foot in high heels

 

I’m also looking forward to meeting the WI members and hearing the other authors talk about their books. It’s going to be a fascinating evening.

It’s a private WI event – if you’rea member it would be lovely to see you there. If not, you can enquire Continue reading

The power of vulnerability to inspire others – Yang-May Ooi talks about performing Bound Feet Blues

Yang-May Ooi talks about allowing herself to be vulnerable on stage in performing Bound Feet Blues and how vulnerability can inspire others to connect with their heart and  humanity.  You can read the full interview by writer/ journalist Anna Sayburn Lane on her blog, Bloomsbury Bluestocking.

Click on the image below to go to Anna’s blog to read the full article…

bloomsbury blue screenshot

Bloomsbury Bluestocking is a blog about writing and literature by Anna Sayburn Lane.  Anna is a novelist, short story writer and storyteller, inspired by the history and contemporary life of London. She is editing her first novel,Unlawful Things, and contemplating novel number two. She has published short stories in a number of magazines.

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You can buy tickets for Bound Feet Blues via bit.ly/bfbtickets

DETAILS

Tristan Bates Theatre
1A Tower St, Covent Garden WC2H 9NP

Tue 24 Nov – Sat 12 Dec, Tue – Sat at 7.30pm.
Tickets £16 / £12 concessions.
Q&As post-show, 27 Nov & 4 Dec.

One week to the opening night of Bound Feet Blues! Have you got your ticket yet?

Yang-May Ooi’s astonishing one woman show Bound Feet Blues will open in one week’s time on Tuesday 24 November 2015 at Tristan Bates Theatre. Have you got your ticket yet?

Not yet? Don’t miss this extra-ordinary tour de force solo performance. You can still buy tickets via bit.ly/bfbtickets

Bound Feet Blues takes us back to ancient China to the inner chamber of a mother with bound feet as she describes and demonstrates the brutal practice of footbinding on her daughter. We may judge this in our modern times as cruel but if we were women living in that time, would we do the same out of love for our little girl?

We also see Yang-May as a tomboy aged 10 and as Continue reading

The Legacy of Our Stories – read writer/ performer Yang-May Ooi’s article on the blog of the Life Enhancing Coach, Sue Plumtree

As older women, we have a wealth of wisdom and experience. But are we sharing those riches with others or are we hiding them from the world? Writer/ performer Yang-May Ooi is taking to the West End stage for the first time, aged 52, to tell her personal story and she wants more women in mid-life to make a difference to others through sharing their stories. She shares her story on the blog of the Life Enhancing Coach, Sue Plumtree

You can read the full article on Sue’s blog by clicking on the image below:

sue-plumtree-screenshot

Sue Plumtree  is an established author. Her first book ‘Across a Crowded Room: how to find and keep the love of your life’ (Hodder Headline) was followed by ‘Dancing with the Mask: learning to love and be loved’ (find out more here).

She is regularly interviewed by the media, including BBC Radio 4’s ‘Woman’s Hour’, ‘late night with Graham Torrington’, ‘The Daily Mail’, ‘The Daily Telegraph’, ‘The Observer’ and Continue reading

Yang-May Ooi on Radio 4 Midweek talking about Bound Feet Blues – audio

Writer/ performer Yang-May Ooi was on Radio 4 Midweek earlier this week talking about Bound Feet Blues with Libby Purves and other guests Sally Bagnall, Diana Melly and Michael Portillo. Listen to the end to hear her asking Michael Portillo whether he would wear high heel shoes…!

Click on the image below to listen to the audio:

midweek screenshot

OR click here to listen

Comments from listeners:

” I loved your tea carrying story, your ‘would you wear high heels Michael?’ moment, and your use of the word ‘brutal’ to describe foot binding. It was brutal!”

“You were wonderful! particularly enjoyed your question to Portillo re- high heels.”

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BUY TICKETS to Bound Feet Blues

**You can buy tickets for Bound Feet Blues via bit.ly/bfbtickets **

DETAILS

Tristan Bates Theatre
1A Tower St, Covent Garden WC2H 9NP

Tue 24 Nov – Sat 12 Dec, Tue – Sat at 7.30pm.
Tickets £16 / £12 concessions.
Q&As post-show, 27 Nov & 4 Dec.

**BUY ONLINE via: bit.ly/bfbtickets **

In the studio

L-R: Polly Bagnall, Diana Melly, Yang-May Ooi, Michael Portillo Credit: BBC Midweek

Read Yang-May Ooi’s article on Coming Out as an Act of Personal Empowerment on Zusterschap for National Coming Out Day

The male gaze has controlled how women look and behave for centuries. In ancient China, that view of women as decorative objects led to the brutal practice of footbinding that crippled Chinese women for a thousand years. Today, women in the West are still expected to be pleasing to men in how we dress and act. In celebration of National Coming Out Day, writer/ performer Yang-May Ooi looks at how coming out as lesbian can be a defiance against that objectifying gaze that is as much about personal empowerment  as it is about sexual orientation….

Read the full article on Zusterchap by clicking on the image below:

zusterchap screenshot

Zusterschap is a blog for women who want to challenge social norms:

“Every woman’s voice is a victory and our goal is to highlight the power of women coming together. No topic is off limits and at Zusterschap we are dedicated to creating a safe space for women.

Our goal is to create a supportive community that anybody can support. We want to encourage people into thinking it’s okay to be different and that it’s okay to want to challenge what society tells us. You don’t have to believe what is being sold to you because it’s all made up anyway.”

Zusterschap was founded March 24th, 2015 by Tara Costello and Katherine Hockley.

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You can buy tickets for Bound Feet Blues via bit.ly/bfbtickets

DETAILS

Tristan Bates Theatre
1A Tower St, Covent Garden WC2H 9NP

Tue 24 Nov – Sat 12 Dec, Tue – Sat at 7.30pm.
Tickets £16 / £12 concessions.
Q&As post-show, 27 Nov & 4 Dec.

Bound Foot Warrior – Qiu Jin – Women’s History Month

She had bound feet but she loved riding and martial arts. She wore men’s clothing and was a firebrand orator. Her name was Qiu Jin and was a revolutionary in the early 1900s in  China.

Here is a snapshot of what Qiu Jin achieved, from Wikipedia:

“She was an eloquent orator who spoke out for women’s rights, such as the freedom to marry, freedom of education, and abolishment of the practice of foot binding. In 1906 she founded a radical women’s journal with another female poet, Xu Zihua, called China Women’s News (Zhongguo nü bao), though it published only two issues before it was closed by the authorities.[4] In 1907 she became head of the Datong school in Shaoxing, ostensibly a school for sport teachers, but really intended for the military training of revolutionaries.”

Of her early life, we learn this from Don Tow:

“Qiu Jin was born in 1875 in Fujian Province in China, and grew up in Shaoxing, Zhejiang Province. As a child of a fairly well-off family, she was very well educated, much more than other girls of her time. She was very good in literature and writing, both prose and poetry. Unlike most other girls, she was also very much interested in the outdoor and physical activities, such as riding horses and martial arts. Although her feet were bound[1] starting from about five years old as was the norm at that time for Chinese girls from reasonably well-off families, she was quite good in martial arts and other physical activities, an indication of her determination, commitment, and drive. Later as she grew older and started advocating equality for women, she stopped binding her feet.” See Qiu Jin (秋瑾) – China’s First Feminist | Don Tow’s Website.

As for footbinding and women’s rights, we can read a snippet of her writing here via the On This Deity blog (15 July 1907 The Martyrdom of Qiu Jin):

“We women, who have had our feet bound from early childhood, have suffered untold pain and misery, for which our parents showed no pity. Under this treatment our faces grew pinched and thin, and our muscles and bones were cramped and distorted. The consequence is that our bodies are weak and incapable of vigorous activity, and in everything we do we are obliged to lean on others … Sisters, let us today investigate the causes which have led to this want of spirit and energy among women. May it not be because we insist on binding up our girls’ feet at an early age, speaking of their “three-inch golden lilies” and their “captivating little steps”?

Continue reading

Women as Decorative Objects – International Women’s Day discussion panel [Women’s History Month]

In ancient China, women were treated as decorative objects – beautiful to look at, unable to leave the house because of their crippled bound feet, silent and submissive. That was the argument I made in my talk for the International Women’s Day panel discussion on Body Image hosted by the Pan Asian Women’s Association (PAWA) last week at the Nehru Centre in London.

L to R: Jee Oh, Yang-May Ooi, Sally Gloyne, Edna Fernandes

 

And that attitude to women underlies the way that women are viewed and treated today – even in our modern Western society. Of course, great strides have been made in liberal democracies for women’s rights and equality as well as for diversity. But there is still much work to be done in unbinding us from deep rooted cultural traditions that shame us for being “bossy”, old, ugly and dressed unconventionally – ie for being undecorative and for trying to be more than eye candy.

I feel passionately that the past can offer us a way in to exploring current issues in our present culture. We may look at the brutal tradition of bound feet and think that it was a weird practice that has nothing to do with us. But for the women of that time, this practice lasted for a thousand years and was done to little girls by their mothers and grandmothers. They believed that it was the right and only thing to do to guarantee happiness and a good life for their daugthers. If they had that blindspot, what is our cultural blindspot?

Where we are forced to conform to one universal Continue reading