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.


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


Yang-May Ooi will be at Papergang’s Echo Event at Bush Theatre, 20 Oct 2015 for a night of East Asian stories

Yang-May Ooi will be taking part in an evening of East Asian story-exchanges with other established and upcoming East Asian artists at the Bush Theatre on 20 Oct 2015. The event is hosted by Papergang Theatre, a platform for British East Asian artist.

Papergang Echo event at Bush Theatre 20Oct15 screenshot

Here is what Papergang has to say about the evening:

“Through a mix of performance, poetry and music, established and up-and-coming artists are keen to share their tales, to awaken us, to connect us and to inspire…

Listen as our guests divulge personal anecdotes born from the different cultures that have shaped them – fantastical tales, personal truths, memories of far-flung shores or incidents that happened right here in our city.”

The event is already sold out!

Yang-May will be performing an extract from Bound Feet Blues. She says: “I’m also looking forward to seeing Continue reading

IN THIS BODY – From domination to resistance to freedom

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