Grand Council: Feminists Rewrite Chinese History


Feminism penetrates through history as the Grand Council’s vote on the directive “I, An Intellectual Feminist” passes, rewriting history for women in China forever. In retrospect, can one think of something wrong about this directive?

The directive demanded quite a few things: access to higher education for women; access to the Civil Examination and governmental positions; abolition of the practice of foot binding; providing of free medical care for people suffered from foot binding; pardoning of past imposers of foot binding; and a heavy fine on future foot binding imposers.

This is absolutely surreal for three reasons. First, the bedrock of China’s power is its tributary system. The tributary system sees a generous patriarch rewarding his cousins and other distant siblings for being loyal and recognizing his authority, through which the patriarch satisfies his vanity. And more importantly, it proves once again that his rule is just, authentic, and accepted universally.

If we dig a little bit deeper, however, we see that the tributary system is deeply rooted in patriarchy: more specifically, somebody is the owner of the house, and he is above all the others. The abolishment of foot binding might seem insignificant, but it will undoubtedly shake the foundation of this patriarchal ideology, which can cause political instability on a national level.

Second, this is again people judging a traditional practice from a modern, liberal point of view, which does not reflect the wilder scope of history. China had only one female emperor in its history, Wu Zetian, the emperor of Tang dynasty, one of China’s most prosperous times both economically and culturally. It was also, of course, a time when the rights of women were most protected. But all of these achievements couldn’t have happened without the time and money provided by an economically sound and politically stable nation. The Qing dynasty is not, in contrast, rich or stable, making it an inopportune time for people to change a long-perpetrated mindset.

Third, foot binding, as a cultural product, is not in itself intended to hurt other human beings; rather, it was created for a specific reason. Foot binding occurred because people were willing to do so for social or economic benefits. At that specific period of time, it was a beauty standard shared by all of the Chinese people, which is why we see them in painting, poetry and music pieces. Imagine what we could lose culturally if it was brutally taken away.

Will the Grand Council be open about foot binding now? It would be interesting to find out.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s