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Of course, there is no way to know for sure why this practice became popular with so many Chinese. But, to me, there are two major reasons.
First, I think it is because this was such a male-dominated society. Men could pretty much tell women what to do and so they could force them to have this rather painful thing done.
Second, I think that the bound feet somehow became a status symbol. If your wife had feet like that, it showed that you did not need her to work -- you could afford to have her unable to do much but sit around.
Neither of these explain why the practice started in the first place, but they do help to explain why it could come to be done by so many people.
I believe the practice of binding girls' feet in order to make them tiny and deformed was primarily intended to make it nearly impossible for women to leave their homes. Walking was uncomfortable. They learned to stay close to home and to be satisfied with domestic chores. It is true that men found tiny feet attractive--but it should be pointed out that it was the women, usually the mothers, who did the arduous work of binding girls' feet over and over for years. It was the girls who had their feet bound and deformed. It was probably women--not men--who first thought of the idea of foot-binding. If men had had the task of binding girls' feet, the practice would have died out practically overnight. Women punish themselves. With so-called female castration, it is females who have the operation performed, females who perform the operation, females who bring their daughters to have the operation performed, and no doubt it was females who thought of the idea in the first place. It was probably also females who thought of blaming foot-binding and female castration on the men. Yet if females stopped doing such things to themselves they would stop very quickly.
We still see women ruining their feet and their legs with four-inch high heels and sharp pointed toes. Why is this? Let's blame it on the men!
It became a desirable fashion for women to have tiny feet, because wealthy men were more attracted to women with their feet bound. Most young girls were forced to have their feet binded by there parents because there was a much higher chance that a wealthy man would want to marry them. Binded feet were a sign of wealth and considered beautiful, it became a sexual desirability among elite men so many women wanted to have there feet binded for this reason.
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