The Body As Attire, By Dorothy Ko

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In 1997, Dorothy Ko published an article in the Journal of Women’s History called “The Body as Attire: The Shifting Meanings of Footbinding in Seventeen-Century China”. The article is organized with a brief introduction as to what footbinding is, the negative outlook on this practice due to problematic archives, and then she discusses the examples she gives to support her thesis. Ko’s thesis was “Chinese elite males in the seventeenth century regarded footbinding in three ways: as an expression of Chinese wen civility, as a marker of ethnic boundaries separating Han from Manchu, and as an ornament or embellishment of the body.” Since Ko is a celebrated and established author on women in early East Asia, the article “The Body as Attire: The Shifting Meanings of Footbinding in Seventeen Century China” is an accurate and useful source if one is trying to study that area.

In the article, Ko highlights the many misconceptions modern people have on footbinding such as keeping a woman’s foot bound, kept them in a hobbled and subservient domestic state or as sex objects . Afterwards, she states that our “certainties may turn out to be dead wrong” suggesting to readers that she is going to shine a positive light on footbinding. Ko goes more in depth about the three things men believed footbinding was, and why the tradition of binding ones foot was important at that time. The Chinese believed that wearing shoes differentiated and distinguished them from beasts as well as savages

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