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Cinderella's Sisters: A Revisionist History of Footbinding

3.85  ·  Rating Details  ·  95 Ratings  ·  14 Reviews
The history of footbinding is full of contradictions and unexpected turns. The practice originated in the dance culture of China's medieval court and spread to gentry families, brothels, maid's quarters, and peasant households. Conventional views of footbinding as patriarchal oppression often neglect its complex history and the incentives of the women involved. This revisi ...more
Hardcover, 351 pages
Published December 12th 2005 by University of California Press (first published January 1st 2005)
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Margaret Sankey
Jul 23, 2011 Margaret Sankey rated it liked it
Clearly, I am still not ready for cultural relativism--students are always so fascinated with Chinese foot-binding that I was interested to see further explanation, especially one which posited that the practice was the opposite of the supposed """"envy, cruelty, violence, objectification"" . After many skin-crawling illustrations and creepy tiny exquisite shoes shoes which make the point that women were the quasi-medical practitioners, made the shoes as a skilled craft, got enormous social cach ...more
Jun 05, 2015 Agnieszka rated it liked it
I am very interested in the topic of footbinding, and what I normally find in literature are some vague remarks or fictional accounts of footbinding (such as in Secret Fan and the Snow Flower by Lisa See).
I wanted to read a proper book that would explain in a straightforward manner when, why and how.
This book, unfortunately, did not exactly meet my expectations. I appreciated the photos and fragments of sources that spoke of footbinding, but still, all that was very vague. The book consists mo
Aug 13, 2007 Kate rated it it was amazing
Shelves: feminism, orientalism
Most people approach the subject of footbinding in China with a gross fascination. How could someone do that to themselves? A daughter? How could it be considered attractive? After reading Beverly Jackson's Splendid Slippers, and searching the internet for images and articles, I decided to delve as deep as possible into a cultural history of the practice.

Dorothy Ko's book puts footbinding in as complete a context as I have encountered. She includes excerpts from texts of footbinding fetishists,
Oct 18, 2007 Dawn rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: eh
The beginning was interesting, but the fourth and fifth chapters delved into the male fantasy world and all its vulgarities far longer than I cared for. As with many books, the main points could have been stated in a far shorter volume. I did learn quite a lot about footbinding, but what good is that knowledge to me? What it did do was get me thinking about beauty and how we try to manipulate ourselves to fit its current definition. We look at footbinding with gaping mouths, but in a society whe ...more
Feb 25, 2012 ellen rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: historians, women's studies folks, anyone interested in the social construction of beauty
This is a really excellent example of what academic history can (and in my opinion, often should) be. Ko goes past the general assumptions about footbinding and into a huge body of primary sources, many of which had not been used by earlier historians. She makes a point to draw from women's experiences and writings when possible, which is a particularly strong aspect of her research. Without becoming an apologist, Ko reframes footbinding within Chinese culture and society, particularly in terms ...more
Jessica Zu
Nov 23, 2015 Jessica Zu rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ge
not one foot-binding, but many embodied practices ... rituals, material culture, daily routine, fashion regimes ...
Mar 07, 2008 Sara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in the topic!
This is an amazing book! Ko does an excellent job of presenting a controversial topic that allows the nuance of both the pain and pleasure, oppression and female agency to shine through. Her focus on material culture is unique in my experience. Her style is also highly readable. While this is far from narrative history it is an enjoyable read!
Anh  Le
This book is the reason why I want to write cultural history. Period. Best approach to a topic as sensitive and emotionally wrought as footbinding. I even wrote an extended historiographical review for this book and talked about how crucial is is to the developments of feminist scholarships and modern Chinese cultural history.
Kandice Newren
Dec 08, 2010 Kandice Newren rated it liked it
This book was pretty interesting, but there were some really slow parts. It covered the history in an informative way without being judgmental. There was a lot of primary documents quoted, which made the history more interesting. I would give it a read if you were ever curious about it.
Feb 13, 2011 Maria rated it it was amazing
Awesome book. She sets out to provide a different perspective on foot-binding, one that is neither for or against and does so. Encourage people to read as an introspective on how we view the actions of others and the kind of history we are leaving behind ourselves.
Nov 05, 2011 Julia rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: foot-binding
Very interesting

Incredibly dull

I mostly skimmed to the more interesting parts

Speed reading and glancing the rest
Lauren Gilmore Hautamaki
Feb 26, 2014 Lauren Gilmore Hautamaki rated it really liked it
Shelves: asia-studies
interesting perspective on footbinding. enjoyed book structure and sources.
Jan 18, 2010 Wajiha rated it really liked it
Fascinating, never imagined a custom like this would be practiced for so many years.
Lavana Sanchez
Jul 09, 2013 Lavana Sanchez rated it it was amazing
chinese footbinding is an interesting bt welling to read
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Dorothy Ko (Chinese 高彦頤) is a Professor of History and Women's Studies at the Barnard College of Columbia University. She is a historian of early modern China, known for her multi-disciplinary and multi-dimensional research. As a historian of early modern China, she has endeavored to engage with the field of modern China studies; as a China scholar, she has always positioned herself within the stu ...more
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“Ancient texts, he believed, could illuminate customary practices in his own times; conversely, current practices influenced his interpretation of the classics.” 0 likes
“At the same time, he was aware that literature was more than sociological data: it changes, not just reflects, expectations and experiences.” 0 likes
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