WHAT PRICE BEAUTY? Women Sever Toes to Fit High Heels

1640 A.D.: 

Virtually all women in China bind their feet to attract a suitor.

The painful practice was outlawed by the Qing Dynasty in 1902, but remained common until 1949, when the Communists assumed power and foot binding was finally ended.  The practice has been decried by modern-day feminists as a classic example of societal oppression of women.


 2012 A.D.:

Women in U.S. have toes amputated to fit into excruciating high heeled shoes.


It boggles the mind why a contemporary woman, free from the bondage of male supremacy and capable of self-determination, would subject herself to the pain and disfigurement of amputation—and for what?  To combat diabetes? Cancer? Necrotizing fasciitis?


In the pursuit of fashion, an increasing number of American women are choosing to have their toes shortened or even amputated in order to fit into today’s sky-high stilettos.

Wikipedia offers a description of the painful foot binding that was once customary in China:

Binding usually started during the winter months since the feet were more likely to be numb, and therefore the pain would not be as extreme.

Shoe for a bound foot.

First, each foot would be soaked in a warm mixture of herbs and animal blood; this was intended to soften the foot and aid the binding. Then, the toenails were cut back as far as possible to prevent in-growth and subsequent infections, since the toes were to be pressed tightly into the sole of the foot. Cotton bandages, 3 m long and 5 cm wide (10 ft by 2 in), were prepared by soaking them in the blood and herb mixture. To enable the size of the feet to be reduced, the toes on each foot were curled under, then pressed with great force downwards and squeezed into the sole of the foot until the toes broke.

The broken toes were held tightly against the sole of the foot while the foot was then drawn down straight with the leg and the arch forcibly broken. The bandages were repeatedly wound in a figure-eight movement, starting at the inside of the foot at the instep, then carried over the toes, under the foot, and around the heel, the freshly broken toes being pressed tightly into the sole of the foot. At each pass around the foot, the binding cloth was tightened, pulling the ball of the foot and the heel together, causing the broken foot to fold at the arch, and pressing the toes underneath.

The girl’s broken feet required a great deal of care and attention, and they would be unbound regularly. Each time the feet were unbound, they were washed, the toes carefully checked for injury, and the nails carefully and meticulously trimmed. When unbound, the broken feet were also kneaded to soften them and make the joints and broken bones more flexible, and were soaked in a concoction that caused any necrotic flesh to fall off.

Sounds primitive and brutal, doesn’t it?

But Wendy Lewis, author of Plastic Makes Perfect, applauds the happiness and beauty that she claims can be achieved today with the aid of the surgeon’s scalpel.  Alongside such invasive and highly unnecessary procedures as “vaginal trimming,” hymen reconstruction and belly button tucks, Lewis encourages young women to consider toe removal.  Julie Bindel, writing in The Guardian, explains:

The growth of this procedure is apparently the result of the popularity of expensive designer heels. Second and third toes that poke out beyond the big toe can be shortened, and crooked fourth and fifth toes can be straightened out. The operation involves cutting a piece of bone out of the joint and reattaching the tendon. Another option is the removal of the baby toe to make pointed shoes more comfortable. Like all surgery, this procedure carries a risk of lifelong pain and disablement.

Fox News reported on the growing popularity of this elective mutilation.

I remember when 1970s gender feminists popularized bra burning, refusing to bind their breasts and alter their natural physique to attract a man.  The feminists got some things (abortion, most especially) plain wrong; but this idea—that women should be their natural selves—seemed eminently reasonable.


"I'll follow you over Kathy. I was probably in more sympathy with your point of ..."

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow…. My ..."
"If you're at all interested in knowing . . . the Catholic Dogma . . ..."

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow…. My ..."
"Thank you, Mrs. Harris! Christmas blessings to you. I hope to see you over at ..."

Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow…. My ..."

Browse Our Archives

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment