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Cutting Hair and Breast Binding

December 17, 2010

“Cutting Hair and Breast Binding” (剪发与束胸)
By: Qiu Xin (秋心)
Published in Guang Ji Medical Journal (广济医刊)
August 1925, number 20 (2.8,) pages 22-23

I still have more than a few things to post about from Funü Zazhi and Minguo Ribao, but I have a brand new source to introduce: 广济医刊. In Pinyin it is: Guang Ji Yi Kan or the Guang Ji Medical Journal. The Wade-Gilles romanization, which is used on the cover of the periodical, is Kwang Chi Medical Journal. I have a few articles from 1925 that I have just started looking at that are either about breast-binding or supporting breast-feeding.

Qiu tells readers that a class of women compatriots has been bent on liberation. These same women have also cut off the buns (发髻 fa ji) hanging on their necks, because they feel that a woman can’t be considered liberated unless she has cut her hair. Some people say that these women have cut their hair to save time and energy but Qiu truly doubts this because he has a relative who cut off her hair last year, “but after cutting it, she still wanted to use all the hair growers (生发水) and cosmetics (化妆品,) she still wanted to comb her hair smooth and when combing her hair she applied this kind and that kind and it took a long time for her to finish.” Bluntly, Qiu thinks the idea of cutting hair for efficiency is hooey – but what is the big deal with hair cutting? What threats to the body does it hold? That goes unanswered but I think the answer is social – hair cutting was associated with a generation of “new women,” who were believed to be free wheeling and unstable because they weren’t rushing to be wives and mothers.

But Qiu wants to put aside the issue of hair cutting for a moment to talk about a critical thing concerning women (女子关于女子方面紧要的事) – ear piercing (穿耳 chuan er) and breast binding. According to Qiu, these two things are NOT things women should consider necessary for liberation. He says that physiology (生理学 – the study of physiology/the body) has proven that they are obstructions to bodily development. Already many women have “把他革除了” (eliminate oneself? eliminated oneself?) ear piercing. I am still not quite sure what ear piercing has to do with all of this? Qiu never really discusses his beef with it, besides (I assume here) that it is focused on adornment and not a healthy body.

“I don’t know what possible benefits can breast-binding have or how/why the women’s world has not eliminated themselves (again: 把他革除了) because physiology (生理学) says that a person’s body needs to make the person comfortable and can not make the person restrict life. Qiu notes that “they” say that Western (西样) women bind their waists (细腰) and that this practice also obstructs physical development. Qiu doesn’t argue this and reaffirms that breast-binding poses serious problems to health and because of this, the reason for it is to “把他革除了” – to eliminate oneself? Is Qiu saying that breast-binding is suicide, that it destroys a person?

At the end, Qiu says that he wants to use these last sentences to tell women compatriots and all the women who count liberation as cutting their hair: 何弗把胸部先解放罢 – Why (why not?) put breasts before liberation?

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