Essay about Veil Draft Revised

Submitted By amosquea
Words: 1065
Pages: 5

Allison Mosquea
Cultures and Values
Dr. Kharpertian
November 18, 2014

Gender Roles and Cultural Practices The cultural practices of foot binding in China and the veiling of women in Muslim countries influence the way men and women behave within their culture. In “China Chic: East Meets West”, Valerie Steele and John S. Major describe the fundamental role foot-binding played in Chinese society by emphasizing the differences between men and women. While foot binding is based on fashion, veiling has deeper religious roots and ties to matrilineal society as discussed by Robert and Elizabeth Fernea in “A Look Behind the Veil”. Comparing and analyzing these two cultural practices can reveal the purpose and characteristics of gender roles. The painful process of foot binding and the seclusion of the female in the veil maintain an element of oppression, which most certainly impact women’s gender roles in their respective societies. Aside from separating women from men, the veil serves as a tool for the protection and submission of female characteristics that pose a threat to society. Fernea describes the belief held by Muslim men that women are “unable to control their sexuality and are tempting to men” (Fernea 195). As a result, the veil covers any physical features of women. In addition, the veil protects women from men because the veil is sacred and respected by society. At the same time, the veil also “preserves men’s image of virility and masculinity”. The act of secluding women elevates men’s status in society. The veil also highlights women’s role within the privacy of the home. Since the veil protects her chastity, it is linked to her honor and once that is lost, especially in public, it cannot be regained. In contrast a man’s honor is tied to his bravery, hospitality, and piety, which are things that push him in the public center and connect him with others. Once this type of honor is lost it can be regained (Fernea 195). As a result, the veil protects women from dishonor and maintains the social order. As opposed to wearing the veil, which was associated with the suppression of female sexuality, foot binding was promoted and accepted by Chinese women specifically for aesthetic purposes. Men wrote poetry and songs “devoted to the charms of tiny feet and a hesitant gait” (Steele and Major 418). As a result, women demonstrated a desire and need to bind their feet so they could be more attractive. It also played an important role in securing a suitable husband and was especially pursued by women of honor since it was not considered immodest. In addition, it secured their place in female society since “the rituals surrounding foot binding were female exclusive rituals, presided over by women of the family, especially the girl’s mother, who prayed to deities such as the Tiny Foot Maiden and the goddess Guanyin” (Steele and Major 419). Aside from being utilized as a tool to maintain social order, the veil also revealed the economic status of women, since not every veil is made from the same fabrics. People can tell which women are rich or poor by these veils because the poor ones are made from very cheap fabrics and are plain while the wealthy women wear veils that are made from very expensive and extravagant fabrics. It also highlights the wealth and power of men since “only the very rich could afford to seclude their women” (Fernea 193). Poor men relied on women to work in fields or in cottage industries. This affects poor women by placing them “in ambiguous situations in relation to strange men” (Fernea 194). In addition, since the veil protected female chastity it was linked to paternity of the child and in this way protected men’s wealth, assured that their rightful heirs would receive their inheritance and secured the order in this patrilineal society (Fernea 196). Similar to the way the veil demonstrates economic status for women in the Muslim culture, foot binding also demonstrates economic status