Date of Award

Spring 2014

Document Type

Thesis

Department

History

First Advisor

Jeanette Fregulia

Second Advisor

Kay Satre

Third Advisor

Jamie Dolan

Abstract

Over the past fifty years, with the continuing contributions of many Gender History scholars, historians are now presented with an opportunity to explore an often overlooked area within the physical manipulation of women’s bodies. There are a variety of means by which the female form is shaped by the cultural and societal norms, including the pressures to look young and beautiful. However, few connections have been made between two well-known and well-researched areas: foot-binding and corsetry. The first was practiced by women for one-thousand years in China, ending in the early years of the Communist revolution. The second were tightly-laced garments worn by middle- and upper-class women in Europe and, later, America from as early as the fifteenth century until the present. This thesis argues that they share a connection that other scholars have overlooked: both were fetishized and sexualized for the pleasure of men. This research is important in the modern era because women around the world continue to alter their bodies in increasingly controversial and radical ways.

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