I just googled zombies and feminism to find an image for this blog post and my own blog came up on the first page…that’s funny.
This post has nothing to do with photography but it is about the random things that I do so I figure I’m good.
Backstory: I decided last summer-ish that I needed to write more. I’m good at telling stories with images but words, not so much. So I did what I usually do when I decide to learn something, I took a class, magazine article writing to be exact. I figured that was my best chance of being published (just heard two days ago that my first article is slated to come out in May – yay!) and it counted for my minor. Win-win.
For class we needed to write two articles and one thing the professor said fairly early on was that all you need is a great first sentence and the rest will write itself. That may have been taken from Stephen King but I forget. Anyway, I was skeptical, as I tend to be, but one day I was getting ready and trying to decide what shoes to wear and for some unknown reason was actually considering heels but then thought better of it because (and I’m talking to myself this whole time) I like to wear clothes/shoes where I can take off running at any moment so I can escape if the zombies come, who thinks of heels anyway? Some misogynistic male who doesn’t want to get eaten. Well I don’t want to be eaten by zombies, therefore I’m a feminist.
Aaaaaaaand I had my first sentence, and yes the rest of the article pretty much wrote itself. This one I haven’t really tried to have published, it doesn’t really fit a market, but it was SO much fun to research and write. It’s long and gross so I will not be at all offended if you skip to the end. Tthat’s the main zombie part and it’s my favorite.
Zombies & Feminism
Mandie Wood Harris
I do not want to be eaten by zombies, therefore, I am a feminist. Our patriarchal society has physically oppressed women for millennia, but why? Money? Influence? Power? No. It’s because men don’t want to be eaten by zombies. If women can’t move, they can’t run, and zombies will eat them first while men escape. After all, the first rule of Zombieland: Cardio.
Zombies may seem like a modern fad. Not so. They’ve existed for ages. Evidence of their influence shows in the practice of foot binding in ancient China. It is estimated that three billion women had their feet bound until China outlawed the practice in 1912.
The process of foot binding began between the ages of four and seven, while the bones of the feet were soft, and before the arch of the foot fully developed. Binding started in the winter months when feet were numb from cold. Each foot was soaked for hours in a warm mixture of herbs and animal blood to soften it and aid the binding. After soaking, the girl’s toenails were cut back as far as possible to prevent in-growth and infection and the feet were massaged to make them soft and pliable. Following massage, the four smallest toes were curled under until they snapped and the foot pressed down until the arch shattered.
Cotton bandages, two inches wide and ten feet long, were soaked in the same blood and herb mixture and wound around the feet in a figure-eight motion. With each pass the bandages pulled tighter, forcing the ball of the foot and heel together, folding the foot in half, and pressing the broken toes into the sole of the foot. The bandages were sewn to prevent girls from ripping them loose, and they shrunk as they dried, pulling the foot even tighter.
Bound feet demanded extreme care and attention. Every few days (every day if you were rich), the feet were unbound and checked for injury and infection. The nails were meticulously trimmed and the feet washed and massaged to soften them and make the joints and broken bones flexible. The feet were soaked in a special solution designed to make any rotting flesh fall off and then rebound. The bindings pulled tighter every time, shrinking the feet until they reached the ideal size of three to four inches.
Infection was the most common problem with bound feet. Toenails would often grow into the bottom of the foot despite careful trimming. To prevent this, the nails were sometimes peeled back and ripped off altogether. If infection entered the bones, they would soften, resulting in toes falling off. This was a benefit, because less toes meant tighter bindings and smaller feet. Sometimes broken bits of glass or tile were placed between the toes to deliberately cause injury and infection.
Gangrene was another problem. Tight bindings cut circulation to the feet, especially the toes, so feet would be practically dead after a few years. Even with the greatest care, bound feet became swollen and pus-filled. They burst open, causing more pain and a terrible smell, which girls carried for the rest of their lives. Disease followed infection, and death from septic shock occurred from binding.
If girls were lucky enough to survive their youth without any medical problems (other than broken, rotting feet), they were still at risk for health issues later in life. Bound feet made walking, sitting, and rising from a squatting position difficult, and frequent falls led to injuries, especially hip fractures, as women grew older.
Chinese culture considered bound feet erotic. Qing Dynasty sex manuals contained 48 different ways of playing with bound feet. The shape of the foot was said to resemble a lotus petal and this name was given to the shoes they wore, which were considered intimate apparel. Women weren’t allowed to sleep in just their foot bindings, so they wore a special pair of sleeping slippers. These featured erotic embroidery on the inside, which the happy couple would look at together on their wedding night. Broken, smelly, rotting feet may be sexy, but no way is that woman outrunning any zombies.
Lest you think China has a monopoly on oppression, let’s look at the most controversial garment in the entire history of fashion. One considered an essential element of dress from the Renaissance to the twentieth century. An article of clothing perceived as an instrument of torture, ill health, and even death. The corset.
Corsets were used in the delightful practice of figure training, where tight-lacing achieved the ideal “wasp” waist of 16 inches. Like foot binding, figure training started young. Girls as young as one-year-old were fitted with waist-reducing belts, worn until the age of seven. From this time on, the belts were given more shape and structure until they became full corsets, worn day and night, unless in the case of decided illness. As children got older, the chest and hip measurements were increased to allow for growth, but waist measurements stayed the same. These girls were the lucky ones.
If you were one of the unfortunates not tortured from birth, you had to reduce your figure over the course of months. You crammed into the smallest corset possible, laces yanked tight until the slightest breath brought with it the possibility of bursting asunder. When that corset became tolerable, you squashed into another, even smaller, and so on and so on until the ideal was attained.
In addition to the crushing pain of being squeezed day and night, were side effects that affected ladies’ health. These included:
- Cracked, broken, and deformed ribs.
- Heart palpitations due to the heart and lungs being squeezed together.
- Prevention of the lungs to fully expand, which led to bacteria buildup and the inability to fight off respiratory illness.
- Uterine prolapse, where the uterus sags or slips out of its normal position.
- Chronic indigestion.
- Infertility and complications during pregnancy.
- Trouble breathing.
Women who practiced tight lacing had trouble walking. They bent forward or stooped which was admired as an elegant, graceful gait. No wonder walking canes became fashionable. These women made it almost too easy for men. Forget running, they couldn’t breathe. All it took was one good shock and they were down for the count. When zombies came it was: GASP (surprise), BAM (fall down in faint), YUM (zombie chow), PITTER-PATTER (men escaping).
Modern women may say in smug, superior tones. “That is all in the past, we have nothing like that now. I’m not oppressed at all.”
I have one word for you.
“What?! I wear heels because they improve the line of my legs and make them look longer. I wear them for me, not for some man.” Meanwhile, you’re navigating cobblestones like a drunken sailor in a hurricane, if you’re walking at all.
High heels, especially stilettos, became popular in the 1930’s. They were first reserved for special occasions, but thanks to the success of shows like Sex and the City, became fashionable for every day.
So what’s so terrible about high heels? Well, high heels (shoes with a heel two inches or higher), raise the heel, pushing your center of gravity forward. Your foot slides forward in your shoe, causing your toes to shift into an unnatural shape and your weight distributes incorrectly. The increased weight on your toes causes your body to shift forward. You lean backwards to compensate, which overarches your back and creates a posture that strains knees, hips, and lower back. The pressure on the nerves in your back can cause sciatica, which is a condition where nerves become trapped, causing pain and numbness to shoot all the way down to your feet.
Another common problem is that the Achilles tendon, which runs up the back of the leg from the heel, becomes permanently damaged. This tendon is designed to be flexible, to allow the foot to point or lay flat. But women who wear high heels often, shorten their Achilles to the point where they can no longer flatten their feet. Other side effects include:
- Hammertoes – permanently bent toes due to a shortening of the muscles in the toe.
- Stress fractures – cracks or breaks in the bones, more common with age.
- Bunions – bony growths at the base of the big toe.
- Corns – calluses that form when bones push up against the shoe and put pressure on the skin.
- Pump bumps – bony enlargements on the back of the heel.
- Neuroma – tissue growth under the toes that results in extreme pain.
- Toenail fungus.
- Ankle injuries.
- Inability to run!
The shoe must go on. In a survey conducted by the College of Podiatry, about half of women said they suffered problems with their feet, but more than 40% of women said they would suffer through pain for the sake of fashion. How soon does the pain kick in? One hour and six minutes. And it hurts so badly that one in four women have danced barefoot in a bar or nightclub, while one in three have walked home shoeless. Gross.
A fun and random fact for contemplation…according to the apparel industry, extremely high heels (higher than six inches), are no longer considered apparel, but “jewelry for the feet.” They are worn for display, or the enjoyment of the wearer. I hope women enjoy their foot jewelry, because they won’t be getting far on six-inch heels when the zombies come.
So how fast can zombies move? I turned to the internet for in-depth research on zombie locomotion velocity. Zombies are reanimated corpses with a hunger for human flesh, particularly brains. They are created when a person is bitten and infected with the zombie plague and zombie speed depends on how soon after death they reanimate.
Morgue zombies are dead for at least 12 hours before they rise. Their muscle membranes have started to contract, causing rigor mortis. This corpse is stiff and a brisk walking pace should allow you to escape.
But what about zombies who burst from the grave? They’ve been dead for over 72 hours, which means that rigor mortis is no longer an issue. However, microorganisms and bacteria have started to break down this zombie’s cells, including the muscles. So, even if this zombie comes running, his muscles and skeleton will be so weak from being eaten away, that he will fall apart from the impact of his own feet hitting the ground. Also, whacking him with a baseball bat doesn’t hurt.
Don’t get too cocky, there’s one more zombie to discuss. What about the zombie who reanimates immediately after infection? His muscles are intact, so he can instantly spring into action. Luckily, the classic zombies signs of aggression, memory loss, negative hunger management, and absence of ability to feel pain, suggest the cerebellum is affected. This brain damage leads to uncoordinated movements and a slow lumbering walk. The zombies are coming, but they are coming slowly. However, you still need to be able to move.
So call me a feminist. I don’t want to have my feet bound, wear a corset, heels, abaya, hobble skirt, or bustle. When the zombies come, I’ll be running as fast as any man, and we’ll just see who gets away. To parody words famously misattributed to Marie Antoinette, “Let them wear cross-trainers”.