Vestal Virgins – Part 1/3: A Roman Cult

Women in general had fewer rights in the past, but let us look at a group of women, who while still struggling with high expectations and major restrictions, still had more rights than the average female population of the time. Vestal virgins in the Roman times were more than just virgins; they were the light and spirit of Rome, and were believed to hold the prosperity of the Empire in their hands. That is power for you!



Magdalene Laundries – Part 2/2: Institutionalised Slavery

When the Sisters of Charity in Dublin sold off their property to the Government in 1993, the news burst forth that there were 133 unmarked graves in the grounds. It was discovered that these were previous inmates of the convent laundry. While some bodies were claimed by family members after this became public, many of them remained unnamed, unclaimed. One of the reasons they could not have been traced was that once they entered the asylum, their entire identity before entry was effaced, and their names changed. These women did not even have any death certificates, which went against the law of the time. The convent seemed to have got away with blatantly flouting the law in this case, as indeed, it had by forcibly detaining women to work without pay, and pocketing the income from their labour.


Magdalene Laundries – Part 1/2: An Erotophobic Society

Magdalene Asylums or Magdalene Laundries were religious organisations set up ostensibly for the reformation and shelter of “fallen” women. The idea was to model the asylums in the name of Mary Magdalene, who, according to the Catholic Church, was a prostitute and a sinner. Her penitence and repentance earned her a place among the saints of the Catholic Church, in the process leading to the degradation, imprisonment and forced penance of innocent women several hundred years later.


Film review: The Help – 2011

This review contains spoilers, so if you have not yet watched the film and intend watching it in the near future, now may not be the best time to read this.  

The Help is a movie set in 1960s America during the Civil Rights movement. It tries to understand the lives of black American women who work as household help in some of Virginia’s richest homes. How they are treated by their employers, how they handle the minor and major snubs, how their lives could be taken over by their employers’ whims and how all this affects their own personal lives is the focus of the film.


Footbinding – Part 3/3: The End of an Era

The silk bandage still warm and fragrant,
Jade lotus hidden under the skirt,
She comes like a floating fairy.
Next to the lifted curtain,
She looks so delicate as if the wind could blow her away;
She walks lightly around the pond, not disturbing the moss.
On the silent path,
Her flowing skirt does not stir any dust.
After a swing,
She leans on her lover’s shoulder with a smile,
and takes time to pull off her shoes

                           – Liang Qingbiao


Foot binding – Part 2/3: The pain and the pleasure

A pair of tiny feet,
Two jugs of tears.
– Chinese ditty

There are seven categories that foot connoisseurs use to determine the beauty and eroticism of a bound foot. A foot, to have the desired effect, must have all these seven attributes: small, slim, pointed, arched, fragrant, soft and straight. Achieving this is not easy, and takes time and effort, not to mention pain.


Foot binding – Part 1/3: A search for perfection

Her powdered pink face,
Prettier than a peach;
Her twin golden lotuses,
Perfect fit for my hands.
I’ll take you home as my bride,
In a coloured sedan chair.


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