आज़ादी विशेषांक / Freedom Special

अंक 13 / Issue 13

The Leisure Class: Ambarish Satwik

Art: Samia Singh

In the top quintile, the leisure class,

Females were expensive and useless

And consequently valuable. So a certain kind of tits and arse

And waist served as chattel to the hubris

Of their men. It wasn’t sufficient to merely possess

Wealth but required that its evidence should fluoresce


From the brightest bits of the womanly form.

To women was delegated de jure

The office of putting warm

Evidence in their husband’s ability to pay.

Their performance of conspicuous leisure

Purveyed the household’s pecuniary measure.


A properly ennobling life

Of leisure meant

That the wife

Was happily exempt

From employment or productive exertion

And that her version


Of repugnance for the vulgar kinds of labor

Was at least half a dozen notches higher

Than that of her neighbor.

And in these matters the quantifier

Of leisure, the favored artifice,

Was the womanliness


Of the woman’s apparel – the degree

In which it argued

Exemption from labor.  By virtue of tapestry,

Entanglement or longitude,

Apparel that offered hindrance to

Useful exertion or domestic derring-do.


Subsidiary to this principle,

The underbust corset, in which every single breath

Would heave the bosom and cripple

The spine, became something of a shibboleth,

To impress upon the beholder

That the wearer’s occupation was to smolder


In idleness.  Flesh crucified, lungs splinted,

To render her obviously unfit

For work. An infirmity newly minted

For its age, every whit

To display her very obvious noblesse,

Causing male members to intumesce


At her visibly enhanced

Expensiveness. The deformed foot,

For a thousand years, entranced

Chinese males of all stripes and put

In motion an aesthetic

Of pedal ugliness. Balletic


When bound; smelly, misshapen and grotesque

When denuded. The spectacle of honorific leisure

Descended into burlesque

With men taking pleasure

In the woman’s hobble,

Rejoicing in the unsteady bobble


Of the buttocks. Locomotion

Happened on stumps rather

Than feet. It followed the notion

That mutilated feet go farther

Towards making productive

Work impossible than obstructive


Bonnets. The rigmarole

Involved breaking the four lateral toes,

Bending them back onto the sole,

Binding them, so they corresponded to avocadoes,

Or rather, golden lotus buds: the proverbial,

Exalted, feminine ideal.


The wasted woman, in the past,

In her observance of good form

Became an instrument to broadcast

Her family wealth. To deform

Her was the prescriptive

Way of making her live


Like a trophy. Now that we’re

In the midst of Third-wave Feminists,

Honorific spectacles aren’t quite as severe

And the usual lists

Of contrivances don’t include

Persecution for pulchritude.


Currently it’s all pedicure

And a continually depilated state

A bespoken sinecure,

Daytime shopping, binate

Ayahs. Now it’s all quite benign:

Conspicuous leisure lacks the whine.


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