A lesson from ancient China

October 13, 2011

I recently read Snowflower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. I have read a few books based in China, some fiction and some non-fiction, but, most have been set during the Cultural Revolution. This book is set in a time well before the Cultural Revolution, when women’s futures were completely based on how they married. The relationship between the two lead characters is sweet but never innocent. The tortured lives they lead as women in hard for us Westerners in the 21st century to comprehend or rationalize, but they accepted their duties as women. Life was what it was.

That is where I want to focus my attentions: these women acknowledged and worked within the confines of their roles as women in their society. Let me make it clear; I don’t support the subordinate position women had in 19 century China. However, I think we all, men and women, can learn a lesson about buckling down and doing what has to be done in terms of work and responsibility in our present age.

As I interview for entry level positions here at the cafe, I find time and time again people who don’t actually want to work. They want to show up, socialize, do the fun stuff, but not clean the toilets. The contract is quite apparent when compared to my staff who work hard. As a wife, mother, and business owner, I know the struggles to keep all the balls afloat. I also know my responsibility to my husband, kids, employees and customers. So at the end of the day, life gets busy.

Speaking of busy, there is one aspect of 19 century China that I thought would be nice once in a while: the women spent much of their day in an upper room with other women socializing, sewing and teaching their daughters. OK, maybe once in a long while.

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