Reading Lily Xiao-hong Lee’s commentary on Ban Zhao’s life and text was interesting. The point brought up in her paper on Nancy Lee Swann’s studies on Ban Zhao states how Ban Zhao advocated that “man is superior to woman and obedience should be the guiding principle of a woman's behaviour throughout her life (Lee, 11)” would be seen as something negative in today’s society. Women are fighting to be given equality in every aspect of their lives, from equality at work to equality on being able to make decisions in regard to their bodies. Ban Zhao wrote a guidebook of sorts for her own daughters that were soon to be married and later on that “guidebook” would play an essential role on asserting control over a woman’s behavior and conduct. Her book Nujie came off as a type of code of conduct for young girls and helped advocate for the education of young girls too. While the education being advocated wasn’t necessarily to better the young girls in society, it served to better them in the aspects of becoming better wives and moral women.
Lee states that the “Confucian tenet that man is superior and woman is inferior and proceeds to counsel women to accept it (Lee, 12)” is the main principle for relationships. It is constantly expressed throughout the article that Zhao follows the Confucian tenet of men being superior to women and the Nujie also provides step by step instructions on how a woman should behave towards her husband and her husband’s family. The Nujie is thought of as a product of Zhao’s cultural upbringing and a regurgitation of the cultural expectations for women when they enter a man’s family. Zhao’s work called for control in many aspects of a woman’s life, it advocated for control on ideologies, marriage and divorce, speech, behavior, and the woman’s ideology (Lee, 13). The idea of control over all these specific aspects would leave me uneasy growing up in Zhao’s time, being seen as meager or weak because of my sex is not the ideal assumption you would want to deal with every day.
Zhao emphasizes that women are “lowly and weak” and that is “women are destined to serve others (Lee, 13).” The emphasis on a woman’s destiny sounds ridiculous to me because I follow the ideology that you create your own destiny. Zhao’s control over ideology can also be attributed to the men of the society fearing how powerful a woman can become, while they are seen as “lowly and weak” because that is the standard, they fear that the “weak” woman can grow into something fierce like a tiger. I think that the fact they feared what a woman could become shows how important a woman is in any society. Zhao recognized that man could be born and become a meek and sickly being and women could be born and surpass man; basically a girl is not encouraged to become strong and independent and instead is encouraged to be submissive. The fact that women were encourage to be submissive instead of independent displays how Zhao’s society depended on keeping the “tiger” dormant in women and allowing those sickly and meek men to rule instead. The entire purpose for having women behave complacent and submissive, Zhao rationalizes, is to avoid the husband physically hurting the wife (Lee, 16). Zhao’s rationalizations are poor and unfounded because a husband physically hurting a wife does not depend on how complacent a wife may be, the husband will beat his wife either way.