Women and servants

子曰:「唯女子與小人為難養也!近之則不孫,遠之則怨。」
Confucius said: “Women and servants are difficult to deal with: if you get too close to them, they become disrespectful; if you get too distant, they resent it.”

There has been a lot of debate among commentators over whether Confucius is directing this comment at women in general or referring to the specific challenges of managing the female members of a large household.

Even if the latter interpretation is the correct, it does little to mitigate the casual contempt that Confucius shows to women by placing them in the same category as servants. Clearly, and unsurprisingly given the prevailing attitudes of the times lived in, he was sexist by today’s standards. No amount of sugarcoating can ever succeed in hiding, much less changing, that fact.

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