Beauty is…sisterhood

Women were not allowed to learn to read and write Chinese, so to stay in touch they took it upon themselves to formulate their own means of communication.

The ancient secret language of Nu Shu

Beside a well

In a time when women’s feet were bound, women were kept in doors, and the goal of marriage was to bear sons, women in the Jiangyong County in Hunan province of China found strength and satisfaction in each other. Growing up, girls were confined to ‘women’s chambers’ in their own homes, and would later be confined to the home of their husband’s family. To ease their isolation, girls were brought together as “sworn sisters” until they were married. A laotong relationship was a step further– girls would be brought together by a matchmaker and would sign a contract. The relationship was expected to last for life. In Lisa See’s novel Snow Flower and the Secret Fan See describes the laotong relationship as “… made by choice for the purpose of emotional companionship and eternal fidelity. A marriage is not made by choice and has only one purpose — to have sons.”

When girls were old enough to be married, they were expected to live wherever their husband’s family lived, and sworn sisters were often separated. Women were not allowed to learn to read and write Chinese, so to stay in touch they took it upon themselves to formulate their own means of communication. Nu Shu, or “women’s writing,” was developed phonetically, as opposed to traditional Chinese languages in which characters represent ideas.

NuShu with Chinese
Chinese (on the left) compared to Nu Shu (on the right). Image from


Nu Shu was not only written, but embroidered and used to adorn fans. Nu Shu was also found in “Third Day Books,” journals that a woman’s friends and family would make for her upon her marriage. The clothbound books were delivered to the new bride three days after she was married. Inside, family and friends would fill the first few pages with their laments over losing a friend and daughter, and their hopes for her happiness. The rest of the pages were left blank, for the new bride to fill with her thoughts and feelings. Everything was written in Nu Shu, and though the men couldn’t read it, they seemed to think it was harmless and therefore didn’t mind it.

Lisa See’s book, and a movie based on it, have renewed interest in this ancient and secret language. Since girls have been able to go to school with boys and learn traditional Chinese, the number of women who can read and write Nu Shu is dwindling. People like Hu Mei Yue are trying to change that. Every Saturday Mei Yue visits Pumei, a Nushu Cultural Village with a museum and school dedicated to Nu Shu. She teaches the language to any village girls who show up.

One girl taking the class said, “I don’t know how people can write like this. Each word is like a flower.”

Sample of NuShu
Example of Nu Shu. Image from




(my sources)

8 Things (Part Two)

In 2016, don’t let the expectations of others determine what comes out of your mouth, or what you put on your body.

Tara Carr’s SHOULD number five: dish out compliments, just like to female characters from 1950s sitcoms did. She notes that, while compliments should go both ways, “men should receive way more compliments than women because they are way more sensitive and insecure than they let on.”

Continue reading “8 Things (Part Two)”

8 Things You Should Definitely Do In 2016 (Part One)

And although we sometimes have to do things we don’t love, you should never feel like you HAVE to cook because you were born with a vagina. You can always order take out.

It is that time, folks. Time to reflect on the year that is coming to a close, and set goals, intentions, or even resolutions for the coming year.

Not too long ago, I came across an article that got me thinking about the things I should maybe be doing on a daily basis. The article’s author, Tara Carr, lays out some very specific things she thinks I, as a woman, should be doing. In the intro to her article  Carr seems to praise the ladies depicted in the movie Mona Lisa Smile, who went to college not for a degree but to find a man, “get married as soon as possible and put those Home Ec skills to good use!” She mentions that now it is ok to have a career, and your own mind, and “what not,” but encourages women to do at least some things the “old fashioned” way.

I disagree with pretty much everything she says. But, make no mistake, I don’t necessarily disagree with Carr’s “shoulds” as much as I disagree with the WHYs behind them.

Continue reading “8 Things You Should Definitely Do In 2016 (Part One)”