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Women are like water

Yesterday was International Women’s Day.  Coming from the Chinese culture, I can’t help but to think about the similarities between women and water. Laozi said, “The ultimate virtue is like water (”上善若水”).   I also stumbled upon this article by Jim Lauria. The last quote, from Margaret Atwood  in her novella The Penelopiad, also resonated with me:  “Water does not resist. Water flows. When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress. Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you. But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it. Water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone. Remember that, my child. Remember you are half water. If you can't go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does.”

In the world of Ying and Yang, women is the “Ying”, the water force, the more fluid, the more gentle. But the perceived weakest can also become the strongest, so water is like “Dao” itself, it doesn’t fight, but it eventually wins. 

So what are the virtues of the female gender? Not to say that men cannot possess same or even more of these virtues, but here are some characteristics. 


The force of the earth is abrupt. An earthquake breaks out all of a sudden, shaking up the entire ground. A volcano irrupts, sweeping away anything in its way. 

The way of water can be violent, but can also be gentle. A water drop for many years will eventually break through the stone. A small creek can eventually change its course to form an immense river that flows into the ocean. By staying the course, water can eventually conquer the strongest forces. 

In today’s world where everyone is fighting for instantaneous gratification, women can be that force of patience and consistency that achieves gradual results, one day after another, little by little. 


Mothers represent caring, love, and kindness. You make sacrifices. You lead by serving. You nourish without asking for anything in return. You do things that others don’t want to do. 

Laozi says, “Because you don’t fight, no one can fight with you”.  Ultimately, when you lead by kindness, kindness will conquer. By not fighting, you also avoid all the hatred and ill will. 

While this may sound extreme, I do believe that female leadership takes a different form. While I can counsel not to be complacent and fight back, our strengths lie in the kindness and gentility. What’s more powerful?  A harsh slap on the face or a mother’s caring smile? 


In today’s changing world, we can’t be rigid. We must change ourselves constantly to fit the changing environment. We cannot be too hung up with our perceived notions of right and wrong, the ideal, the vision, the “should be”. 

Water is good at going around obstacles. When we are faced with the mountain, the best course of action may not be using physical strength to remove it, but rather going a new path around it. This way, eventually nothing can be our obstacle and nothing stands in our way. 

Flexibility also has a dimension for timing. What seems right today may not be so tomorrow. What seems impossible today may eventually become the right opportunity. Having the patience to wait for the opportunity, and the flexibility to seize it when the timing is finally right, may be the optimal combination. 

Again, this is not a feminist article where I preach that men cannot possess such virtues. But we do know that some of these characteristics can often be tied to the female gender, and be perceived as weakness. But just like water, not all force has to be strong, competitive, all at once, violent. The bigger force can be quiet, gentle, slow, and flexible.  Just like water, we need to turn our weaknesses into our strengths. 

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