Sam Crane offers thoughts in Mother’s Day.
I think it is safe to assume that most of the early readers of the Tao Te Ching were men; they were the ones who were given education and were able to read. We might go further and suggest that the book was written – and that was a process that came not from the hand of a single author but from a long series of additions and accretions over decades, maybe centuries – for a male audience. If that is the case, then we might understand the book as a cautionary tale for men: don’t rely too much on your “manly” virtues; don’t try to dominate by force or subjugate with reason. Instead, learn from your mother.