Law Yee Wan 劉藝婉

Updated: 19 Mar 2012 | By:

Yee Wan has been operating Moontree Café on her own for the past two years. Inspired by the women’s bookshop concept popular in Taiwan and Japan, she quit her publishing job to pursue her dream of opening a bookshop. We talk to her about her career path and her views on feminism.

Why have you decided to go into the café business?
Originally, I wanted to open a bookshop to sell books on feminism, but in Malaysia, it is a bit hard to sustain a business purely by selling books which are not quite popular to the general public, so I decided to combine it with a café and crafts for extra income. But so far, it is still the food that is making most of the money for the café.

How has it been for you these past two years?
The café has been breaking even for the past two years. I started this café with financial help from a friend, but I haven’t been able to pay that money back yet; I am still able to cover the daily expenses though.

What do you think about the women’s rights in Malaysia?

I think there is still plenty of room for improvement. The men need to change their mentality, because both genders have to work together to achieve sexual equality. A lot of men think that they respect women but their actions, lifestyle or some little things they do say otherwise. For example, the vagueness of the law against sexual harassment on women; and some advertisements that use women to showcase their products when they are totally non-related with gender or sex. It turns women into objects rather than people. Another issue I see is the pressure from other women such as a mother-in-law who insists that a daughter-in-law should be the one who does housework and know how to cook, pressuring her into looking after the baby and making her give up work.

You have been very focused on the Chinese-speaking market, have you thought about expanding to cater to the English speaking market?

I have, but I think it will be a bit tough. Borders used to have a section for gender studies, now even that section has been closed. I am not quite sure about that market, it seems slow.

Do you find it more difficult running a café on your own as a woman than you would if you were a man?
In terms of work, I don’t find a lot of difference from what a man will have to do as fixing a tap or lightbulb is not a problem really. But my family and friends are quite concerned about my safety. I think that women who are more careful and attentive are better candidates for running a café business. If you are not this type of person, then it will make your life easier if you find a partner to do it with you. It depends more on personality than on gender.


Tags: barista