Feminism and Buddhism

I was sitting in a small restaurant in a place called Chiang Dao the other day. At the next table were a group of four American women in their late 20’s or early 30’s. Western woman sitting alone is a common sight in Thailand, but sometimes – as on this occasion – they pair-up or travel in a small group.

chiangdao1Unfortunately I couldn’t but help to overhear their conversation. Were they talking about the beautiful natural environment all about them? No. Perhaps they were discussing the abundant cultural attractions? Nope. They were nastily dissecting their experiences with men guys they had met in their travels.

More specifically, they were discussing all the things that those guys had said or done or been, that rendered them unattractive as partners – or even as human beings. According to their toxic banter every one of these men was a loser. It was a bit like the girls described in this article, but ten years on.

With such an unpleasant demeanour, and competition from far more graceful and kindly locals (pictured), I do hope those female tourists enjoy their solo journey … for the remainder of their holidays and beyond. (More about western women in Thailand here and here)

thai_girlMy next stop, just a kilometre or two down the road, was a famous Buddhist retreat where, thankfully, I soon managed to restore my sense of calm.

Now those women in the restaurant may or may not consider themselves to be feminists. I guess it is possible that they were merely ordinary folk who had been touched with the nasty stick.

Nevertheless on returning home that encounter got me thinking about whether anyone had written anything about feminism and Buddhism, and so I got busy with google and soon found a few references (below).

This blog post entitled Misandry and Mahayana (9 January 2011) is as good a starting point as any.

“I do not intend to be critical, but I simply do not understand how misandry and Mahayana are supposed to fit. Are you professing to adhere to a particular faith, and then immediately bending that faith to suit your neuroses? Are you taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha for the benefit of all sentient beings just so long as no men are involved? …

Misandry — contempt of men — together with misogyny — contempt of women — are nothing more than gender-specific expressions of misanthropy — hatred of human beings. Since this is the very opposite of Buddhism, why should we give any voice at all to such thinking? Why should we pay this any attention, or give it any ground? Isn’t this something we should try to overcome?” 

See also:

Some relevant discussion threads from reddit/r/buddhism (ongoing)

Dalai Lama’s ‘sexist’ quip ruffles equality activists (25 September 2015)

Women and gender politics in Buddhism (9 May 2009)

Supporting equality for women in Thai monasteries (22 December 2014)

Explorations in Buddhism and Feminism (8 March 2013)

Wikipedia entry for ‘Buddhist Feminism’

I’ll continue searching and reviewing later and subsequently add to this post.

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