Brilliant move. Have a panel to discuss expanding leadership opportunities for Buddhist women and…well, take a look.
Featured panelists – James Coleman, Gary Gach, Charles Prebish, Christopher Queen, Paul David Numrich, Justin Whitaker, Eisel Mazard. Photos go: man, man, man, man, man, man, man.
Rita Gross, an author and dharma teacher, wonders what they were thinking.
Earlier this week the website Patheos published a panel on the topic “2014 Religious Trends: Expanding Leadership Opportunities for Buddhist Women—Which Way Forward?” The panel introduction ended with this question: “What are the risks and benefits of opening Buddhist leadership to women?” As a Buddhist-feminist scholar who has watched and participated in the rise of female leadership in the Buddhist world for the past four decades, I have my own question to ask in response: Risks? What risks? What could possibly be dangerous about women taking leadership roles in Buddhism? We have been doing so in large numbers for quite some time and nothing untoward has happened to Buddhism or to Buddhists as a result.
Oh come now. To talk about it only in terms of benefits would be unbalanced and extreme. You can’t expect them to just say “it’s time to do much more to expand leadership opportunities for Buddhist women” and then go on to do just that. They have to fret and consider and wring their masculine hands over it first. Changing the status quo without considering the benefits and the risks is never ever permissible.
Far more serious and problematic, however, is the fact that this panel discussion on Buddhist women includes no women! Seven men—but no women—were called upon to discuss the “risks and benefits” of opening Buddhist leadership . . . to women! Rather than solving any of the centuries-old problems of Buddhist male dominance and patriarchy, such a panel only perpetuates it. Someone who didn’t know better but encountered this panel might draw the conclusion that Buddhist women are too passive to speak for themselves and lack the knowledge to do so.
Maybe, but on the other hand if you had women on the panel someone would be sure to pop up and say the women were there only because they had the right genitalia.
I do not fault the seven men who wrote short essays for this panel, in part because I suspect that they were not informed ahead of time that only men had been invited to contribute. I know some of these men and know that they themselves are supportive of expanding leadership opportunities for Buddhist women. But I most definitely do fault whoever put this panel together for unbelievable levels of ignorance and arrogance. If this were 1970, not 2014, such an all-male panel might be explicable, even relevant. But in 2014, it is too late to speak and act as if men alone are still in charge of everything and can creditably speak for and about women, as if no women were confident and competent enough to speak for themselves, and hadn’t already begun to transform Buddhism into its post-patriarchal future.
I suppose whoever it was just figured it was more of a guy thing.