After my last post, Lorrie B said that gender is a huge elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about. It’s true. But talking is essential if we’re to heal our gender-related wounds, so in this post I’ll offer topics for conversations.
Tribalism: Our species is between 100 and 150 thousand years old. In that time we’ve made more progress taming the instincts of carnivorous canine and feline pack animals than our own. Why are we still so territorial? So hostile toward members of our own species whose only differences from us are physical appearances and culturally- and geographically-conditioned adaptations? Episcopal priest Matthew Fox says that as a species we are extremely dangerous and our tribalism is eating us alive. What roles do gender issues play in tribalism? What changes can men and women take to eliminate it?
Violence: Lorrie B also noted that men, onto whom we’ve traditionally projected our masculine drive (self-preservation) and values, are accountable for over 90 % of the world’s violence. Why are women (onto whom we’ve projected our feminine drive of species-preservation with its values of caring, connecting and relating) and spiritually enlightened people of both genders still so ineffective in reducing violent conflicts? Is testosterone the only culprit? How can the genders cooperate in healing our violent tendencies?
Male-Dominated Spirituality: Our “primitive” forebears appreciated and worshiped the sacredness of all life in its masculine and feminine aspects. Why do so many “advanced” Westerners believe that a one-sided masculine-oriented spirituality is preferable? Why has organized religion failed to solve the problems of male violence and female oppression? Why do both genders submit to external religious authorities instead of acting on the truth of these words from the Dalai Lama? “We can do without religion, but not compassion.” Didn’t Jesus and Mohammed teach the same thing? Why is Mother Teresa the female spirit person who most readily comes to mind? What can we learn from her?
Gender Stereotypes: Why do gender stereotypes still abound? Why are some people still rigidly obsessed with defending them, especially ones related to sexuality and fundamental personal rights? Why do some of us privately project logic and rationality onto males and sensitivity and emotionality onto females even though both genders contain the psychological potential for both? We’ve had three generations of world-wide immersion in technologically produced visual images, beginning with photography, and moving into film, television, and computers. Why are we still so visually illiterate and vulnerable to subtle manipulation by the media? When and how does advertising take advantage of gender stereotypes and perpetuate unhealthy ones? Who wins from this practice? Who loses? Is it true that men are more out of touch with their feelings than women? Why? Why do women seem to find it easier to integrate their masculine sides than men, their feminine sides? What factors account for the high divorce rate in North America? Why do the genders still have difficulty understanding each other and communicating?
Exploitation of Women, Children and Nature: What can I say about human trafficking, child labor, and sexual exploitation? About the rape of Nature, our Mother? These things are unspeakably appalling and both genders are complicit. God help us. With all the freely given bounty and beauty of life we certainly haven’t excelled at preserving it or helping ourselves and each other enjoy it! Why?
I know most of us would rather imagine figures of light than face dark realities, so if these questions have aroused uncomfortable emotions or offended sensibilities I hope you’ll understand and forgive. May we all advance toward Buddhism’s goal of joyful participation in the sorrows of the world.