An Introduction to Buddhist Ethics: Foundations, Values, and Issues

By Peter Harvey | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 9
Sexual equality

To one for whom the question arises, 'am I a woman or am I a man in these matters?'…to such a one is Māra fit to talk! Sam$$yutta Nikāya I.129

'Sexual equality' covers a range of issues on which religion can have a direct or indirect bearing:
1. access to religious teachings and practices, and encouragement to follow them;
2. images of men and women's spiritual potential;
3. opportunity with regard to specialist religious roles, and status within them;
4. status, authority and respect within the family;
5. equality of legal status with regard to such matters as inheritance and divorce;
6. access to educational and other resources, and encouragement to use them;
7. opportunity with regard to work and earnings;
8. opportunity with regard to political power and rights;
9. the actual achievement of equality as allowed/facilitated by a religion or culture.

These are affected by the way a culture construes the differences between men and women: with how biological differences of sex are used as a basis for a set of differing expectations and characterizations of 'male' and 'female' genders. In most cultures, any sexual inequality is usually at the expense of women; thus the issue is generally focused on the status of women. Nevertheless, some feminists have questioned whether 'equality' with men is always the appropriate goal for women to seek, if it simply means equal access to a world where the rules are set by men.

In the West, while feminism and its precursors have brought about valuable changes to the position of women, feminism not infrequently leads to dogmatic viewpoints being taken up, both between feminists and non-feminists and within both 'camps'. This can lead to 'clinging to views' – holding to particular views with attachment and indignation –

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