Buddhism after Patriarchy: A Feminist History, Analysis, and Reconstruction of Buddhism

By Rita M. Gross | Go to book overview

15
Androgynous Institutions: Issues for Lay, Monastic, and Yogic Practitioners

The feminist reconstruction of Buddhism begins with suggestions regarding everyday practices and institutional forms for two reasons. First, they are much more seriously deficient than is Buddhist theory about gender. Second, such obvious problems are more easily noticed than the subtle omissions to Buddhist doctrines that result from androcentrism. Therefore, any androgynous adjustments or additions to the Buddhist teachings would suggest themselves only after or in conjunction with serious changes in the institutional format. Usually, male dominance in the social or ritual spheres is more obvious and more objectionable than subtly androcentric intellectual, doctrinal formulations; thus it is much more likely to noticed, critiqued, and reconstructed first. This model also holds for Christian feminism. People agitated first for the ordination of women, and even today accept it far more readily than they insist on female god-language, even though male god-language is probably the cause of the problem and the male priesthood the effect.

At first, reconstruction of Buddhist institutions seems simple. Women have been excluded from the game and kept on the sidelines as cheerleaders. So let's allow women to join in the game. Let's open the meditation halls, classrooms, and monasteries equally to women. Women need and want equal rights to be human, to do the same things men have always done. At this point, it is usually assumed that the rules of the game are appropriate as they stand, that the problem has been that women were not allowed to play. Such liberal, or equal- rights feminism is the first rebellious move away from patriarchy. The opposition to it usually states that women are intrinsically different and really cannot play by the same rules.

Women who succeed at playing the men's game often come to share some of the antifeminist belief that women do indeed do things differently. But rather than concluding that women should, therefore, retire from the public life of the classroom, boardroom, and meditation hall, to return to the bedroom and the kitchen, they begin to critique and rewrite the rules of the game that is played out in the public sphere. The rules of the game, having been written by men, are

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