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Sexism and misogyny are terrible things. I don't care about culture or what have you—you shouldn't have to expect/put up with discrimination and violence anywhere you go, period. If it's present and we're aware of its existence, we need to fight it.
For me, part of growing up, maturing, or whatever you want to call it, is becoming more aware of, and sensitive to, these kinds of realities, seeing that things like patriarchy, racism, sexism, etc. exist and permeate our culture and society in negative and harmful ways, realizing that even the most seemingly innocuous things we do or say can and do carry the seeds of patriarchy, racism, sexism, etc. without us ever knowing it because it's hard to see the big picture (i.e., history; the multitude of psychology and cultural mechanisms that are at play; the types of discrimination and violence that still exist, even if only in verbal form; etc.).
Seeing something like this, it's easy to say a man, "Well, that's not me. I'd never do that." But that doesn't mean we don't do or say things that, unconsciously on our part, help to propagate these kinds of attitudes. And even when we're aware of it, it can be hard to admit. I know that I certainly don't like admitting to myself that I've done and said things that were less than enlightened, that I've said racist and sexist shit even though I didn't see it that way at the time.
And even if we don't think and act in this way, do we consistently challenge it when we come into contact with others who do? Sometimes, perhaps. But maybe sometimes we're afraid to confront the person. Maybe we think we're too busy or think it's none of our business. Maybe sometimes we think it's funny. Whatever the case, by not challenging it when we know it for what it is, we give it space to grow. Our non-action helps to preserve an environment that allows this to continue to happen. Seeing this, the most important message I get is, "Please help me to create an environment that makes it unacceptable because I can't do it alone."
Why is it so important? One of the main reasons is how easily obscured the existence of patriarchy is. It's hidden in plain sight, as is its considerable influence, despite the fact that evidence of it is literally everywhere (even our language is permeated by it). Most people don't seem to understand patriarchy, how it works, where it comes from, and why it's worth struggling against. In Western society and culture, for example, patriarchy can be traced back to the earliest parts of recorded history; and even today, it pervades huge swaths of our culture, religion, politics, and economic relations.
The role of women in public life in ancient Greece and Rome, from where Western society can arguably trace its roots, was practically nonexistent. Their primary roles were as child-bearers and homebodies. Women (at least aristocratic women, i.e., non-slaves and prostitutes) in Greece were hardly even seen in public, and then usually only when accompanying a man. Being single wasn't acceptable. Education was primarily something men received. Gender roles were strictly defined. Men dominated all spheres of life. In Rome, things were slightly better and less restrictive for women, but not by much.
(As a side note, one of the more radical and impressive aspects of Plato's Republic was his argument that women should share in the education and tasks of their male counterparts. This includes arguing for female guardians (soldiers) and rulers at a time when women were 'kept at home' and mostly restricted from public life, which really surprised me.)
Another point of entry for patriarchy in Western society was the male hierarchy of Christianity. While some aspects can be seen as radical and egalitarian in nature, there are aspects that, when Christianity was adopted by the Roman world, reinforced patriarchy and women's submissive role in society. A few examples are: "Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord" (Eph 5:22); "Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says" (1 Cor 14:34); and "I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet" (1 Tim 2:12).
Fast forward through centuries of male-dominated society and you have the birth of America, in which initially only white, male property owners could vote, with women only winning the right vote in 1920, 50 years after blacks and 144 years after the country's founding. And if you think winning the right to vote was the end of gender discrimination, you're sorely mistaken. Women are still battling against rigid gender roles, prejudices, and hierarchies that we've been conditioned over time to subconsciously (and even consciously) adopt and maintain.
These material and ideological pressures, albeit weakened, continue to exert their influence on our society and its structure, informing our perceptions of the world and our conceptions of gender norms. Women are still widely seen as and/or expected to be child-bearers and homebodies, providing the free/uncompensated labour of literally reproducing the labour force and supporting the reproduction of labour power via nurturing husbands and children emotionally and materially (e.g., cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc.). They're still expected to provide a certain kind of emotional labour, even in the workforce. They still make up the majority of 'nurturing' professions like nursing and teaching. They still tend to make less than their male counterparts (roughly $.80 to the dollar according to one study. They're often seen and portrayed as 'bitchy,' 'cold,' etc. if they're assertive and not nurturing/emotionally receptive and giving. The list goes on.
But this doesn't just affect women, it affects all of us. Due to the gender roles imposed upon men and women within our society, neither are free to fully be and express themselves (to say nothing of those who fall outside of this historically accepted gender binary). Men, for example, aren't given as much space as women to be 'caring,' 'nurturing,' etc., it not being 'manly' to show too much affection or emotion. And an argument can be made that the prevalence of male privilege embedded in our predominately patriarchal society and the negative aspects of socially-constructed, male gender norms (what some call 'toxic masculinity') are at least partially responsible for the prevalence of male violence, particularly gun violence.
In addition, a recent study published in the journal Psychological Science found that "both men and women see images of sexy women's bodies as objects, while they see sexy-looking men as people," which I think demonstrates that such a gender bias exists in the perception of both men and women; and the study's conclusion further reinforces my belief that sexism and the objectification of women is a broader symptom of a society that's practiced patriarchy for centuries, as well as corroborating evidence that patriarchal ideology has become so ingrained into our collective psyche that even women are conditioned to objectify women in the same way as men.
Feminism isn't about declaring men to be wholly bad or inferior, nor women to be wholly good or superior. It's about confronting the reality that patriarchy exists and permeates our culture and society and challenging that reality in order to create a more free and egalitarian world.
Both Ajahn Amaro and Ajahn Pasanno were at Portland Friends of the Dhamma yesterday leading the Friday meditation and Dhamma talk. It was Ajahn Amaro's first visit to PFoD's new center, and my second time seeing him.
The first time I saw Ajahn Amaro was about eight years ago on Magha Puja, the day tradition holds that 1,250 arahants spontaneously gathered at Veruvana Temple, Rajgarh city. It was a pretty amazing experience, and I still remember it fondly. This time around, the circumstances were less unexpected, but they were no less meaningful.
After tea and some casual discussion, we all requested the refuges and precepts, and Ajahn Pasanno gave a short talk before meditation about the precepts and what we're taking refuge in: the Buddha, who personifies the qualities of awareness, wisdom, compassion, and purity; the Dhamma, which is the nature of truth, the nature of reality; and the Sangha, the realization of that nature, and the arising of those qualities within us.
My meditation was better than I expected from not having done much since the retreat at the end of September, and the talk helped. Instead of taking refuge in my daydreams or compaining mind, I attempted to take refuge in awareness. Whatever came up, I tried not to grasp it and get carried away by it, but simply stay grounded in the present moment. Afterwards, Ajahn Amaro gave the Dhamma talk, which mainly focused on the nature of things as they are, using the five subjects of frequent reflection as a foundation.
A few of the things that stood out to me during the night were: the precepts seem restrictive, but they're meant to free the heart; we take refuge in things that are insecure, courting disappointment; all things are nature, Dhamma, and wisdom or enlightenment is waking up to that nature—you don't gain anything, you simply realize what's already there; if you don't own anything (through non-clinging and the cessation of self-identification, not in a conventional sense), then you have nothing to lose or to cause you suffering.
Both Ajahn Amaro and Ajahn Pasanno are inspiring teachers, and it was wonderful having them here tonight. I'm so fortunate to be here, now, in this place and have the opportunity to be near so many wise spiritual teachers in this tradition.
my request to all is that if you eat non-vegetarian food, then please stop eating non-vegetarian food and eat only vegetarian food.My two cents: