Last fall, The Arrow Journal dedicated a special issue to Buddhism & Feminism, revisiting some of the stands taken by the late Rita Gross, one of the first feminist theologians to write about Buddhism.
The issue centers on an article by philosopher Alexis Shotwell, “‘Like Water into Water’: If Buddhism, then Feminism. But What Sort of Feminism.” Shotwell explores the ways that Buddhism and feminism are compatible with an emphasis on thinking through what sort of feminism would best serve contemporary Buddhist communities in North America in their ongoing diversity work.
I was asked to be one of three respondents to the article, alongside Judith Simmer-Brown, who offers a compelling account of feminist struggles during the 1970s and 80s within Buddhist convert communities in the US, and Sara Lewis who tackles gender issues within a Buddhist framework of relative and ultimate truth. My own response, “Where Do We Look for Buddhist Feminism,” addresses a broad question about methodology, asking what sources we use to construct a “Buddhist” position on a given contemporary ethical issue, particularly gender given the complex array of Buddhist representations in art, texts, and ritual performance. This is the third year for The Arrow Journal, co-founded by Gabe Dayley and Kai Beavers as a site of engagement between contemplative practice, politics, and activism.
Karma Lekshe Tsomo is charting another conversation on the topic with her next edited volume, Buddhist Feminism(s) and Femininities, forthcoming from SUNY Press. The volume includes contributions by Karen Lang, Lisa Battaglia, Jeff Wilson, Amy Holmes-Tagchungdarpa, and others. My contribution to the volume, “Gendered Hagiography in Tibet: Comparing Clerical Representations of the Female Visionary, Khandro Tare Lhamo,” explores salient differences between three biographies of Tare Lhamo by monastics in Golok with distinct perspectives on her identity.
Cover of The Arrow 3:1 featuring original artwork by Alicia Brown.