Sexual Harassment in Buddhist Communities: a small victory

Click on the image for the full comic.

Yesterday Tanya over at Full Contact Enlightenment posted a great cartoon aimed at getting people in the cartoon community to speak up about issues around sexual harassment. As Tanya notes, this applies just as well to the Buddhist community (and, I imagine, to countless other communities out there).

Last week we saw a small victory in terms of people saying and other people listening. Over at Connections, the author writes an “Open Letter to Noah Levine of Against the Stream” where Ken McLeod was recently invited to speak. For the back-story, see early posts over at Connections or the posts I wrote in August and October of 2012.

Happily, Against the Stream responded:

In response to Patricia Ivan’s letter, Against the Stream asked if Ken McLeod would consider making a public statement either defending himself against claims he considered untrue, or acknowledging unskillful behavior and charting a course to some acceptable resolution. He declined to make such a statement. Against the Stream withholds judgment about the truthfulness of the various claims made in this issue, but does not believe that silence is an acceptable response to such controversies. Therefore, we decided that we would not host Ken on January 14, 2014. We hope that our difficult decision expresses our aspiration for a community that embodies transparency, kindness and wisdom.

The Teacher’s Council of Against the Stream Buddhist Meditation Society

Others, including Grace Shireson, Adam Tebbe, Eshu Martin, Kobutsu Malone and others over at Sweeping Zen, many writers at the Buddhist Peace Fellowship and others have written on these and similar issues in the Western Buddhist world. Others, probably too many to count, have written on Buddhism for years on blogs or in other publications without ever touching sexual harassment or related issues.

What do you think?

Is the “onus on us to warn each other”?

If not, what about those harmed already or potentially to be harmed in the future?

And if so, what is your thought on just when and how each of us should say something?

  • 無門 Mumon7

    I would hope in this relatively modern world all this about speaking up about sexual harassment would go without saying…that is OF COURSE you speak up.

    The real issue to me is how we are and how we do it when we’re doing it. Some who “have written on these and similar issues” might be – heck have – gone somewhere unskillful (to use the lingua franca in effect) in the course of doing otherwise the right thing about writing about this.

    So please forgive me if I’m requesting more skill on the part of those who are trying to be skillful in addressing these real problems.

    • justinwhitaker

      Indeed, Mumon, requesting more skill is always welcome; heck, even the watchdogs need to be watched. And if those who are calling out the corrupt or abusive are themselves slipping into dangerous territory with their words or deeds, then yes, it’s fair to note that so that they can see it and hopefully continue on with a more skillful direction. Just remember to be skillful in your request that others be skillful :)

  • Y. A. Warren

    I think more courage is required in speaking out to, rather than about, those who bully others in any form. It is so much easier to simply laugh it off, rather than taking the offender aside and requesting civility.

    • justinwhitaker

      I definitely agree and in the case mentioned above, the Ms. Ivan did spend a great deal of time working to more directly resolve the issue. It was only after being ignored or given the run around several times that she started her blog – in an effort to let the world know and to protect others. I’m proud of Against the Stream for directly asking McLeod about the issue, and I hope anyone who works with him in the future does so to; with the hope that eventually, some how, this will be resolved.

      • Y. A. Warren

        A great gift of the Patheos platform is to help expose abuses hidden in the rituals and relationships of power and tradition. Thank you for your involvement in seeking justice.


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