No. 8 (in Absentia)

No. 8 (in Absentia) August 21, 2014


Over at Tricycle‘s blog, the mighty Buddhist-feminist scholar Dr. Rita Gross has what I believe the kids call an epic takedown of the latest Patheos Public Square on “Expanding Leadership Opportunities for Buddhist Women”. Do give the whole piece a read. Specifically, Dr. Gross calls out the framing of the discussion in terms of the “risks and benefits” of opening leadership up further to Buddhist women (what risks?), as well as the fact that the panel was made up of seven men (and no women at all — in a conversation about women, no less).

Dr. Gross absolves the authors, who she presumes were not aware that no women authors would be included. I also presume this is correct — it was certainly true for me. I had been invited to participate in the Public Square, but was unable to complete anything on time due to my participation this month in both the Eco-Dharma Conference & Retreat and the Aldo Leopold Foundation’s most recent Land Ethic Leader training program. I also, some months ago, voiced support for Buddhist women as the focus when the subject of a Buddhist Public Square was raised, and made suggestions for authors (all women if I remember them correctly) when asked.

I’m glad now not to have added to the male dominance of the panel by bringing the number of male voices to eight. A Patheos editor commented in Dr. Gross’ post that potential women authors, including Dr. Gross herself, had been contacted about participating ahead of time but “either didn’t respond or declined to participate.” (Dr. Gross was in the “didn’t respond” column, apparently.) [NOTE: The same editor claims Dr. Gross was contacted beforehand and didn’t respond; Dr. Gross counters that she was not contacted until after the Public Square debuted. You can see the exchange in the comments of Dr. Gross’ post.] (Knowing how long our editors work in advance to put these Public Squares together, I can understand their wanting to work with what they had (seven contributions, all from men) and not call the whole thing a wash. However, especially given the subject under discussion, I would agree that it was at the very least ill-advised to proceed with the all-male panel; it should have been put on hold if no women contributors could be found by launch day. (When I first saw the Public Square’s front page, this Onion headline immediately came to mind.)

That said, having received such direct feedback from someone I know we all respect, I’m confident Patheos contributors and editors alike will now work that much harder going forward to not reinforce (even unintentionally) the very thing we were all concerned enough about to want to make it a special focus of our work: the scourge of Buddhist patriarchy. I know I certainly will.

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