Interestingly, women have never appealed to Xiwangmu for children, as women did to the popular Buddhist deity Guanyin, nor have they asked Xiwangmu to make them better wives or mothers. Taoist women have been more interested in spiritual techniques, power, and the ability to live independent lives. Perhaps this is one reason that issues surrounding gender and sexuality that are prominent in other religions—issues such as divorce, abortion, and homosexuality—do not play a significant role in the Taoist tradition.
From the beginning, the goal in Taoism has been to unite male and female energies. Just as men were encouraged to be more like women, women were encouraged (at least theoretically and doctrinally) to be more like men. Under the influence of culture and other religious traditions there are notable exceptions, and far more men than women became leaders within the tradition. Equality was an ideal, rather than the norm, and Taoism was certainly not able to transform the lives of Chinese women as a whole. Nonetheless, Taoist organizations were, like Buddhist monasteries, an essential outlet for women who wished to live more independent lives than the culture in general afforded them.
1. Would Taoism argue that men and women are born into preconceived gender roles?
2. How does Taoism respond to issues of abortion, divorce, and homosexuality?
3. How does the Taoist ritual of sexual intercourse differ from promiscuity?
4. Why is Taoism a religion of empowerment to many women?