Women Don’t Shoot

Friday night I watched “Michael Moore in Trumpland.”  The title is a bit deceptive.  It has very little to do with Trump, and a lot to do with feminism.  It’s funny, educational, moving, and it is a spirited discussion of the struggles of Hillary Clinton, through which, it touches upon the struggle of all women and extols their power.

trumplandMichael Moore’s film is a record of a one-man show he performed in October at the Murphy Theatre in Wilmington, Ohio.  Over the course of sixty minutes, Moore spends a considerable amount of time going over the attacks, the abuse Hillary Clinton has endured over the years, most all of it, of course, coming from men.  I remember how she was humiliated for heading the Task Force on National Health Care Reform in the 1990s.  But I had forgotten how nasty it was, and perhaps dulled to how nasty it has been ever since.

In 1994, at a rally in support of the health care campaign, as the First Lady spoke, protestors held up signs that read “Heil Hillary” and nearly booed her down.  For the first time, the Secret Service was successful in persuading Hillary Clinton to wear a bulletproof vest.

It is obvious that Michael Moore likes Hillary, he admires her because she has character, that is, good character, one thing many voters doubted.  She took all the abuse heaped on her, never complained (at least not in pubic) and kept moving forward.

About halfway through the performance, Moore looks into the camera and says,

hillary-clinton-019bMy hope, my optimism for this . . .  Hillary, if you’re watching this right now (I have a feeling that someone is going to slip you a tape of this), I just want to tell you something, I know you’ve been waiting . . . but you’re not alone, a whole  bunch of the rest of us have been waiting for that one glorious moment when the other gender, the majority gender, has a chance to run this world, have some real power and kick some righteous ass.”

We men have been in charge far too long, and as a result, our world is out of balance.  We need to adjust the axis in favor of gender equality.

Now, it’s amazing how certain things fall in place . . . Just Friday morning I was reading these words by Barbara E. Reed: “The Tao Te Ching uses feminine imagery and traditional views of female roles to counter destructive male behavior.” *

Tao is a complex principle.  Tao means “road or “path”.  Philosophically, it is the “Way”, and for now, let us just say that it is about the way of living.  The classic Chinese text, Tao Te Ching, can be translated as “The Way and its Virtue.”

According to one scholar, the origins of the Tao Te Ching were “ideas from anonymous people (not intellectuals) of the 6th – 4th centuries BCE, probably including local elders (“lao-tsu”), possibly including women . . .” He mentions also that the early layers of the teachings emphasized “natural simplicity, harmony, ‘feminine’ behaviors”.  **

I am intrigued by the notion that women may have influenced the formation of these teachings.  The doctrine of Taoism has always showed a preference for feminine “behaviors”, and at times, it seems the Tao Te Ching is saying that the feminine is the purest form of life.

In ancient China, women were largely illiterate and subjugated.  Yet, there were periods in China’s history when Buddhist and Taoists movements welcomed women as both practitioners and leaders, and there were teachings (“Inner Alchemy”) specifically for women.

One modern woman, Ursula K. Le Guin, an American author known for her works in the genres of fantasy and science fiction, published a translation of the Tao Te Ching in 1998.  In an interview some years later, she said,

Lao Tzu feminized mysteries in a different way from anybody else.  These are not “feminine mysteries,” but he makes mystery itself a woman.  This is profound, this goes deep.  And the most mystical passages in the book are the most feminine.  This is something women need, I think, and long for, often without knowing it.  That’s undoubtedly one reason why all my life I’ve found the Tao de Ching so refreshing and empowering.”

This is something that everyone needs, and that everyone has.  Feminine energy (yin) is not separate from masculine energy (yang).  The feminine and the masculine give rise to each other; they are interdependent and universal.  Water and the earth symbolize feminine energy.  The feminine is soft, yielding, receptive, fluid, creative, intuitive, transformative, and nurturing.

The masculine is associated with activity, creativity, hardness, logic, and control.

tai-ji-symbol3As we seen in the tai ji symbol, yin and yang are enfolded within one another.  Every person has yin and yang energies.  For instance, I’d say Hillary Clinton has some significant yang energy, while her former opponent has too much.

In chapter 42, the Tao Te Ching says, “All things carry yin and embrace yang. They achieve harmony by balancing these energies.”  The best way of living is living in harmony with nature and each other, and the more we can harmonize the feminine and masculine within ourselves, the more effectively we can check compulsive and extreme behavior, the more we can counteract negative forces within the mind and even the body.

Gentleness is another quality of feminine energy, and in the film, Michael Moore points out that women are mostly non-violent.

“Women generally don’t shoot you,” he says.  “Unless you deserve it.”

– – – – – – – – – –

* Barbara E. Reed, “Taoism”, Women in World Religions, Ed. Arvind Sharma,  SUNY Press, 1987 162

** Russell Kirkland, Taoism: The Enduring Tradition, Psychology Press, 2004

Hillary Clinton photo: Wellesley College Archives

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A Woman’s Way

A woman named Alice Duer Miller was born 141 years ago today.  She was a woman’s suffrage activist and during her time, a very popular poet. Miller was also novelist, playwright, screenwriter, and (with Dorothy Parker) one of the two female members of the famous Algonquin Hotel Round Table, that “Vicious Circle” of writers, critics, actors, wags and gladflies who met for lunch each day at the Algonquin Hotel in the 1920s and ‘30s

ADMillerHer first novel, Come Out of the Kitchen, published in 1916, was a best-seller. Soon afterward, in addition to writing more novels, she became a regular contributor to the Saturday Evening Post, McClure’s, and Scribner’s magazines. Many of her stories were turned into movies such as Roberta (1935), a musical with Irene Dunne, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and Irene (1940), another RKO musical.

Her most famous work is The White Cliffs, a verse novel published in 1940 that also showed up on film, as The White Cliffs of Dover, again starring Irene Dunne, along with Van Johnson, Elizabeth Taylor and many others. The film transformed one of England’s most recognizable landmarks into a reassuring symbol of hope during the WW2 years.

Miller campaigned for women’s suffrage and her mightiest sword was the written word. She published a series of satirical poems in the New York Tribune that were later published as Are Women People? in 1915, five years before women were granted the right to vote with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

It is probably as the suffragist poet that Alice Duer Miller is best remembered. Her Are Women People? poems were thought to be clever and brilliant during her day. I am not sure how they are viewed by contemporary readers, nor how her non-feminist poetry is critically appraised. I suspect most of it is considered undistinguished. I am a poor judge of poetry myself. I only know what I like, and I have always thought the best poems are the simplest ones, not simple in meaning but in language, for as Walt Whitman said, “Simplicity is the glory of expression.”

“The Way” is a term used quite frequently in Buddhism and here at The Endless Further. This is Alice Duer Miller’s short, simple and expressive take on The Way:

The Way

There is a magic pathway through the wood,
There is a current in the troubled stream,
A happy course to steer, if one but could,
A meaning to the dream.

And some in love and some in dogma find
The hint eternal as they kiss or pray;
Some through the crystal circle of the mind
Discern the way.

And some no hint, no pattern of the whole,
Nor star, nor path, nor channel can perceive –
Attempt no answer to the questing soul,
And yet believe

There is a magic pathway through the wood,
There is a current in the troubled stream,
A happy course to steer, if one but could,
A meaning to the dream.

Alice Duer Miller

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“Woman is the incarnation of ahimsa.”

The other day while rummaging around in a closet, I ran across an old book I have on Mahatma Gandhi and since I hadn’t seen it for some time, I began thumbing through the pages and almost immediately hit upon this, which is so beautifully said, that I just have to share it with you:

Woman is the incarnation of ahimsa. Ahimsa means infinite love, which again means infinite capacity for suffering. Who but woman, the mother of man, shows this capacity in the largest measure? She shows it as she carries the infant and feeds it during nine months and derives joy in the suffering involved. What can beat the suffering caused by the pangs of labour? But she forgets them in the joy of creation.

Who, again, suffers daily so that her babe may wax from day to day? Let her transfer that love to the whole of humanity, let her forget that she ever was or can be the object of man’s lust. And she will occupy her proud position by the side of man as his mother, maker and silent leader. It is given to her to teach the art of peace to the warring world thirsting for that nectar.”

M.K. Gandhi*

Ahimsa (Sanskrit: “not to injure”) means non-violence. Another way to put it is “do no harm.” It is an important principle in all the major Indian religions, and in fact, the phrase “do no harm” is often used for the Buddha’s first precept.

Historically, Buddhism has demonstrated some extremely misogynistic tendencies and even today there remain issues in a few Buddhist schools regarding gender equality. Yet, Buddhism has also a tradition of revering women as uniquely awakened beings. In Prajna-Paramita literature, Buddhas are not born from Nirvana but from the practice of Prajna-Paramita, Transcendent Wisdom. Transcendent Wisdom is the “mother of all Buddhas,” and when contemplated in this way, visualized as feminine.

Compassion, or in Gandhi’s words “infinite love,” is often represented by Kuan Yin, the goddess of compassion. Kuan Yin is the Chinese translation of the name Avalokiteshvara, which means “one who hears the cries of the world.” In China, this bodhisattva is often viewed as female. Kuan Yin not only hears sentient beings’ cries of suffering, but also works tirelessly to assist all those who call upon her name. To call upon Kuan Yin, to chant her name, really means to work tirelessly to capture the spirit of compassion she represents.

Woman is the incarnation of “infinite love.” For this and many other reasons, women should be protected and cherished, and respected.  This why we must continue to resist and deny access to power to all who denigrate and abuse and mistreat women. Women are the foundations of our families. They are the fabric that holds our society together.

For men, women are a beautiful gift, especially when we make efforts to cultivate the spirit of women within.  In the words of the Buddha,

Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings;
Radiating kindness over the entire world.

– – – – – – – – – –

* M.K. Gandhi, Women and Social Justice, Ahmedabad, Navjivan Publishing House, 1954, 26-27.

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The first woman elected to US Congress was a disciple of Gandhi

Speaking of politics:

Today is the birthday of Jeanette Rankin. A life-long pacifist and Suffragette, she was the first female member of the United States Congress and the first woman elected to the House of Representatives in 1916. She was also a Republican (they were different in those days).

Born in 1880, near Missoula, Montana, Rankin graduated from the University of Montana in 1902 and studied at the School of Philanthropy in New York City. She began social work in Seattle, Washington, in 1909 and in subsequent years worked for woman suffrage in Washington, California, and Montana.

One month into her term in the House of Representatives, Congress voted on the resolution to enter World War I. Rankin voted against the resolution and suffered a backlash from not only the press but suffragette groups, who canceled many of her speaking engagements. Despite her anti-war vote, she supported the military draft and participated in Liberty Bond drives.

In 1918, she introduced legislation to provide state and federal funds for health clinics, midwife education, and visiting nurse programs in an effort to reduce the nation’s infant mortality.

Her term as Representative ended in 1919. For the next two decades, she worked as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C. for various causes. She worked for legislation to promote maternal and child health as a field secretary for the National Consumers’ League, and campaigned for the Sheppard-Towner Act, the first federal social welfare program created explicitly for women and children. In 1920, she became founding vice president of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

In 1929, she wrote,

There can be no compromise with war; it cannot be reformed or controlled; cannot be disciplined into decency or codified into common sense; for war is the slaughter of human beings, temporarily regarded as enemies, on as large a scale as possible.

She was re-elected to the House in 1940, running on an anti-war platform.  She was sixty years old. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Rankin once again voted against going to war. It should be noted that there was huge opposition to entering World War II, even after Pearl Harbor, a fact that is usually left out of most accounts. Republican leaders in Montana pressured Rankin to change her vote, but she remained firm. By 1942, her antiwar stance had become so unpopular that she did not seek re-election.

Rankin’s interest in India dated back to 1917, when she read some books by Lajpat Rai, a pre-Gandhi Indian author and politician. By the time she left Congress for the second time, she had become extremely interested in Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence. In 1946, she traveled to India where she was able to meet with Nehru, but missed an opportunity to see Gandhi, something she always regretted.

By her next visit to India, Gandhi had already been assassinated. She continued to visit the country many times, mainly to study Gandhi’s non-violent civil disobedience methods.

Gandhi was a religious man, he was. But he was what we would call a politician; he knew what you could do and what you couldn’t do with people. He was a psychologist. He was a politician because he knew what you could expect of the common people and what you couldn’t expect of them . . . Gandhi never used the phrase “non-violence” without the word “truth.” Truth and non-violence. He hunted for the truth and the other side gave in . . . Gandhi used spiritual power to solve modern political problems. Without violence, he obtained the independence of India.

In 1968, at the age of 88, she led the Jeannette Rankin Brigade, a peace group numbering 5,000, to Washington to protest the Vietnam War and to present a peace petition to House Speaker John McCormack.

Apparently, when she died in Carmel, California, on May 18, 1973, Jeannette Rankin was contemplating yet another run for Congress.

Jeanette Rankin was a true maverick. Learn more about this remarkable woman at Women in Congress.house.gov

Or rent A Single Woman, the bio-pic on Jeannette Rankin, starring Jeanmarie Simpson, Judd Nelson, and Peter Coyote, along with the voices of Patricia Arquette, Karen Black, Margot Kidder, Elizabeth Peña, and Chandra Wilson.

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Bhikkhunis should go rogue

The problem with Bhikkhuni ordinations is that there is a problem, and there shouldn’t be. It is shameful that there is still opposition to the full ordination of women as Buddhist monastics.

A new article to be published in the summer edition of Buddhadharma takes a look at the current situation and discusses 2009’s controversial Bhikkhuni ordination in Perth, as well as the ongoing problem of gender equality in Buddhism.

The article says, “Like a cork popped from a tight bottle . . . [the issue] has inadvertently challenged the core of Thai monastic authority, which refuses to accept the validity of Theravada bhikkhuni.”

One nun asks, “How can I live with integrity if I love being a monastic but find the ancient structure unresponsive to our modern times?”

Women have been trying to work “within the system” and it seems to me that this effort has largely failed. Yes, support is slowly growing within the male monastic community, but overall, it is a stalled issue, punitive actions have been taken against monks who support Bhikkhuni ordination, and women continue to suffer.

Another nun poses this question, “How can I still use a monastic vehicle that is so structurally unfriendly and prejudiced toward women as my path to liberation?”

Continue reading “Bhikkhunis should go rogue”

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