Just a Little Advice
Posted October 17, 2005
I was glad to read Sri Nandanandana prabhu's explanation of his article, "Women in Vedic Culture" and some of the comments he made. Please understand that I was not trying to criticize or find fault with the premise of the article--I thought it was quite good, actually, and very well written and researched. I simply wanted to point out one section that I knew would be hurtful and discouraging to some people.
Devotees often say harmful things without even being aware of it. Imagine being a woman who excels in male roles, or who is masculine by nature, and then finding yourself mentioned in a section discussing "demoniac cultural influences." The exact quote, "women should not try to seize the role of men or try to adopt the masculine nature of men. Otherwise, imbalance results in society..." was really unnecessary and did not add to the article, especially when the piece itself mentions, later on, women like Gangamata Goswamini who contradict such statements. I don't expect the author to go into details about gender minorities, but neither do I expect to see them associated with demoniac cultural influences or social imbalance. A simple statement acknowledging exceptions to the general rule would do (as Sri Nandanandana makes in his reply).
Devotees are often unaware of the discriminatory and prejudicial attitudes they convey, so I think it's important to call attention to them when they arise. This is not to criticize but to bring about awareness and a certain degree of sensitivity among devotees. For instance, Arati dasi recently mentioned that during an official ISKCON seminar she heard Urmila dasi--an important ISKCON leader in our movement--say that men with feminine natures and women with masculine natures disgusted her. We are all contaminated to some degree with our own bodily prejudices, likes and dislikes, but we should learn to identify, contain, and ultimately transcend them. There is no need to be defensive or embarrassed when they arise; simply correcting them will do, and this is true for just about all of us.
In conclusion, I would like to defer to a statement made by His Holiness Bhakti Tirtha Maharaja. No one was more familiar with prejudice than him, yet in all humility he once wrote: "It is quite amazing how most of us can be so prejudiced and not even know it. As we read Srila Prabhupada's books, our own prejudice can easily cause us to see and not to see--'pasyann api na pasyati.' "