Let me start with some Buddhist theory – paticcasamuppadha. What we are talking about with this theory is that everything comes from causes and conditions. This is a form of non-self, anatta, the final stage of the development model I discussed in the last blog. If all is conditions then all is conditioning – except for zen; yet even zen when it comes down to it although it is the most subtle.
So if all is conditioning where does that leave us with gender bias? We still have the two components of bias – nature and conditioning, but the conditioning is all part of the conditioning that is life as a whole. Some talk of all life being a delusion because of this conditioning. One could describe the path as being the removal of conditioning. Many talk of education as miseducation, and that as adults we need to unlearn; this fits in with the removal of conditioning.
What is important to note is that if we consider the development model of the last blog then at the stage of ownership we still have conditioning because we still have self. And that conditioning includes gender bias, it is unavoidable. Whilst we might have other biases such as race and religion, we definitely have gender bias because as a natural self we must still have a gender – racism and religious bias do not have a natural component (despite the 19th century rubbish about the size of white people’s brains). Self-awareness or ownership means that we have reached a stage of recognition that there is conditioning to remove – to let go of. But because we have biases through attachment it is necessary to study the conditioning, so this learning about feminism is part of the wider learning of conditioning in the hope of removing it.
How do white people behave in propogating racism – personal, institutional or otherwise? I need to learn from black people (or Latin or Muslim) how they perceive white people to remove that conditioning. In the same way I need to learn how women perceive men to remove that conditioning. This is not a PC thing, it is part of working towards anatta.
In looking at anatta and comparing it with sexism or gender bias it is necessary to understand that the conditioning that is discussed with paticcasamuppadha includes the conditioning that “creates” the body:-
Dependent on ignorance, reaction (conditioning) arises;
Within this process the suffering that is sexism or gender bias arises. It neither helps nor hinders the understanding of gender bias by recognising paticcasamuppada, it merely places it in the context of suffering in general. To remove suffering in general it is necessary to include the removal of the particular suffering that is sexism. Whilst gender is part of the wider conditioning that is paticcasamuppada, gender is natural within this context, suffering occurs when this natural context is ignored or misused.