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Buddhadharma : Spring 2012
46 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY SPRING 2 0 1 2 Palmo: Yes, that’s true, and in the established religions, the ones that are here today, that’s been apparent, hasn’t it? Steinem: Yes. Palmo: What I want to ask you, Gloria, really truly, is why this happened? Women are extremely intelligent, and in Buddhism they are the nature of wisdom, actually. Men are compassion, women are wisdom. Women are extremely intelligent; they are extremely capable. A very obvious exam- ple is at our building sites in India, where the women are carrying the bricks and so forth and the men are doing their stonework. At the end of the day, the women go home, and do the cooking and the cleaning and take care of the kids. The men just hang around the fire, smoking their bidis and drinking. If the women weren’t doing this work, where would the men be? Women are very strong, obviously. They have all the qualities they need. So how is it that in recent history, throughout most of the known world, women have been in this position of being subjected? Why? Is it because we don’t stand together? We don’t respect each other? We don’t respect ourselves? What’s the fundamental rea- son, do you think? Steinem: Oppressive systems don’t work unless they’re internalized, and clearly ideas of inferior- ity are internalized in us. The movement is about talking to each other and discovering that’s not true. But as to the cause, it really was about con- trolling reproduction, and women’s bodies are the means of reproduction. To determine owner- ship of children, you have to restrict the freedom of women, which is the origin of various systems of marriage. You restrict the women of the so- called better group and exploit the bodies of the women of the other group. This happened very systematically with the advent of patriarchy. Gradually, the necessity of controlling repro- duction and therefore controlling women’s bodies forced women to have children they didn’t want. When I talked to San women in the Kalahari Desert, it was apparent that they always under- stood contraception, how to space pregnancies and control their own fertility. In Europe, heal- ers and witches were killed because they taught contraception, which gave women the power to control their own bodies. Eventually Europe became overpopulated, and that led to colonial- ism and imperialism and racism. And now I think we’re all trying to reverse it; that’s why repro- ductive freedom as a basic right is so important to women. It’s the single greatest determinant