By ALLEY BELLACK —
The next Dalai Lama could be a “mischievous blonde woman.”
But only a very attractive one.
The Dalai Lama asserted in an interview with BBC in November that he supports the idea of a female successor — but only if she had a pretty face.
“I think females should take more important roles. … If a female Dalai Lama comes, their face … should be very attractive,” the Dalai Lama said. “Otherwise not much use.”
Let’s dissect this comment. The Dalai Lama believes in female empowerment, but also that women who aren’t ”very attractive” are expendable?
As expected, this comment received viral backlash on social media, especially from feminists. Not only is this comment reductive, but it perpetuates the misogynistic paradigm that a woman’s value is based solely on her appearance.
“’You’d think that as someone who’s all about learning and enlightenment he’d have figured a few things out,” read one post on the feminist blog Jezebel.com.
“Another added: ‘I had hoped for so much more from him – in the end, yet another patriarch’”.
With over 12 million likes on Facebook, The Dalai Lama has fans all over the world. To many, he is the epitome of compassion, hope and spiritual enlightenment.
Despite his spiritual leadership, it seems that no one is exempt from educating themselves on pertinent social issues.
The Dalai Lama allegedly claimed later that his statement was a partial joke. There are, however, supporters of his proposed ideology: additional arbitrary criteria for female leaders not only as Dalai Lama but in all influential roles – political or otherwise.
This also isn’t the first time that the Dalai Lama has made an insensitive comment. As the headline suggests, he was once quoted saying that his reincarnation could be a “mischievous blonde woman,” further emphasizing his fascination with western women and their looks.
When asked by a reporter if he was joking in reference to his primary statement, he made it clear he was not, affirming, “It’s true.”
Some of his supporters, mostly male, expressed their annoyance with this popular issue given that the debate over a successor, or the 15th Dalai Lama, is near, and strained relations between Tibet and China are rampant.
According to the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, when the the Dalai Lama turns 90 years old, in accordance with other Buddhist leaders, he will make a decision about whether a successor – a “reincarnation” – should follow his leadership.
Despite being a self-proclaimed feminist and advocate of women assuming more influential roles, he has also made claims that females “biologically [have] more potential to show affection . . . and compassion” and that he doesn’t like that some feminists have “too much emotion.”.
Again, it seems the Dalai Lama attempts to empathize with the opposite sex, but fails miserably by adopting unsupported differences in the sexes.
With his 90th birthday soon approaching, the Dalai Lama should curb his evident sexist ideology before selecting a successor – who unfortunately is unlikely to be a woman, as there hasn’t been one to date. Even so, it seems his meditation practice is lacking in shedding divine light upon his bigoted views.
The Dalai Lama is often captured in pictures as a joyous, smiling old man. He is known to make funny jokes, and giggle – evoking the image of a cheerful, juvenile figure.
However, his overt sexism seems even more appalling given his supposed enlightenment and compassion. Not to mention, his vast influence reaches many people who inevitably agree with or are influenced by his ridiculous statements.
His comment illuminates the fact that even spiritual realms – ones supposedly devoid of hierarchy and power – are plagued by patriarchy and ”the male gaze”: the idea that women, and many other institutions, exist to gain the approval of heterosexual men.
What’s frustrating about this issue is the lack of potential solutions. The Dalai Lama doesn’t have a boss, so unless the Tibetan Buddhist population gets up in arms at his statements, little will happen.
Further, intentionally choosing an unattractive woman to succeed the Dalai Lama to contradict his statement would only further contribute to a sexist paradigm.
The only logical solution is to choose the most qualified person to follow him in leadership – hoping that someday it will be a woman.
(Written by Alley Bellack, edited by Terril Y. Jones; Nov. 26, 2015)