by Furry Girl
Today in long-standing annoyances: the left's schizophrenia about religion- namely, which beliefs are chic and which beliefs are deplorable.
As a whole, lefties/liberals love to point out that they're better than those normal people and the silly dogmas of the desert religions, but often embrace their own interpretations of eastern and indigenous religions. Lefties picket Mormon churches for their support of Prop 8, but squeal at the chance to see The Dalai Lama live in person. They'll look down their noses at those nutty Catholics taking the Eucharist, but love buying homeopathic tablets from Whole Foods for their subjective ailments.
Since every single religion has anti-woman, anti-queer, and anti-sex rhetoric as major core values, why are some religions slammed as "oppressive" and "sexist" and "made-up nonsense", and other religions are exempt from criticism?
I don't have anything particularly against eastern religions or white folks' selective appropriations of the beliefs of Native Americans, but it fascinates me that it's liberal blasphemy to refuse to create a special safe haven for the "cool" religious beliefs when you're talking about the absurdity religion as a whole. "Religion is patriarchal nonsense invented to control women and keep the poor oppressed through promises of an afterlife in exchange for obedience!... except for, you know, Buddhism, because it's about nonviolence, or karma, or something."
In my two and a half years on Twitter, nothing has elicited more angry replies than the few times I've pointed out that His Supreme Magicalness The Dalai Lama is a homophobe. People react as though I'm stomping on kittens if I point out his own statements about how any form of non-procreative sexual behavior is wrong. (For more of such kitten-stomping, see these bits from Wikipedia, Michael Parenti, SkepticBlog, and Q-Notes.)
One of my favorite things I've seen on the topic was a piece from "John Safran VS God", where the Australian comedian quizzed people on the street about whether certain statements on sexuality were said by the Pope or the Dalai Lama.
Does The Dalai Lama dictate dogma to Buddhists, like the Catholic Pope? No.
So, what do other Buddhists think about sexuality? It's not a religion with a Bible or a set of precise rules that one can refer back to, but the gist of the religion is that one achieves true happiness/peace/nirvana only though renouncing pleasures of the senses (sex) and ceasing desires. That doesn't sound like a faith that's poised to look kindly on me starting my day with a vibrator- even if there is no official writ denouncing doing so.
Buddhism is a religion of vagueness, one whose non-commandment commandment to "avoid sexual misconduct" has been interpreted in a lot of different ways by different cultures. I might not have a Buddhist "hell" to go to for engaging in my active/deviant sex life, but I also won't achieve enlightenment, and may well get knocked down the ladder in my reincarnations. (It's a very passive-aggressive faith, don't you think?)
When I went to Thailand, one of the first things impressed upon me, as a woman tourist, was to never touch the Buddhist monks you see all over the place. Ever. If I were to so much as accidentally bump into one on public transportation, my inherent sordidness as a woman was so powerful that I would cause serious damage to his sacred good karma. I've never been admonished of my dangerous sinful lady-powers when I've been to areas populated by a lot of Muslims, Mormons, Catholics, or Baptists.
(Thailand also burst my bubble that Thai Buddhists were trans-friendly and incredibly accepting of transwomen/kathoey in their culture. Looking into the topic more, I found that it wasn't so much that the culture accepted trans people so much as it felt sorry for them. Apparently, in order to have been born trans, you must have screwed up really badly in your last incarnation to have such an unpleasant station in this life, so Buddhists should be compassionate towards those former sinners. Pity is not exactly my vision of queer liberation.)
I won't claim to be an expert on Buddhism, and like the nice liberal Christians who gloss over the violent horrors of the Bible in favor of saying that Jesus loves everyone, some of you can no doubt counter me with a lot of cute platitudes about how the faith is about tolerance. From what I can see from the outside, though, Buddhism's anti-pleasure core value neither appeals to me, nor approves of the life I - and most people I know - lead.
I don't understand why so few other people take issue with Buddhism. (I guess they're too busy gushing in awe when The Dalai Lama utters another one of his third-grade-reading-level versions of "be nice to each other", like they're really unique insights.) It's nice that Buddhists aren't trying to take over the world through violence, but I think that's a pretty lousy metric for deciding if a group is "good" or not.
I'd like to close with a snippet from the excellent "Holier Than Thou" episode of Bullshit!. After the show talks a bit about the brutal theocratic rule of Tibet under the Dalai Lama, Penn produces scales of evil, with China on one side, and The Dalai Lama on the other.
"Since Mr. Lama has been run out of Tibet, the Chinese have introduced secular education, running water, and electricity. So, maybe life is a bit better on the ground there. Of course, the Chinese have also thrown thousands into labor camps and prisons, stomped on as much free speech as possible, and then there's that whole fucked up communism thing. But if you ask Tenzin Gyatso - DBA "Lama", what is it with these holy people and their alias? - his holiness will tell you that he must return to power for the good of his people. In this case, "good" may translate into his people living in squalor and his government condoning slavery. Remember: the lesser of two evils is still evil, and the enemy of my enemy is not my friend."
[After months of this blog post being out there, I'm sick of getting comments from random people who've never read my blog before and are looking for some place to fight about why they think their religion is awesome. Go whine about it in your LiveJournal. I will not be publishing any more comments from people who's "contribution" is to try and have the same cliche debate with me about why they love religion and/or the Dalai Lama. I've more than addressed everything I'm going to address, but if you want to keep debating religion with me, you can pay me $240 an hour to do so on iFriends, since that's what gets you off. It's not that I can't rip your tired old arguments to shreds, it's that it bores me to do so.]
Furry Girl: a good time not yet had by all.
- I operate SWAAY.org, an accessible sex workers' rights site that educates the general public about our lives and our issues.
- I've been vegan for 13 years because it's the easiest way for an individual to contribute to less violence, suffering, and exploitation.
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New to my blog? Some favorite posts
- "You have no right to dislike feminism after all it's done for you!"
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- An argument for more sex workers to be out?
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- How are we branding sex workers rights in the US? (Let's focus more on *worker*, less on *sex*!)
- How to do your homework on trafficking, "rescue", and the affected communities
- Let's stop pretending that "objectification" is a thing that exists
- Musings on ethical porn and the red herrings of "feminist porn" and "violent porn"
- My call for a "working" class uprising against inaccessible discourse and the over-representation of dabblers
- Sex trafficking is the new crack: manufactured "epidemics" as political tools
- The common logical fallacies deployed by anti-sex worker activists
- Things I've gained from being a sex worker: an anti-paternalistic perspective
- Vigilantism and 'crushing bastards': in praise of anger, hatred, and taking joy in the smiting of one's enemies
- Want to play BINGO with the antis?
- Watch out for psuedoscience: my long-time nemeses of concern trolling and "teaching the controversy"
- What do I mean when I say "sex worker"? Why I'm against an overly-broad definition
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Favorite sex/ho blogs
- Amanda Brooks
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- Dan Savage on SLOG
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- Lux Nightmare [2006-2007]
- Maggie McNeill
- Our Porn, Ourselves
- Sequoia Redd
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- Sexonomics by Brooke Magnanti
- Shit They Say to Sex Workers
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