Category Archive: Gender

Interview on Gender and Leadership in the Tibetan Exile Community

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Interview for CTA’s “Tibetan Women’s Day” 2020.

Topics disused are: women’s leadership, notions of empowerment, spiritual liberation, gender violence, neoliberalism, colonial violence, exile, alienation

Decolonial & Intersectional Interventions against (Neo)Liberal Feminism: Reflections on Tibetan Feminisms

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Over the course of few years, the Tibetan diaspora has seen a sharp rise in the number of Tibetan women who claim a feminist identity. What is Tibetan feminism, and how did it emerge? In the following, I track the rise of Tibetan feminism through the development of an online initiative called Tibetan Feminist Collective (TFC) based mostly in the west. Although TFC does not represent the diverse viewpoints of all women who identify as Tibetan and feminist, their version of feminism nonetheless becomes important to engage due to the initiative’s choice in leading and representing discussions regarding Tibetan feminism in Tibetan and non-Tibetan cyber and/or real worlds. Even though I use TFC as a Tibetan example of neoliberal feminism, they are not the only ones influenced by it. Other Tibetan women (alongside their male peers) not affiliated with TFC are also engaging neoliberal ideologies in shaping their individual pathways towards favorable professional outcomes that benefit themselves alone. Today we live in a world where the commodification of identities and activism, thanks to neoliberal ideologies, are so pervasive. Thus, it is important to think critically about the way neoliberalism shapes feminism (and other frameworks), and compromises their liberatory potential.

Becoming Gyalyum Chemo: Engaging Diki Tsering & Her Gender Critiques

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So, who was Diki Tsering? Why is she known as “the great mother” in contemporary Tibetan society? I consider this question through the engagement of her autobiography, Dalai Lama, My Son: A Mother’s Autobiography (2000), alongside other secondary sources. In the following, I begin first by giving a short overview of her autobiography, followed by an analysis regarding the text’s authorship and voice. Second, I engage how this autobiography is structured to consider who it was written for and why. Third, I consider Diki Tsering’s changing gendered roles alongside her comments regarding gender in her autobiography to contemplate whether she considered all gendered roles in negative light. And finally, I conclude with thoughts regarding aspects of Diki Tsering’s life that is rarely engaged or left out and compare her alongside other female figures I have engaged thus far.

Underestimated Sonam Peldren: A Nomad who was Dorje Pakmo

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Sonam Peldren was a religious figure from fourteenth-century Tibet. She was the daughter of a nomad. She had no special status, nor had she been trained or recognized by religious authorities during her time alive. She was recorded as not having received formal education and being illiterate. Yet, following her death, she became recognized in her community as the emanation of Dorje Pakmo. Unlike Tare Lhamo, Sonam Peldren lacked the social standing through which she could affirm her religious identity. However, despite such lack in status, Sonam Peldren is affirmed following her death through the efforts of her spiritual community.

Samding Dorje Phagmo: The First Tibetan Woman to Begin her own Lineage

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Samding Dorje Phagmo is the first lineage that was initiated and led by a Tibetan woman named Chokyi Dronma in fifteen century Tibet (2007: 1). This lineage continues to exist in present day Tibet. “She was listed among the highest-ranking reincarnation at the time of the Fifth Dalai Lama, and recognized by the Tibetan government and acknowledged by the Qing emperor” writes Hildegard Diemberger. Thus, engaging this historic figure becomes important in situating Tibetan religious approaches to gender.

Tare Lhamo and Namtrul Rinpoche: Courtship & Healing in times of (Culture Revolution) Degeneration

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As discussed in previous chapters of Love Letters from Golok: A Tantric Couple in Modern Tibet, Holly Gayley stresses how Tare Lhamo and Namtrul Rinpoche saw their religious engagement and activities in tandem with reviving Tibetan Buddhist culture following the destruction of the Chinese-led Culture Revolution.Before Tare Lhamo and Namtrul Rinpoche began their activities in reviving Tibetan Buddhism during the 1980s and 1990s together as a tantric couple, they began their official courtship through letters in the 1970s. These letters from the 1970s played a crucial role, argues Gayley, in shaping the couple’s future activities that came to fruition later. The following chapters engage these letters closely to consider how the couple came to view one another and their future together as a tantric couple through Indigenous and Buddhist idiom.

The Exceptional Tare Lhamo: Transcending Gender Through Agentive Means

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This is a continuation of my project to engage historic female figures of Tibet. Tare Lhamo is especially interesting because she was born before China’s invasion of Tibet, she lived through the invasion, followed by Culture Revolution until its end, and was part of the religious cohort in Tibet who began reviving Tibetan Buddhism from the destruction of Culture Revolution. She becomes an important figure to consider when we think about different subjectivities of Tibetan women in Tibetan history. I hope you’ll find the following analysis useful.

Ayu Khandro, the Traveling Yogini of Kham

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Ayu Khandro was a highly regarded neljorma, yogini, in eastern Tibet, who was born in 1839 and died in 1953 at the age of hundred-and-fifteen. Unlike Sera Khandro, Ayu Khandro did not leave… Continue reading

How do we Tibetans create our own sense of Place? Why should it matter?

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How do Tibetans construct their own space and place, and what does cham have anything to do with this? While there are many socio-cultural ways in which Tibetans construct their own place, I focus my discussion on how Tibetans construct their own spaces through the masculine ritual practice of cham, and how Tibetans respond when those spaces and places are encroached upon.

A Gendered Reading of the Life & Times of Yogini Sera Khandro: A Critical Review of Jacoby’s Love & Liberation

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Sarah H. Jacoby’s Love And Liberation: Autobiographical Writings of the Tibetan Buddhist Visionary Sera Khandro (2014) is a close reading by Jacoby on the life and times of Sera Khandro, a renowned female… Continue reading