There is some propaganda that the reason why there has always been about 2/3 men and 1/3 women in the ISKCON society is because Prabhupada has always been perceived as being prejudiced against women by saying that they are less-intelligent. They say, “Why are you discriminating against women and saying they are less-intelligent when nowadays there are female senators, ambassadors, lawyers and company directors”.
My approach is that everything Srila Prabhupada said is true. If he said something, it is a fact, from a transcendental perspective, not from a material perspective.
He even underwent great public criticism in 1975, when he was visiting Chicago. One TV crew came to interview him as a result of this statement being publicized. Everyone on that TV crew was female. The interviewer was a woman, the cameraperson was a woman and all the technical team were women. So they were trying to make a statement. They were thinking that now, by the force of their presence, they could make Prabhupada change his view. And then they challenged him, “Do you actually think that women are less-intelligent?” And Prabhupada said “Yes”. They said “Why are you discriminating against women?” And Prabhupada said, “I am not discriminating. Nature has discriminated.”
He did not concede that by doing these jobs women had attained equality, because this simply requires education. In other words, Prabhupada’s estimation of intelligence is different from what the ordinary calculation of intelligence means. Yes, some intelligence is needed to do all these different kinds of jobs – to be a politician, to be an ambassador, to be a senator, or to be in the legal profession or to be a business person etc. That requires a certain kind of intelligence. But that’s not the criteria that Prabhupada was using when he makes this comparison between the intelligence of men and women.
Prabhupada defines intelligence in the Bhagavad-gita: “Intelligence means the ability to discriminate between spirit and matter.” That is intelligence. This other, ordinary functioning, this is just education. You learn things on the strength of your memory, your experience, and you do things.
“Actually from our point of view, everybody is a spirit soul. So we are all equal from that point of view. But at the same time we recognize that there are differences in bodies. So we make some adjustment for that. That’s all.”
“Men and women are different – why? Because a man can’t become pregnant and a woman can.” It seems like a simplistic statement but when you get right into the details it’s actually a sutra. It’s very, very meaningful. It means biologically there are differences.
When women get stressed out they sit down together and they talk, that’s all. They talk, and they talk, and they talk. You put a group of women together, they love to talk. Why do they love to talk? It’s because there are biological reasons why.
‘Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus’, was written by John Gray, a practicing psychologist and psycho-therapist, after twenty years of practical experience. What’s the premise of it? That men and women are different. That this idea that men and women are all the same, it’s bogus. And the first example that he gives is that women like to talk and men like to fix things. That when a woman comes to a man when she is stressed out, she immediately wants to talk and the man listens and after a couple of minutes he says, “Well, why don’t you do this?” Or, “If you do that, then that will fix it”. And then she yells at him, “You’re not listening to me!” Why? Because he’s trying to fix it, but she’s not, she just wants empathy, that’s all.
When women get together, they empathize with each other. It doesn’t matter what the problem is, they empathize with each other and then they all feel happy. It doesn’t matter if they don’t get a solution to the problem – they don’t want a solution to the problem in a lot of cases – they just want the release.
Whereas with men – testosterone inhibits the production of oxytocin. It stops it from being produced. That’s why when men sit and talk, they are not satisfied with just talk. They want solutions.
Men are introverted by nature and when a man goes into his ‘cave’ he should be allowed to stay there for some time, without being disturbed. When he comes out from his cave, then he will talk. So men and women are different and they should learn how to interact properly by understanding the differences in their natures. Men should be a bit more empathetic to their ladies when they want to talk – hear them, don’t try to fix things, just hear them that’s all, they want that release. And women should be a bit more respectful and not demand from the men that they sit and just talk when the man is actually in his cave, when he is in his more introspective or introverted period.
There is actually a new branch of medicine which is coming out that is gender-orientated. That some medicines work better for men than they do for women, and vice-versa; some medicines work better for women than they do for men. Although they are treating apparently the same disease, because there are some biological differences, the medicines don’t have the same effect.
So these are simple difference. But they also have implications in our understanding of how intelligence works. Because real intelligence as Prabhupada says, is the ability to discriminate between spirit and matter. To come to a solution. To fix the problems of material existence. To see that this material existence is one stressful situation after another.
How do you fix it? By discriminating between spirit and matter. By understanding that we are not this body, we are spirit souls. To find out what is beyond matter and then aim towards liberating yourself from the suffering of material existence.
So what Prabhupada was saying, is that the male’s biological and psychological structure is more suited to fixing those problems than the female’s. The female has to actually battle against her own body and mind to be able to become detached. She has to fight against the ‘oxytocin’, fight against the ‘feel good’ reactions of her body and mind which don’t produce solutions. She has to fight against the tendency to just be happy in just talking and come to the platform of actually solving the problems. So women in general don’t like to do that. It is very difficult for them to become detached from the material world.
Srila Prabhupada however did say on quite a lot of occasions that “Yes, women are not as intelligent as men, but when a woman becomes a devotee, she becomes as intelligent as a man”. That men and women in Krishna consciousness, their intelligence is the same. We are all handicapped by the fact that we have a material body. But still, if you take up Krishna consciousness seriously, then you have every chance, whether you are a man or a woman, of going back home, back to Godhead in this life if it is done seriously.
Dhirasanta dasa Goswami