The Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists, faces criticism from gender equality campaigners for remarking that any potential female successor to his role “must be very, very attractive.”

During a BBC interview, he said there was no reason a future dalai lama could not be a woman—but she would have to be good-looking. Otherwise, he said, she would be “not much use.”

Despite having previously described himself as a feminist, this is not the first time the Dalai Lama has caused a stir over his views on women. In May, he said he could be reincarnated as a “mischievous blonde woman. ” Even then, he insisted, “her face must be very attractive” or “nobody pay [sic] much attention.”

From The Guardian:

The 80-year-old’s remarks – which he made in an interview with the BBC reporter Clive Myrie, as he talked of succession, or reincarnation – provoked accusations of sexism that look set to plague the remainder of his tour of the UK, which began on 14 September.

The present, 14th Dalai Lama, whose original name was altered to Tenzin Gyatso, said his institution would continue only if it were the choice of the people of Tibet. Asked if the next “incarnation” could be female, he answered, “Yes!”

Both men laughed at the comment, which seemed at first to come off as a clumsy joke, and Myrie gave the Dalai Lama a chance to clarify his statement. The reporter asked whether he meant a female Dalai Lama would be very attractive? “I mean, if female Dalai Lama come, then that female must be very attractive,” the Dalai Lama said. “Otherwise not much use.” Myrie said: “Really? You’re joking.” Gyatso replied: “No, true!”

Women’s equality campaigners said the Dalai Lama’s remarks, apparent in the interview posted online on Monday, were disappointing.

Vivienne Hayes, CEO of the Women’s Resource Centre, which campaigns widely on women’s inequality, said: “It’s disappointing that any woman’s ability to take on a leadership role should be determined by her appearance. This seems to be a common obsession across the media, given some of the comments about women in politics. We are concerned that society is in fact going backwards in terms of women’s equality, and will keep tirelessly campaigning against this.”

Nicole Rowe, spokeswoman for Progressive Women, a charity that seeks to empower women in their professional and personal lives, said: “While we’re pleased to hear the Dalai Lama is in favour of the possibility of a female Dalai Lama, we’re surprised and greatly disappointed that a man of such compassion and wisdom could express such a retrograde opinion.

“Perpetuating the antiquated idea that women are primarily useful as ornaments, as in the parlance ‘Women should be seen but not heard’, only adds fuel to the manifold discrimination women still face to this day. A woman’s appearance is not more important than her achievements. If a woman were to become Dalai Lama, we’re certain that her actions would be of much more weight than how she looked, and we hope the Dalai Lama will take the time to reflect on the impact of his words for women, particularly given the scale of his influence.”

Read more here.

–Posted by Roisin Davis

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