“Women are less intelligent”

One female devotee volunteered a comment on this statement. She said she carefully considered it from different angles of vision and her conclusion is that it doesn’t make sense. Umm. This by itself is proof that women are less intelligent, sorry to say. She doesn’t have enough intelligence to understand how this shastric statement is correct. What more needs to be proven?

Seriously, though, first she looked at modern day women and concluded that they are no less intelligent then men. Because there are female devotees in GBC now, was the argument. Okay, but getting on GBC is not a big intellectual achievement and it doesn’t speak about average intelligence anyway. I thought of another test – how many female Sanskrit scholars are in our movement? How many female devotees bother to learn Sanskrit? How many can give in-depth explanations of slokas and words and demonstrate different shades of meanings? I can’t think of any. I’m sure there are female students of Sanskrit somewhere but no one has noticed them and their intelligence so that their names become known throughout our society. Rupa Goswami wrote about a hundred thousand Sanskrit verses – comparable to the size of Mahabharata. Do we know of any female devotees who achieved anything close to that? This is taking us into history, however, which was the second argument.

Draupadi and Kunti Devi were undoubtedly very intelligent women and they were used as the examples in the video. Who is going to argue that they were lacking intelligence? That would be suicidal. And yet we can compare their intelligence with that Maharaja Yudhisthira, who was ruling the entire world. With the help of his younger brothers. I’m sure he occasionally received wise council from Draupadi, too, and most certainly from his mother Kunti, but I don’t remember anyone suggesting that these women were as qualified to make decisions as Maharaya Yudhisthira himself. We can also remember a couple of episodes, like Kunti Devi getting pregnant with Karna – where was her intelligence then? Of course it was an easy and a natural mistake but I would guess that on average male students were not as careless with invoking mantras. There is, of course, a famous incident of the son of Samika Rishi cursing Maharaja Pariksit but he was a young boy and his lack of intelligence in this matter was exceptional, too.

Another episode we can consider is punishment of Asvatthama when Draupadi suddenly brought up the plight of Asvatthama’s mother. For men who just emerged from the war in which millions perished that should not have been a consideration at all (meaning not intelligent) but eventually her suggestion was incorporated into punishment. Which brings us to a different point – there are different kinds of intelligence. Men excel at some, women excel at others.

Okay, let’s consider that. Usually by intelligence we mean something that can be measured by IQ, but there is also EQ testing and let’s agree with studies that show women, on average, have higher EQ scores. What should concern us more, however, is definition of intelligence used by shastra and Srila Prabhupada. EQ did not exist back then. I think we can agree with the basic premise of intelligence as the ability to make spiritual progress and for that one needs to see the difference between matter and spirit and, more importantly, control his mind. Women are not very good at that. They are better at getting what they want but it’s the opposite of mind control, actually.

Ideally, strong intelligence means one understands things as they are, understand their relative values, and so the mind does not get attracted to that which has no value. In other words, strong intelligence means no anarthas – literally things of no value. By definition women are “stri” – those who expand the field of enjoyment, and that is anartha by itself, a not so intelligent thing to do.

This is not to say that men are free from this anartha – far from it.  In our psyche both male and female natures are mixed in different proportions at different levels, that’s why we usually alternate male and female births when gross body grows out of the subtle one, allowing for these changes, so there are plenty of “stri” elements in men’s mental make ups, too, they just haven’t become “gross” yet. On average, however, there are less there in men just as there are less pillows on bachelor’s beds. Some women have less than some men and for every man there is always a woman who is more intelligent than him in any aspect of intelligence, but, on average, women don’t do renunciation very well. Neither do modern men, of course, but the innate capacity is there and we better find the way to use it. Otherwise what’s the point of being a man?

At the same time we should be honest with ourselves and not try to pretend to be better then we really are. There is no place for pretense in devotional service.

Here is the video again. I haven’t watched it until the end, perhaps I’ll modify my opinion once I hear more. I just found it ironic how a female declares that she honestly can’t understand how she has lesser capacity for understanding things.

6 comments on ““Women are less intelligent”

  1. I listened to this podcast and was taken aback by the rather flippant dismissal of shastra by some of the matajis. I listened recently to a talk by Tamal Krishna Maharaja from back in the day and he seems to give the “majority” opinion that I encountered that in Kali Yuga all people start out as sudras so really none of these “anti-woman” verses really describe our female-bodied devotees. This was echoed to me recently by another devotee as well.

    That seems like a good rule of thumb, I suppose, but as with a lot of the instances of “never criticize another devotee” in ISKCON, it just seems to me that people use that as a cover from legitimate criticism. In this case, the squeaky wheel seems to always get the grease, so if someone as in this video basically says “I just ignore the parts of shastra that hurt my feelings,” where does one draw the line? At one point are you just patting Srila Prabhupada on the head when reading his books, thinking “I think he’s wrong here, but I don’t want to say it.” Do you end up erecting your own idol of Prabhupada, and make the actual Prabhupada of his books sit in the corner where you don’t have to deal with him? Are his books the law books for the next ten thousand years, but only the parts that this society likes? What’s the point of any of it then?

    It seems the whole “never criticize a devotee” has a free-rider problem that assumes good faith and behavior by potential bad actors. I am not saying any mataji here is a bad actor, but I think a lot of the attitudes expressed in this video are unfortunate, if not dangerous.

    • I continued watching the video but the number of objections I could have raised snowballed quickly so I gave it up.

      I’m not sure “never criticize” is the main problem here but, in any case, it’s better not to criticize and keep one’s deviant views to oneself until one can speak freely in a company one could trust. Criticism grows from doubts so until doubts are removed one will always have something to say. Whether people should hear it or not is a different matter. One should try to practice austerity of speech in this regard. Most of the time it’s neither pleasing nor beneficial, nor it’s the truth. Nor are they exposing faults in someone else – they are actually revealing the nature of their own doubts.

      I think the key to understanding what is “criticism” and what is not is animosity and ill feeling, not the facts of the matter. Facts may need to be known but they should never be colored with envy, nor should they invoke enviousness in others. And then one should ask himself – do they really need to know? I suspect Krishna keeps a lot of stuff hidden from us precisely for this reason.

      • Perhaps just to please women Sri Krishna quotes his intelligence in the Bhagavad Gita? How many women are pedophiles? How many rapes? How many tries to murder your guru? How many change the Guru’s writings?

      • “Krishna quotes his intelligence in the Bhagavad Gita” – what do you refer to exactly? What do you mean “Krishna quotes His intelligence”?

    • What do you mean to say? As explained in the purport:

      “The seven opulences listed – fame, fortune, fine speech, memory, intelligence, steadfastness and patience – are considered feminine.” Srila Prabhupada then gives an example of Sanskrit as epitome of fine speech and I asked in the article – how many female Sanskrit scholars are in our society? The ability to learn it feminine but somehow females are not very good at it.

      It’s not that every male is completely devoid of feminine qualities and every female is completely devoid of male qualities, which I also mentioned in the article – everybody has mix of these things.

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