Best known for: Talk Dirty to Me: An Intimate Philosophy of Sex. Tisdale conducts field research in adult stores, peep shows, and the pornography collection of the British Library for an exposé on the morality and philosophy of the Dionysian, non-academic topic of sex.
Her latest book: In Women of the Way: Discovering 2,500 Years of Buddhist Wisdom, Tisdale investigates the lives of 30 women who have been crucial forces in Buddhism, rewriting history from the viewpoint of marginalized voices. As a Buddhist woman herself, Tisdale gives voice to creative women who have been silenced.
Opening anecdote: Tisdale visits the enormous Zen temple of Eijerji in Japan and discovers that women have never practiced there. When she asks a guide if women are even allowed to use the same space as the men, he replies, “Officially, yes. But we have no facilities.” (Bathrooms. We need bathrooms.)
Confronting the misogyny within Buddhism: In the histories of Buddhism, Tisdale says, women have been marginalized as shameful: “Women … exist in footnotes and parenthetical asides, where they exist at all.”
But she’s in favor of sex: Tisdale inspires people not to deny their bodily desires. Establishing one’s own body and mind as a vessel for spiritual enlightenment, her philosophy is sexy in a way that has nothing to do with sex.
And it’s not just Buddhism’s problem: “In most cultures, in most countries, in most periods of time, a woman’s life is difficult by virtue of being a woman. Some sects of Buddhism eventually taught that a woman suffers from inevitable evils or ‘obstructions,’ such as having to leave home to be married, having to give birth, being neglected when she is old. Since no one wants to live with such things, no one would want to be born as a woman.”
— JULIA LIPSCOMB
Sallie Tisdale discusses Women of the Way: Discovering 2,500 Years of Buddhist Wisdom on Sunday, April 18, at 11:30 am at the Davenport Hotel’s Marie Antoinette Ballroom. Tickets: $10; free, students.