Dojo: Aikido Port Townsend
Location: Port Townsend, Wa.
Join Date: Jul 2003
The original poster had good reason to be upset at the gender disparity for this event; if only two out of thirty-five instructors had been male, no amount of rationalizations re political divides, style differences, rank envy, etc. would have served to quiet the clamor over a gross distortion of gender parity. The only difference in the actual case is that the distortion is somewhat less gross. Two women out of thirty-five instructors is actually fairly radically enlightened, by some standards.
Given that, Mr. Pranin is pretty clearly not at fault here. I am sure he made every effort to have more even gender representation. The fact that what he ended up with was so lopsided has more to do, I am sure, with a larger social pattern.
Gender parity has, as someone noted, nothing to do with any martial art, per se. But we learn those arts as part of our lives. Those arts inform us, not just by how they teach us to throw or strike, but how they teach us to live. And to an unfortunate extent, every art, including our dearly beloved Aikido, tends to teach us that women matter much less than men. They teach us that by rate of promotion, choice of ukes, amount and quality of attention, and in many other ways.
One writer said, hey, let's all just be harmonious here. Fine, do you mean harmonious as in ignore the problem, or do you mean harmonious as in doing the hard, annoying, grueling , maybe even humiliating work that it takes to achieve harmony?
Another writer, with decidedly unharmonious saracasm, asked why not black, or Native American, etc. instructors. But this is a classic red herring, a matter of saying that I can't speak up about one inequality because there are other inequalities. It's just another way of avoiding the subject at hand.
Gender parity is an issue that affects, not the quality of Aikido as a martial art, but the quality of Aikido as a way of life, as a budo. If your response to the original letter was contemptuous, or dismissive, or distorting, if, as one person indicated, you believe that an expression of frustration equals an imposition of an ideology, then perhaps this subject is striking a little too close to home for you, else why the intensity of the response?
This issue will not go away because you rationalize its causes or nature, or because you decide it doesn't matter, or because you castigate those who raise it. The Aiki Expo (and I wish I could attend) sounds like a very effective way to break down political divides that inhibit the evolution and overall harmony of Aikido. It also sounds incredibly difficult and risky to put on, and I congratulate Mr. Pranin on perservering with it (I suspect that this issue seems mild compared to some of the ones he must deal with). So how about if those of you who are lucky enough to go, treat it, in part, as an exercise in gender attitude? How about if you work at participating, not as women or men, but as Aikidoka? It might be one step towards harmony.