As a preface of sorts, I want to note that none of the women or bhikkunis have responded to this particular post. Including myself, we now have three (white) men holding this conversation. I think I know why women (ordained or not) have chosen to avoid this topic, but I just want to acknowledge that before proceeding.
This style of argument is what’s called an Appeal to Extremes. An Appeal to Extremes is defined as (emphasis mine):
Erroneously attempting to make a reasonable argument into an absurd one, by taking the argument to the extremes. Note that this is not a valid reductio ad absurdum .
Here are two examples of an Appeal to Extremes from the linked website:
There is no way those Girl Scouts could have sold all those cases of cookies in one hour. If they did, they would have to make $500 in one hour, which, based on an 8 hour day is over a million dollars a year. That is more than most lawyers, doctors, and successful business people make!
Explanation: The Girl Scouts worked just for one hour – not 40 per week for a year. Suggesting the extreme leads to an absurd conclusion; that Girl Scouts are among the highest paid people in the world. Not to mention, there is a whole troop of them doing the work, not just one girl.
Don’t forget God’s commandment, “thou shall not kill”. By using mouthwash, you are killing 99.9% of the germs that cause bad breath. Prepare for Hell.
Explanation: It is unlikely that God had mouthwash on his mind when issuing that commandment, but if he did, we’re all screwed (at least those of us with fresh breath).
Secondly, equating the way junior monks show respect to elder monks with the various discriminatory rules that cripple the freedom and independence of bhikkunis (freedom and independence they were shown to have in other parts of the Pali canon) is a false equivalence. The real issue is about much more than a senior nun having to show respect to junior monks. That particular example is mentioned simply because it is demonstrative of the bigger problem.
As one privileged white man to another, maybe you’ve never been on the receiving end of this kind of discrimination before. As a thought experiment, imagine if somewhere in the vinaya it said that lighter skinned monks had to always bow down to darker skinned monks, weren’t allowed to perform their own ordinations, etc. So you, as a white man, even if you were a 20 pansa monk, would have to bow to a 1-hour old bhikkhu just because his skin was darker than yours. Again, I’m picking on a relatively minor example of the discrimination found in the vinaya here, but can you imagine an enlightened being making rules like that? I can’t, just like I can’t imagine a sexist enlightened being. By the way, the “Oh, but you can use being discriminated against as a training in patience and developing loving-kindness” argument isn’t valid. We shouldn’t ever ignore institutionalized prejudice and discrimination by whitewashing it with Buddhist “practice.”