OK, I have a really hard dilemma here for you to contemplate. (No doubt the trolls are going to have a party with this one.)
I’m visiting family in Canada, and as I visit various non-Buddhist family and friends, even though they are very kind to me (and are feeding me, etc), they keep slipping in their views that everybody should have a regular job and be working full-time in the way that laypeople here usually do. BTW: Canada has strong, hard-working, Puritan-style values, as in, “you’re only as valuable as how hard you work”. You know, the Puritan work ethic.
The (non-Asian) Canadians I know are quite generous, but that generousity is usually spread out thinly between a whole bunch of recipients, wether it’s pets (which are quite expensive to own in Canada), family (as in, spoil the children), various sorts of under-priveleged, needy people, or monastics like myself (making a brief visit before returning to Asia).
That thinly-spread generosity is, by and large, not really enough for a monastic to easily make a livlihood out of (without serious outreach efforts, fundraising, raising one’s public profile, risking becoming “famous”, living in a city for the first few years, working towards living out in the country, etc). I feel that it’s only the ethnic Asians here who can really drive Buddhist monasticism here in Canada (or at least, get a new monastery/hermitage off the ground in the early years).
In Asia, there is a widespread, ancient-stemming view that you get a lot more merit by supporting a monastic (than say, a pampered household pet). In Asia, this view is arguably the very lifeblood of the Sasana. Ethnic Thais, Sri Lankans, and Burmese support the Sangha very well (at least the monks, anyway), while mangy, skeletal, stray, un-neutered, un-spayed dogs look on, licking their lips at the smell of the almsfood.
So how do we reconcile the need to have a Western-style equality between genders in Buddhist monasticism, yet we simultaneously want donors to see a greatly unequal value of offering dana to monastics (far above other sorts of morality-challenged possible dana recipients out there), which would yield orders of magnitude more of merit, because the “purity” of the recipient is so much higher?