Regarding the status of women during the life of Buddha

All I can is that John Walters hasn’t done enough research. Here are a few important points he has missed.

He is presumably speaking of the modern situation, not the historical one. This is why some of us have been arguing for the importance of reintroducing the ordination of bhikkhunīs across all schools of Buddhism. In those countries where the bhikkhunī Sangha never ceased to exist, such as Taiwan, the bhikkhunīs have a very strong social position, sometimes stronger than the monks. The full ordination of women is an important step towards gender equity in Buddhism.

Here he is just reading the Buddha’s attitude into the texts. I really don’t think it is possible to read the Buddha’s state of mind in this way. In fact, this goes against everything impression I have of the Buddha.

This is distorting the Buddha’s message through omission. The Buddha says exactly the same is true in reverse, that is, that masculine traits are intoxicating for women (scroll down to suttas 6-10). There is full gender equity in this case.

This passage only seems to exist in the Pali version of the Mahāparinibbāna Sutta, and as such it is quite likely a later addition. In fact, the passage seems awkwardly inserted and does not really fit with the context: it sort of appears out of the blue. In any case, the Buddha is here speaking to Ven. Ānanda. If the passage were authentic, which seems doubtful, we would have to assume the Buddha would be saying the same to the nuns in regard to men.

The founding of the nuns’ order and “the eight strict rules” have been studied in detail by the likes of Bhante Sujato and Ven. Analayo. It seems clear enough that these parts of the Vinaya cannot be taken at face value, in part because the they vary significantly across the different traditions. So far as the garudhammas (“the eight strict rules”) are concerned, it is not at all clear that these are universal principles that nuns must follow in all circumstances; see for instance the discussion here.

In sum, I think the problem here is not so much with the Buddha as with John Walters’ presentation. We owe it to the Buddha to investigate these things with great care, otherwise we just end up misrepresenting him.