Russ, do you have a specific quote you’re referring to?
I don’t necessarily think that Jootla is arguing that all women’s suffering is from bad Kamma, but rather that many Therīgāthā verses illustrate the profound difficulty and hardship of attaining nibbāna for all beings, but particularly for women.
I could be incorrect, but it seems that there was (and still largely is) a tendency to use vipassana as a generic label for meditation in general. Thus, she may very well be including samatha within the label of vipassana.
Something that is intriguing to me about this essay is stated in the title and when Jootla notes in the introduction,
In some respects, the inspiration from these poems may be stronger for women than for men, since these are in fact women’s voices that are speaking…However, at a deeper level the sex of the speakers is irrelevant, for the ultimate truths which they enunciate explain the universal principles of reality which are equally valid for men and for women.
I am not certain what the ratio of men to women is in the Tipiṭaka, but it seems (just from reading the suttas) that there are far less women represented. Therefore, I find it interesting that the Therīgāthā verses act as a kind of guidebook for modern day women who practice the Dhamma. For me, at least, the Therīgāthā verses are an extraordinarily important part of the Suttapiṭaka because they are the direct experiences of women. Their voices reaffirm and echo my own struggles, and I come to know that my suffering is not exclusive to me–but that women have been suffering for thousands of years.
Even if Jootla is saying that women’s suffering is from bad kamma I don’t think I would feel offended because that’s not what I get from the Therīgāthā verses. Women’s suffering, whether from bad kamma or not, is universal in the sense that it has been felt before by all living beings. What is far more important about the Therīgāthā verses is that they affirm, ‘yes’, women can be freed from that same suffering too.