Women in Daoism
On consideration into the opinions of popular Chinese culture, many would state that China has maintained a stereotypically sexist or discriminative treatment of women. The question here would be whether or not those social standards were transmitted into Daoism and if the cultural values were paralleled in the practices and teachings of the religion. Depictions of women within the religious texts give examples of women in powerful roles as goddesses as well as the symbolic essence of change and light. However, simply painting a picture of a woman on a pedestal is not the same as giving women the religious freedoms to practice without conviction.
Women were once represented the beginning. They were an embodiment of yin, the light. Their natural “conservative” natures allowed for them to represent energy at its most fluid, in the form of water. There was a time in which women were considered important based on what they did rather then who they bore. As the textual representation of women began to emphasis male dominance in the twelfth century, women became a symbols of good men becoming more like their mothers and less yang-like. Since men cannot control themselves and release too much of their energy, women will live longer than them and therefore be more suited to become immortals. Still, there were some texts which gave examples of the ways in which women could be considered superior. In inner alchemy women were rumored to be able to stop their own mensuration or engage labor and then revitalize their organs with the menstrual blood. Giving birth to children and being “naturally” conservative makes them worthier since it allows for them to have a longer life. A long life is treasured by Daoists as that is the goal and pathway that leads to the enlightenment of immortality.
The Tang dynasty was the highlight of female empowerment. Women were given the same chances as men to become an immortal. However, there was a strict policy regarding the separation of women and men. Women were typically treated as separate but equal – as in only women should read women's texts – but there was an explanation behind the necessity of their separation. The need was to protect the male Daoists from ferocity of women's sexuality. Prior to the Tang dynasty, sex was considered an integral part of revitalization of the body. All of Daoist men were married before the twelfth century. You needed the energy from sex in order to keep yourself healthy. It would usually work would be for the men to stop semen from escaping the body by pressing a finger at the base of the penis. This way energy was not lost in the sexual act. It was in the Han dynasty that sexuality was considered a good thing. However, men would change partners often - sometimes getting bored of their wives and going to their neighbors and vis versa. That is one thing which the Confucianists could not stand.
It was most likely the influence of Zhu Xi that reintroduced male dominance...