Storm in a Teacup: The Curious Case of VICE, Carrie Shirley and the Dalai Lama

The 14th Dalai Lama is getting some ‘feminists’ into a frenzy again, this time over a story published by Broadly, VICE about an American woman, Carrie Shirley, who alleges her mother ‘went on a date’ with the Dalai Lama in 1973 while he was visiting England.

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Carrie Shirley ‘allegedly’ on a date with HH the 14th Dalai Lama

The Tibetan Feminist Collective (TFC), Students for A Free Tibet and International Campaign for Tibet have gone into hysterical overdrive on social media to ‘defend’ their spiritual leader in the name of ‘feminism’. Their main issue they say is the story is false and that the woman is ‘white’. Yet, ironically, they have done more to promote this story than VICE could ever have dreamed of. How’s that for being utterly counter productive!The TFC  posted on their Facebook page that it was ‘disgusting’ and:

Do they not see how this kind of condescending post marginalizes the plight of Tibetans and consequently diminishes genuine conversations about gender equity in Tibetan Buddhism? Was Broadly always this shitty, and we never noticed until today?

Anyone who knows VICE and their readership will understand that they specialise in provocative, satirical and sarcastic journalism. When I first read it I thought it was satire. I fail to see how this VICE article with a silly headline, that also rightly points out the sexist patriarchy of Tibetan Buddhist culture, ‘marginalises’ the plight of Tibetans and diminishes ‘genuine conversations’ about gender inequality. The fact that the same article considers the view of Buddhist and feminist academic Rita Gross is evidence that they are taking the issue seriously. Religious patriarchy is far more responsible for the ‘marginalisation’ of Tibetan nuns and women over several centuries. Such excessive reaction to something relatively small in the ‘big scheme’ of what is happening in Tibet makes the Tibet issue look ‘marginal’ and ‘petty-minded’. The Shanghaist also found the story ‘highly questionable’ and ‘potentially defamatory‘.

In response, VICE amended the article by stating:

“In light of recent discoveries, the man in the photo above may or may not be the Dalai Lama during his visit to Cambridge in 1973. Broadly cannot verify that it is. However, the women in the photo swear that’s who he claimed to be. This is their story.”

At first glance, the photo does not look like the Dalai Lama, who is normally seen in robes and a shaved head. However, has anyone even considered the possibility that Ms Shirley’s mother may have met the Dalai Lama in England and that he may have worn a wig and lay clothes to hide his identity while he was there? I know and have heard of several Tibetan Geshes and Khenpos who come to live or study in western countries and don’t wear monastic robes (not out of any deception etc. but out of a desire to blend in and not draw attention to oneself). It’s not that unusual or disgraceful. In addition, Ms Shirley has not accused the Dalai Lama of any gross misconduct but did say he was a bit of a ‘pest’ and ‘awkward’ around women.

Far more interesting a story (and worry) is the sexual harassment of female Buddhists by other Tibetan male monastics and lamas, which is often swept under the carpet as non-existent despite numerous similar stories to the contrary. Some have tried to say the photo is of Sogyal Rinpoche, a Tibetan Buddhist teacher, alleged to have pestered and harassed several female students. However, Mary Finnigan, who has written about Sogyal Rinpoche before stated on social media that:

It doesn’t look like Sogyal — even young Sogyal –apart from anything else the young Sogyal didn’t wear glasses and the nose looks wrong. But he was in Cambridge UK in 1973 — shortly before he moved to London. ~it would not be beyond possibility that the young Sogyal talked a lot about HHDL which might have confused this woman — and it is dead certain that if it was Sogyal she encountered he would have made a play for her. We all know that Sogyal is a sex pest.

In addition, there are many Tibetan male lamas (some monastics and some not) who are married to and/or actively pursuing relationships with ‘white women’. Are they racists as well? Groan.

What a storm in a teacup. Ironically, putting so much attention on this story is counter-productive. Many people will laugh at it and the petty battles of ‘politically correct feminism’, even more than they already do now. VICE must be feeling grateful at all the extra publicity they’re getting for a piece which is clearly part humour and part serious. The politically correct, regressive Left need to stop taking themselves and everyone else so seriously and lighten up. The Dalai Lama would probably be first to laugh at this story, true or false. In the meantime, centuries of religious patriarchy and sexist oppression continues which Carrie Shirley and her mother have had, and will have, ZERO influence on.

So the question remains, is that really the Dalai Lama in the picture or is Ms Shirley mistaken?


Perhaps the sunglasses obscured her vision. Or perhaps she is delusional as the photo below mocks. However, since the article was first published on October 11, there has been no official response to it from the office of the Dalai Lama.

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