But it also reminded me that even as a girl, I’d noticed — and it bugged me — that the future Buddha is always a male in the Jatakas — king of the deer, king of the monkeys — so I decided to look into the issue today. Here’s the material I found…with a couple of sources at the bottom.
Apparently as Jatakas were used more and more in service of the Buddhist faith, they were more and more about the Buddha’s previous lives than just about wonderful, wise animals. The anti-female bias became more and more pronounced. It’s partly because of prevailing social attitudes toward female leadership; also specifically Buddhist attitudes about women threatening monks’ celibacy. Seemingly there’s a notion, too, that a future Buddha’s karma has to be the very best quality karma! So he can’t be reborn as a woman.
Of course this trend may be mirroring larger scale social shifts and movements in gender relations, but as a bad scholar who isn’t getting a doctorate in this, may I kvetch that I think it more likely revolves around the monks feeling threatened by women?