For most of the last 2,500 years, women have had to struggle mightily in order to practice Buddhism. In ancient China, Japan, and other Asian cultures, women were generally not allowed to ordain without the permission of male family members. They were kept home to be householders, slaves, laundresses, cooks, wives, and rearers of children. A few, determined to practice, even scarred their faces so they could enter a monastery without disturbing the monks with their beauty.
As a result, contemporary Buddhists all over the world practice in traditions where historical women’s voices are rare, and many of the teachings and practices have come down to us from a male point of view. This is certainly true in most of the familiar Zen stories and koans, like those in the famous Chinese koan collections: the Blue Cliff Record, The Gateless Barrier, and the Book of Serenity.