Monday, January 4, 2010

The Life of Mary Daly, Lesbian Feminist Thealogian

[this photograph of Mary Daly was found here]
Where's Mary Daly?
Perhaps she will let us know one day.
Rest in Peace, Warrior Wommon.

I just found out from a white radical lesbian feminist friend that Mary had been quite ill for a while in such a way that makes her passing something of a relief to those who knew of her condition. So with that, let us welcome her into the next realms of wisdom.

[5 Jan. 2010 addenda:]
"There are and will be those who think I have gone overboard. Let them rest assured that this assessment is correct, probably beyond their wildest imagination, and that I will continue to do so." -- Mary Daly

For me, Mary Daly was a brilliant example of a person capable of gloriously displaying radical intelligence, fierce wit, creative spirit. She was a lover of words and wordplay--she gave permission to take what one can from patriarchal religion, philosophy, theology, language (my entire glossary to the right owes its existence to her), and make it work for women. And live in the pursuit of trying to do so. She carved out new spaces for radical feminist theories with a labrys as sharp as any.

She gave permission to say good-bye to the life-draining practice of caring for men. She gave women direction in how to create lives organised around other women's humanity, not men's inhumanity. She was a lesbian separatist. And she gave so many women the creative courage to do the same. Brava, Mary Daly!

I can tell you this: without her presence on Earth, I would not have met many great radical feminists of every color, who have been inspired by her work to do their own work, name their own realities, and carve out spaces for themselves to be alive and delight in loving women. That men can only conceive of this as man-hating demonstrates how tremendously brittle and egomaniacal the male supremacist mind is.

She was and is reviled by men, by silly men, who think her evil for dissing their gods: any male god and all of men's many other gods such as white male supremacist religion, philosophy, theology, language, science, culture, media... too many to name now. To revel in being reviled by vile men. That is one radical task, among many others. But a better and far more difficult task, by far, is to be a man who earns the on-going love and respect of radical feminist women. Learning and practicing the latter, not the former, is my life's course.

I offer you my gratitude, Mary Daly. Let the patriarchal fools call you "the wicked witch" in days to come--it has already happened in the few hours since your passing. Little do they know how much they compliment you in doing so!

See, also, here for a  post in respectful remembrance of Mary Daly, from The Feminist Texican.
What follows is from here:

Mary Daly, radical feminist theologian, dead at 81

She helped reshape Christian thought through decades

Jan. 04, 2010

Daly in 1987 (Photo by Gail Bryan)
Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly versionSend to friendSend to friendPDF versionPDF versionMary Daly, radical feminist theologian and a mother of modern feminist theology, died Jan. 3 at the age of 81. She was one of the most influential voices of the radical feminist movement through the later 20th century.

Daly taught courses in theology, feminist ethics and patriarchy at Boston College for 33 years. Her first book, "The Church and the Second Sex," published in 1968, got her fired, briefly, from her teaching position there, but as a result of support from the (then all-male) student body and the general public, she was ultimately granted tenure.

Mary E. Hunt, co-founder and co-director of the Women's Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER), announced the death Jan. 3 online in "The Feminist Studies in Religion" bulletin:

"With a heavy heart, yet grateful beyond words for her life and work, I report that Mary Daly died this morning, January 3, 2010 in Massachusetts. She had been in poor health for the last two years.

Her contributions to feminist theology, philosophy, and theory were many, unique, and if I may say so, world-changing. She created intellectual space; she set the bar high. Even those who disagreed with her are in her debt for the challenges she offered. ... She always advised women to throw our lives as far as they would go. I can say without fear of exaggeration that she lived that way herself."

Daly once wrote: "There are and will be those who think I have gone overboard. Let them rest assured that this assessment is correct, probably beyond their wildest imagination, and that I will continue to do so."

She was an exuberant participant in and shaper of the feminist movement of the 1970s, and 1980s.

The only child of working-class, Irish-Catholic parents, she grew up with a strong sense of her ethnic and religious heritage. As a young woman, she developed a desire to become a philosopher and a theologian.

Encouraged by her parents, and especially by her mother, Daly pursued her intellectual dream, receiving her Ph.D. in religion at St. Mary’s College, Notre Dame, in 1953, at the age of twenty-five. Still yearning for a doctorate in philosophy, Daly went on to earn two more degrees in theology and philosophy from the University of Freiburg in Switzerland.

Daly was influenced by thinkers ranging from Thomas Aquinas to French feminist Simone de Beauvoir to Virginia Woolf.

In fact, Daly, the feminist, developed a kind of perverse fondness for Aquinas, whom she called “the fat old monk.” She learned to "decode" the thinking of a man who, she cheerfully admitted, conceived of women as "misbegotten males."

Eventually, in her life and scholarship she developed a sweeping analysis of "patriarchy" as the root of women's oppression and of all social ills in which people are treated as objects.

After “The Church and the Second Sex,” she said she moved from "Christian reformist" to "radical, post-Christian" feminist.

Studying archetypal forms and prepatriarchal religion convinced Daly that church doctrine consisted of a series of significant "reversals." She explained these to NCR writer Jeanette Batz in 1996:
  • the Trinity, from the triple goddess once celebrated worldwide;
  • the virgin birth, from the parthenogenesis that once begat divine daughters;
  • Adam giving birth to Eve.
Women operating on patriarchy's boundaries, she once wrote, can spiral into freedom by renaming and reclaiming an ancient woman-centered reality that was stolen and eradicated by patriarchy.

She took great delight in castigating the "eight deadly sins of the fathers": processions, professions, possession, aggression, obsession, assimilation, elimination and fragmentation. "Laugh out loud," she urged, "at their pompous penile processions."

As for God, there's simply no way to rid the language of allusion, she wrote, so, "if you must be anthropomorphic," she preferred “Goddess.”

Daly most often contemplated the divine essence as a verb, Be-ing itself, so that worship is "not kneeling in front of a so-and-so but swirling in energy." Her language echoed quantum physics, and she was flattered if you said so: "I do think about space-time a great deal," she admitted. "It's a kind of mysticism which is also political."

These attitudes toward life and religion were reflected in the Feb. 26, 1996 issue of The New Yorker in which she wrote:

“Ever since childhood, I have been honing my skills for living the life of a radical feminist pirate and cultivating the courage to win. The word ‘sin’ is derived from the Indo-European root ‘es-,’ meaning ‘to be.’ When I discovered this etymology, I intuitively understood that for a woman trapped in patriarchy, which is the religion of the entire planet, ‘to be’ in the fullest sense is ‘to sin.’”

“Women who are pirates in a phallocratic society are involved in a complex operation. First, it is necessary to plunder--that is, righteously rip off gems of knowledge that the patriarchs have stolen from us. Second, we must smuggle back to other women our plundered treasures. In order to invent strategies that will be big and bold enough for the next millennium, it is crucial that women share our experiences: the chances we have taken and the choices that have kept us alive. They are my pirate's battle cry and wake-up call for women who want to hear.”

And so Daly would like to say: “I urge you to Sin. ... But not against these itty-bitty religions, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism -- or their secular derivatives, Marxism, Maoism, Freudianism and Jungianism -- which are all derivatives of the big religion of patriarchy. Sin against the infrastructure itself!"

Daly poured much energy into breaking down age-old boundaries of critical thought. Her work helped set the stage for other feminist theologians who rose up in the 20th century to offer critiques of male-dominated theology that would reshape Christian thought. Several of these groundbreaking women included Rosemary Radford Ruether, Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, and Rosemary Haughton.

Boston College Jesuits worked uneasily with Daly for more than three decades. Finally, in 1998, a student who had not taken the prerequisite women's studies course, tried to register in a Daly class and was told by her that he could not take the course. He filed a lawsuit and in 1999, facing this lawsuit, Boston College terminated Daly's contract as a tenured professor. Daly supporters filed another lawsuit requesting an injunction against the firing on the grounds that due process had not been followed. In February, 2001, Boston College and Daly's supporters announced that a settlement had been reached.

Other Daly books include:

"Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism," which defined categories of political theory and philosophy of religion.

"Pure Lust: Elemental Feminist Philosophy," an exploration of patriarchy and feminist vision.

"Websters' First New Intergalactic Wickedary of the English Language," a humor-filled work of words aimed at "freeing the English language" from its patriarchal roots.

"Outercourse: The Be-Dazzling Voyage," a philosophical autobiography.

"Quintessence... Realizing the Archiac Future: A Radical Elemental Feminist Manifesto," another consideration of feminist thought.

"Amazon Grace: Re-Calling the Courage to Sin Big."
Fox is NCR Editor.

Julian's note about the above article:

SEE ALSO: "Beyond God The Father: Toward a Philosophy of Women's Liberation"  


"Natural knowledge of God in the philosophy of Jacques Maritain: A critical study" (Unknown Binding)

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