Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Mary Daly 1928-2010

Photo of Mary Daly from Trivia: Voices of Feminism.

Not just any feminist's passing gets mentioned on NPR. Not just any feminist's passing is noted by the National Catholic Reporter:

Feminist theologian Mary Daly died January 3. She was a radical feminist philosopher, academic, and theologian who taught at Boston College for 33 years. Daly consented to retire from Boston College in 1999, after violating university policy by refusing to allow male students in her Women's Studies classroom.
Her books included Beyond God the Father; Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism; Pure Lust: Elemental Feminist Philosophy and Webster’s First New Intergalactic Wickedary of the English Language.

Intergalactic was most assuredly the word. She wasn't quite on the same planet as the rest of us.

I didn't like her.

Kittywampus wrote a very good obituary, and this was my comment at her blog:
Daly did irreparable harm to feminism with her essentialism and transphobia, and we are still dealing with the fallout. As a Catholic, I believe she did irreparable harm to Catholic women who sought to reform the Church; she advised radical women to withdraw from it, leaving the liberal women who preferred to stay, twisting slowly, slowly in the wind. (I notice she didn’t advise them to withdraw from other patriarchal structures such as, um, academia.) In her later books like Pure Lust, she was positively hateful to any feminists who did not follow her out of the Church, but instead chose to stay and fight. Her way or the highway.

She was SO arrogant she did not even respond to Audre Lorde’s Open Letter To Mary Daly, which charged Daly with colonialism. I found it interesting that she simply ignored Lorde, rather as the males in the Church ignored Daly… she imitated the exact behavior that she criticized men for elsewhere.

Following the dictum “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”–I have decided not to write an obit for Daly. Considering the way she ignored Lorde and encouraged [Janice] Raymond, I’ve decided she doesn’t deserve one from a practicing Catholic. (She wouldn’t want one from a hopelessly-tainted woman such as me anyway. In Pure Lust she announced we were “imitation males”.)

I always thought it was weird that she railed against Churchly segregation of women, then went ahead and tried to keep men out of her classes. Like they say, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
This is my last word on Daly. Comments welcome, but please keep it civil.


Rachel said...

Didn't let men into the Women's Studies class...

Way to stick it to the Men! Deny them entrance into the Women's Studies classes, and they will be doing backflips through flaming hoops to make sure women get included, I tell ye...

Jenny said...

Mary Daly was one of the great ones. She was the heroine of radical lesbian feminists everywhere, and always said she spoke to her tribe. With a triple PhD, and a wit unmatched in modern feminism, she led by example.

I think that my life would have been half the adventure it was had it not been for Daly and Raymond, both great radical lesbian heroines. Not for the straight go along type of women, and certainly Daly was no ran of sex, drugs and rock and roll, no she spoke to the greatest minds of the universe.
She was the lesbian with the double headed ax chopping down patriarchy one pew at a time.

sheila said...

Huh, I never heard of her. Til now I mean. I say R.I.P. Mary Daly.

Set backs or not, speaking out...sure got people talking.

DaisyDeadhead said...

Jenny, so are you saying Audre Lorde was a "straight go along type of woman"? (gasps) What did you think of her criticisms of Daly?

If you're white and western, I suppose she was a great feminist heroine. But most of the world isn't.

Anonymous said...

The Audre Lorde story is false. Do some homework.

JoJo said...

I've never heard of Mary Daly either, so I have no comments to offer, other than to say Hi Daisy and Thank You for teaching me something new every day! :)

D. said...

Yr wd ver = coteri

As I kinda dropped out of radical feminism by the late '70s, I missed the later Daly; I vaguely remember Gyn/Ecology and Beyond God the Father and that there were a couple of concepts I needed to have seen. (And which Camille Paglia seems to have used.) I didn't read her later work.

I may post a link to an obit; I'm not likely to write one. My spiritual journey only briefly crossed hers.

Zan said...

Wait. Anon, are you saying that Lorde did NOT in fact, write an Open Letter to Mary Daly? That they did not, in fact, have very public disagreements?

Well, I found it for you:

Lorde's letter to Daly is included in this collection. Feel free to buy yourself a copy or see if your library has one.

DaisyDeadhead said...

Anonymous, have you read "Sister Outsider"? The essay is right there. What do you mean, "false"?

Are you saying Daly DID reply to Lorde? Where and when?

This is a pretty famous second-wave feminist row, you know.

I believe Marilyn Frye maintains they had some kind of private communication? (Have not read the Frye-on-Daly handjob, sorry, and I won't be, either.) Since Lorde's call-out was public, the reply should also be public, since Lorde was speaking for ALL WOC, by her own account. Daly should therefore have replied publicly to all WOC who were deeply offended by the colonialism and latent racism in GynEcology, not passed some teenybopperish note to Lorde, saying "whoops" or whatever it is that supposedly occurred.

Do your homework, indeed.

DaisyDeadhead said...

Proxy server, huh? A SMART troll this time.

Must be Heart.

Rootietoot said...

Can't say I ever much cared for her, but them I'm not exactly her target demographic, either. However, she had a right to her opinions and I am happy that she was able to voice them.

DaisyDeadhead said...

Pretty hairy-assed thread over at Shakesville:

RIP Mary Daly

Bring popcorn!

Jenny said...

Doing homework is essential to understanding Daly. Fact checking would also be in order I think, as there a lot of inaccuracies here, and these are repeated endlessly.
Think I'll visit the feminist scholar's blogs out there. Good luck.

DaisyDeadhead said...

Jenny, what facts do I have wrong?

The link to "Open Letter to Mary Daly" on Google books, has been included on the Shakesville thread. Maybe you should read it and do some fact-checking yourself.

Admittedly, I'm not a scholar. Which I guess is your way of putting me down as not smart enough for the subject, huh? Real feminist, that! But exactly the type of elitist feminist who tends to admire Daly.

Thanks for the handy-dandy illustration.

Jenny said...

If you're going to publish articles and commentary about Daly, then seriously, you need to look up the newest biography of Audre Lorde by a black woman scholar. It will update you on many things. It's a very good book.
I love both Audre Lorde AND Mary Daly, and revere my lesbian feminist sisters. Mary Daly was very proud of her Irish working class roots, and it was her inspiration that caused so many women of limited means to go for it. Lorde and Daly were heroic self-made women. What I don't get is the jealousy other women have of their educations and contributions. That's what men do, they trash women for wanting something better for women. Read Daly's last book "Amazon Grace" and there are also updates on the Audre Lorde/Mary Daly conflict, which is much more complex. Since you have not read Lorde's new biography OR Daly's last book, you really wouldn't know what you are talking about right? Do the work, and stop trashing other working class women!

John Powers said...

John Dewey had studied Hegel. In Lewis Menand's book on Pragmatism he relates how Jane Addams caused an insight that was to change and guide his philosophy. Dewey said: "I can see that I have always been interpreting dialectic wrong end up, the unity as the reconciliation of opposites, instead of the opposites as the unity in its growth, and thus translated the physical tension into a moral thing..."

I noticed at Youtube there's a recording of Florence Reece singing her song "Which Side Are You On?" Sometimes it's important to take sides. But the perspective of "opposites as the unity in its growth" is also valuable. The one perspective doesn't negate the other.

Both points of view are in evidence at the Shakesville thread. It's a bit meta, but I wish there was more talk about the uses of these different viewpoints saying they're both necessary and right in context.

Mary Daly is dead and leaves a legacy behind. What's impressive to me in so many of the remembrances is how authors take a side and acknowledge Daly's positive contribution. To my mind this is not a immoral way to view Daly's accomplishment.

DaisyDeadhead said...

Jenny, you have made several accusations here, and have backed up none of them. I asked you a direct question: WHICH FACTS DO I HAVE WRONG?--because I am genuinely curious. You do not even show me enough respect to answer. You do not even show Audre Lorde's biographer (Alexis DeVeaux) the respect of NAMING HER, but simply refer to her as a "black woman scholar." Again, Dalyites personified.

If you can't answer the question--WHAT FACTS I have misstated?--I assume you are incapable of doing so and are therefore full of shit. Otherwise, ante up.

It's a very good book

And you can't even provide the author's name. Pretty goddamn pathetic.

I love both Audre Lorde AND Mary Daly, and revere my lesbian feminist sisters.

Does this mean Lorde WAS OR WAS NOT one of those "straight go along type of women" you mentioned earlier? (Another direct question you appear incapable of answering.) Because both women can't be right. You agree with one or the other--they were in OPPOSITION to each other; their feminist ideologies clashed at several crucial junctures. (Do I actually have to explain this to someone who fancies herself a scholar, as you obviously do?)

What I don't get is the jealousy other women have of their educations and contributions.

Contempt is not jealousy.

FTR, I had/have much admiration for Lorde.

Read Daly's last book "Amazon Grace" and there are also updates on the Audre Lorde/Mary Daly conflict, which is much more complex.

No, it isn't complex at all. Lorde was not here to reply, so Daly thought she could safely blather on. There can be no dialogue now... which Lorde sought and Daly refused. And that fact endures. The phrase "too little, too late" comes to mind.

What good does Daly FINALLY DEIGNING to answer Lorde 30 years later do?

Jenny, fuck off.

DaisyDeadhead said...

John, you've made me aware (as has Jenny) that I am reacting as much to "Dalyites" as I am to Daly herself. She inspired a certain cult-like devotion in her students and fans--and I usually ended up in big feuds with them over particular sticking points. Deja Vu all over again.

But I probably shouldn't blame Daly for her followers' ill-behaved, obnoxious zeal.

Or should I?

You just gotta wonder why certain heavy-thinkers have legions of asshole-fans. (A certain former-Alisa Rosenbaum comes to mind... I hesitate to even type her name, because I know the whole asshole crew will be here!!!)

Tellingly, Lorde did not.

passinthru said...

I'm not exactly sure why you even bring her up, Daisy.

She was influential, she was opinionated, and she was kind of a jackass in person. I don't consider her representative of particularly anything so I was surprised the media made such a big deal about it.

What MSM decides is important must be made by Magic 8-Ball, is all I can say.

John Powers said...

Daisy, your post is right-on: you didn't much like Mary Daly. I'm not very up on Feminist literature, so I'm an jerk for weighing in.

Even I had read Audre Lourde's letter to Daly and knew about the controversy. Daly seemed to make it to places like Time Magazine where I'd read something about her ideas. But even scant reading of Lourde is a revelation. I take a side with Lourde.

But I know my knowledge is about an inch thick. Knowing a little bit about Daly is useful because she's been so influential.

You make the point that Mary Daly's legacy is complicated; noteworthy but divisive. I think because she was influential is why you did this post. I want to be clear I not arguing with you.

Ghost Dansing said...

wow... i looked Mary Daly up on wikipedia and also read about the waves of feminism on wikipedia. learned a lot, thanks.

southernfemalelawyer said...

Hey there! thought I would poke my head in. I just had the good fortune to have Bob, Weerd Beard and the other superguntrolls descend upon my blog and saw they had done the same to you! Keep up the good work - I like your style...

DaisyDeadhead said...

SFL, if you need to keep Weerd Beeerd away, check this thread . Contains all his work information. As I said in the other thread, he actually followed me onto a thread at Alas about Bernie Madoff!

Some trolls are actually dumb enough to post from their jobs, and then expect us not to worry that they are gun freaks. Scary, huh?

I am still thinking that giving his employer a heads-up that he is harassing women on company time, might be a good idea. (I wish *I* got paid to waste time playing on the internet all day!)

Jackie said...

Happy New Year Daisy.

I didn't know Mary Daly or her writings at all. I must say though that I come from a World where most woman, up until the late 80's, had very few rights. I therefore tend to thank most feminists however extreme they were due to each one helping in one way or another to make changes.

DaisyDeadhead said...

More Daly threads:

The legacies of trans-exclusive feminists

Acts of Contrition: Feminism, Privilege, and the Legacy of Mary Daly

John B said...

I didn't know about Mary Daly. I have suffered at the hands of her disciples. I'm a feminist! But her ilk must have envisioned a world without men.

Can't we all just get along?

passinthru said...

"Ilk" isn't the kind of word actual feminists apply to women.

We always said men could be "feminist" but only women could be "feminists". ;)

YogaforCynics said...

Bystepping much of the controversy here, I gotta disagree with ya on the judging-by-their-followers thing, at least partly owing to the countless hours I've spent trying to convince people that the Grateful Dead made some great music, despite how irritating many of their fans can be...

Carol said...

Lorde, Audre Lorde... some people can't even spell a feminist's name correctly it seems. So let's see, people commenting here have not read all of Daly's work, or even have some first hand knowledge of it. Most people haven't read Lorde it seems either (at least they'd know how to spell a name), and everyone has not read the latest biographies. So we've got a whole crew of people out there who as the song says, don't know much about history... or in this case feminism. So I suggest you all read the blogs written by Daly's former students, and also you can read about the care and devotion of her students for their teacher. It is a magnificent tribute to their care for an 81 year old woman. And, not surprising, most of these women are lesbians, and have been with the great cause of women's liberation for decades now. What was Daly's legacy, well if you're straight, you probably haven't a clue. And if you're a man, you can't spell. Happy reading and studying!