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SDG

Mary Daly has died

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New York Times story.

I had to read one of Daly's books in a college philosophy course at SVA. (We read some five to ten pages from the likes of Plato, Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Pascal, C. S. Lewis, William James and Richard Swinburne -- as well as David Hume, W. K. Clifford, Antony Flew and other skeptics -- but hundreds of pages of Daly.)

It took me awhile to wrap my head around the extent to which Daly's philosophy involved the utter repudiation of maleness as moral or ontological antimatter and the celebration of femaleness as moral or ontological goodness. Daly, I eventually realized, viewed men in a dimmer light than I viewed demons, since in Christian cosmology demons at least used to be good; they are fallen angels, while Daly took a more dualistic view of male evil.

But are men not manifestly capable of virtue? It would seem, in Daly's view, that it's only under the patriarchal system in which men rob and suck goodness out of women that men seem to be capable of goodness. (Presumably the converse would follow: If women are evil, it's only because of the evil influence of men.)

Obviously, then, Daly was a lesbian separatist who viewed lesbian relationships as the only healthy relationships and basically wanted to get rid of men completely. But what about the propagation of the species? Daly blasted Christianity as "necrophilic" or obsessed with death; was it not the apotheosis of such "necrophilia" to argue for a philosophy that, if successful, would wipe out the human race in a single generation? But of course Daly believed that women freed from patriarchal oppression would become capable of parthenogenesis, while men deprived of women would, I don't know, shrivel up and die, or something.

I asked my teacher what Daly would say if a man were to tell her, "I read your book, and you convinced me. What should I do now?" After a moment's thought, my teacher gave the obvious answer: "I guess she would have to say 'Go kill yourself.'" (FWIW, that philosophy prof made an appearance in my review of March of the Penguins.)

When I asked my teacher what SHE thought of Daly's views, she replied that while she was critical of Daly's views in some respects, in one key way her differences with Daly had to do with beliefs that I, as a traditional Christian, would have in COMMON with Daly. I was floored -- I couldn't imagine myself having anything in common with Daly, at least not that could possibly be disputed by any other human being -- and asked her what beliefs she was talking about.

My teacher's response: "If I'm critical of Daly, it's insofar as her views seem overly biologistic to me. She assumes that there are in fact such things as 'men' and 'women.'"

Well, there it is. Me and Mary Daly, arm in arm, against my SVA philosophy prof. There you go.

Edited by SDG

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You know, for all that she was pretty far off in left field in some ways, she had some good points and ideas, too.

While I find myself in disagreement with much of what she said and wrote, I also feel uncomfortable with the subtitle of this post and with several of the points you have made, SDG. Your P.S. on her leaving no immediate survivors seems especially unkind and somewhat bitter.

Maybe her points about men inflicting violence on women (physical and emotional abuse, as well as sexual) could be more closely read and understood? There are very real reasons for there to be pain and animosity, for many women. (Unfortunately, the vast majority of them are never heard by anyone, God excepted...)

fwiw, I guess.

I apologize, Ellen. In all honesty, I didn't foresee my comments making anyone here uncomfortable, and I didn't mean to be provocative in that way in this context. I'll edit my post above.

FWIW, my understanding of Daly's philosophy, which again involved studying hundreds of pages of her work, was filtered through a highly sympathetic source, so I don't think I've misconstrued her. To the best of my knowledge, it is neither unfair nor inaccurate to say that she simply hated and rejected men absolutely and to the point of annihilation, and that this is the basic axis around which her philosophical worldview revolved.

It might be possible to appreciate and benefit from individual insights or observations abstracted from the larger context in which she located them. Even my post above ended (the P.S. aside) on a note of agreement with Daly! But I don't think there is any close reading that will nuance or clarify that fundamental cast to her thought.

FWIW, my thinking on these matters is deeply influenced by the personalism and theology of the body of John Paul II, who sees in the physiological and personal differentiation of mankind as male and female a hallmark of mankind's vocation to love. Maleness and femaleness are manifestly made for one another; the male body assumes the female body, and vice versa.

Unquestionably, the horrific subversion, perversion and betrayal of that ideal by egocentric and predatory individuals can have devastating consequences on their victims. I have no doubt that behind Daly's repudiation of maleness is a horror story of male iniquity. I know nothing about her personal life, but I found myself wondering earlier today what kind of man her father was, whether she had any brothers, and what other men in her life might have done to her. My comments are not in any way to be personally judgmental of Daly or to make any assumptions about her level of moral culpability. For the most part, my comments were about her ideas, not herself or her life.

Even my P.S. wasn't meant to be a bitter or unkind commentary, only a sort of shudder at what seems to me a terrible irony in the tragic life of a lonely, desperately isolated woman (a "cognitive majority of one," she once called herself, IIRC).

Again, apologies.

Edited by SDG

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To the best of my knowledge, it is neither unfair nor inaccurate to say that she simply hated and rejected men absolutely and to the point of annihilation, and that this is the basic axis around which her philosophical worldview revolved.

I am willing to say that this is unfair and inaccurate. She hated and rejected patriarchy. She was generally indifferent to men.

Daly's "Beyond God The Father" remains a crucially important work. Her later stuff was not as good.

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I am willing to say that this is unfair and inaccurate. She hated and rejected patriarchy. She was generally indifferent to men.

Without denying that "generally indifferent" is a fair expression of one strand of Daly's thought, I'm not sure I accept the implicit distinction between "indifference" and "hatred to the point of annihilation." "Hatred" does not necessarily entail passionately antipathetic emotion, nor does "indifference" necessarily entail genuine neutrality. A certain kind of thoroughgoing indifference can be called hatred, and precisely hatred to the point of annihilation. To go no further, Daly's "indifference" toward men was not neutrality.

There's more to be said, but I'll leave it there for now.

Edited by SDG

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the spectre of the man-hating feminist exists for a specific purpose: to keep us from taking feminist concerns about patriarchy and systemic violence against women seriously--to ensure that feminist voices remain marginal. When this spectre is invoked, it is always in service of privilege.

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Holy Moly! wrote:

: the spectre of the man-hating feminist exists for a specific purpose: to keep us from taking feminist concerns about patriarchy and systemic violence against women seriously--to ensure that feminist voices remain marginal.

So we should just ignore (i.e. marginalize) the man-hating feminists, thereby allowing us to focus on the other, perhaps more mainstream, feminists?

Or is the point here that NO feminist can ever be said to be on the margins or extremes of the feminist movement?

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So we should just ignore (i.e. marginalize) the man-hating feminists...?

Apparently so. They're spectres, so I guess they don't really exist.

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Man-hating nonsense

A feminist icon, “thealogist” Mary Daly died Jan. 3 at the age of 81. Almost unknown outside the academy, Daly was a militant influence on feminist approaches to religion.

If her name is faintly familiar, you’re likely recalling a brief late-’90s media surge around a lawsuit against Jesuit-run Boston College, Daly’s longtime academic home, initiated by a male student barred from Daly’s women-only classes. Effectively fired as a result, Daly “retired” from academic life in 2001.

Daly’s academic ascendancy coincided with the rise of dissident Catholic theology in the 1960s and ‘70s after the Second Vatican Council, when radicalized Catholics worked vociferously (and unsuccessfully) to liberalize normative Catholicism’s approaches to contraception, homosexuality and abortion. . . .

Daly found her true calling as an ayatollah figure for a ludicrous religion she helped to invent. “Goddess spirituality” is based on an anticipatory Garden of Eden myth cut from whole imaginary cloth. Initially a strictly ivory-tower phenomenon, Goddess spirituality was later vulgarized through two hugely popular books, The Chalice and the Blade (1989) by Riane Eisler and The Da Vinci Code (2003) by Dan Brown.

In Daly’s utopian narrative, the first human cultures worshipped a Great Mother Goddess and lived as peacefully, collaboratively and ecologically responsibly as the movie Avatar’s blue-skinned aliens, the Na’vi, who worship a goddess Daly would have loved, and whose creation she may have inspired.

Humans inhabited this paleo-Eden under the benevolent spiritual tutelage of the Goddess. She nurtured allegedly female values of peace and harmony and environmental sensitivity. From 40,000-5000 BCE all was harmony; men and women rejoiced in their benign collaboration for the common good.

Then barbarian male hordes marauded their way across the pacifist Goddess’s domains. These “phallocratic” savages introduced the evils of racism, social hierarchies, war-mongering and eco-rape. Subsequent human history is the tragic tale of a violent, controlling patriarchy, aligned with ruthless capitalism, environmental despoliation and unrelieved misogyny.

According to Professor Katherine Young and researcher Paul Nathanson of McGill University’s religious studies department, and fully elaborated in their just-published book on Goddess spirituality, Sanctifying Misandry: Goddess ideology and the fall of man, it’s all nonsense: ideology gussied up as religious myth. Their methodical exposure of Goddess spirituality’s perversion of Christian tropes reveals the misandric obsession at its core. Taking Daly’s scapegoating revisionism as a reliable clue, they site Goddess spirituality — and for other persuasive reasons feminism in general — under the rubric of conspiracy theorism. . . .

Lest you assume Daly was perceived by peers as a nutbar akin to a Raëlian or a Scientologist, the Encyclopedia of World Biography pronounced her “the foremost feminist theoretician and philosopher in the United States.” She was fêted at the mainstream 1998 American Academy of Religion conference, where an adoring throng chanted her name in mantra-like perseveration, and one representative sycophant, Carter Heyword, the first female Anglican priest, burbled: ”[Clerics] like myself [...] because of you, Mary, knew very early in our professional sojournings that God the Father was a necrophilic overseer of nothing but lies.”

Feminism’s media spinmeisters insist feminism is not misandric. But Daly’s toxic works cannot be “spun.” If a hate-based dualism of female sanctitude and male original sin is acceptable to Women’s Studies, then Women’s Studies should not be acceptable to us.

Barbara Kay, National Post, January 27

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I certainly do not celebrate anyone's death, and I pray for Mary Daly's soul. If the above piece that Peter posted is an accurate representation of her theology though, then she must have done untold damage to the Catholic faith of many who were not well catechized. Oppression of women should be opposed by any Christian, male or female. However, hatred of oppression does not entail the embracing of heresy (the use of the "H-word" seems legitimate here).

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