Mary Daly, “Radical Lesbian Feminist”, Theologian

Radical feminist philosopher, academic, and Catholictheologian. Daly, who described herself as a “radical lesbian feminist”, taught at Boston College, a Jesuit-run institution, for 33 years. She retired in 1999, after violating university policy by refusing to allow male students in her advanced women’s studies classes. She allowed male students in her introductory class and privately tutored those who wanted to take advanced classes.

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 changes 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.

As one of the most influential feminist thinkers and theologians of the second half of the twentieth century, Daly had a profound impact upon other feminist writers and scholars. As colleague Mary E. Hunt observed in announcing her death to the Women’s Alliance in Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER) email list: “Her contributions to feminist theology, philosophy, and theory are 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.”

However, Hunt was also controversial in some feminist and LGBT circles. Audrey Lourde and some other Black feminists accused her of ignoring the contributions of feminists of colour, and she angered the community. In Gyn/Ecology, Daly asserted her negative view of transsexual people, writing, “Today the Frankenstein phenomenon is omnipresent . . . in . . . phallocratic technology. . . . Transsexualism is an example of male surgical siring which invades the female world with substitutes.”[24] “Transsexualism, which Janice Raymond has shown to be essentially a male problem, is an attempt to change males into females, whereas in fact no male can assume female chromosomes and life history/experience.”[25] “The surgeons and hormone therapists of the transsexual kingdom . . . can be said to produce feminine persons. They cannot produce women.”

Daly’s other published books are:

Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism (Beacon, 1978);
Pure Lust: Elemental Feminist Philosophy (Beacon, 1984);
Websters’ First New Intergalactic Wickedary of the English Language (Beacon, 1987);
Outercourse: The Be-Dazzling Voyage Containing Reflections from My Logbook of a Radical Feminist Philosopher (Harper 1992);
Quintessence…Realizing the Archiac Future: A Radical Elemental Feminist Manifesto (Beacon, 1999); and
Amazon Grace: Re-Calling the Courage to Sin Big (Palgrave Macmillan, 2006).

 

 

Mary Daly and the Invitation to Explore Wild Ideas about Inclusivity: A Memorial Reflection

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