Monday, January 04, 2010

May The Goddess Guard Her. May She Find Her Way To The Summerlands. May Her Friends And Family Know Peace.

Some news stories make you burst into tears.

Mary Daly, hugely influential Goddess scholar, widely-read feminist, and a woman whose writings rocked my world and changed my life, is dead at 81. I disagreed with a few of her ideas about sexuality, but she taught me most of what I know about the poison of patriarchy. She lived her ideals, making academia back down once, and quitting rather than violating her principles when the religious right went after her. Just how much the catholics hated her is made clear in catholic "culture"'s post on her death:

Daly’s feminism grew more radical over the years, and her attacks on the “patriarchy” of the Church evolved into condemnation of most Christian doctrine. Her many books often carried outlandish titles, pointing to the extremism of her thought:

Gyn/Ecology:The Meta-Ethics of Radical Feminism
Outercourse: The Be-Dazzling Voyage [her autobiography]
Pure Lust: Elemental Feminist Philosophy
Amazon Grace: Re-Calling the Courage to Sin Big.

Love the quotation marks, you jerks. Those titles seem anything but outlandish, these days, thanks, in large part, to Dr. Daly's courage over the last few decades.

The subtitle to my blog, and, indeed, the purpose of my life -- Undermining the Patriarchy Every Chance I Get -- are in humble homage to Dr. Daly. I will call her name at Samhein. What is remembered, does not die.

Photo found here.


Marya said...

A brilliasnt and inspiring thinker and creative writer. She will be remembered and honoured in times to come.

nanoboy said...

I wasn't very familiar with her, so I did some poking around on the internets. (I'm only took one women's studies class in college, and that one was about women's issues and scientific history, so it wasn't really part of my education.) While I'm sure she did much to add to feminist thinking and theory, and she changed the foundation of modern Paganism, I don't know that she was necessarily a net good for feminism. She was dismissive of the issues surrounding the intersection of racial discrimination and sexual discrimination. She was also rather hateful to transgendered people, something that no enlightened person should be given a pass on.

Her misoandry also clouded her judgment and ability to interpret the world. She wrote about how men would eventually decline in population so that humanity could become more perfect and then treated that as part of an ecological theory. As a biologist, I am rather offended by such a claim, as it utterly rejects actual work by good scientists in the science of ecology. (There are very good reasons that, with very few exceptions, sexually reproducing species maintain a 1:1 sex ratio. Even among the exceptions, there are some with more males.) Her assertion that parthenogenesis would be the best is also refuted by science. Plants and animals that reproduce in such a way usually face great difficulty, as they have no way to maintain an admixture of genes and accumulate bad mutations. Eventually, either their sexual reproductivity is restored, or they go extinct. I bring these up as examples of how philosophical bias can misread the way that the world works.

Still, I don't mean to speak ill of the dead, and I hope that she has a wonderful afterlife and/or reincarnation.

Nancy Green said...

she was a courageous and original thinker.

Double Jointed Fingers said...

nanoboy, can you point me writings where Dr. Daly dismissed racial and sexual matters? Has she actually written about transgender? Please post the link.

And, Wikipedia doesn't count.

nanoboy said...

Sure. During the 70s and 80s, women of color were interested in getting their own concerns addressed in the realm of feminist thought. They felt that they were not addressed by the white pioneers in the women's movement, and getting them addressed had become difficult, as leaders like Mary Daly ignored their pleas. Audre Lorde wrote the following letter to Daly:

Daly never responded, causing some bitterness in the black feminist community. Given Lorde's importance in the movement, I think it is fair to say that Daly willfully ignored the intersection of race and sex in American society.

Anonymous said...

I too burst into tears when I heard about this. She taught me through her books how to question ideology whether it is scientific or religious.
Nanoboy, scientific language is also metaphoric and sexist. Science is just the son of the father christianity. Read her books, not opinions of others.

nanoboy said...

"Science is the son of the father of Christianity?" What the fuck does that mean? Science is a method of finding out how the world works and functions, as well as a means of applying its findings to technology and techniques. It has nothing to do with Christianity, especially not these days. Hell, most of my other fellow scientists are agnostics and atheists. Many of them are women, especially these days, as more and more women become involved in science. Their contributions to their fields are truly great, as well. Indeed, I have seen very little sexual discrimination, and usually when I hear about it, it is talk of what used to happen. Calling science as part of the patriarchy is simply wrong. Times have changed. Yes, most of the leaders of the various scientific fields are men, but this is largely because most of the older scientists are men. As women gain experience and move up the proverbial totem pole, they'll have more leadership positions in science, hopefully reaching a point of parity in the near future. In other words, just because something has been perceived as patriarchal in the past-- and may have been so-- does not mean that it is now or that it is as patriarchal as it used to be.

Robbin said...

I'm with you, Hecate. I too will call her name at Samhain. She saved my poor little mind from the Patriarchy (no quotes, thanks) when I was 21 and I haven't looked back. "If God is male then male is God" rocked my little world.

Bob Doublin said...

Daly never responded,

That is simply not true. In Amazon Grace, Daly talks about how the author of a biography on Audre Lorde found the letter Daly wrote in reply to the "Open Letter" in Audre Lorde's papers.
Daly also discusses the issue in both Outercourse and the 1992 introduction to a new edition of Gyn/Ecology. There was both a letter written in reply by Daly and a meeting occured at the deBeauvoir conference the summer of 1979. Lorde certainly was within her rights to be dissatisfied with what Daly said in reply (though we should all be allowed to make up our minds about that on our own). But to claim there wasn't any reply at all is GROSSLY unfair to Daly.