In my own Mary Daly post, I—purposely—left out the controversy surrounding Mary Daly’s work, choosing put that aside for the moment and instead to opt for a straight-up thank you to her contributions to feminist theory. I said that I was grateful to have read her work so early in my studies, and I remain grateful; prior to discovering radical feminism, I had never read anything like that before (in terms of theory, and the colorful language itself).
The thing about radical feminists—radical anyone, really—is that they piss a lot of people off. And yes, at times, she really pissed me off as well. Daly was a polarizing figure in the feminist movement. She said a lot of horrifying things about trans women, in particular. Nor would she let men into her class. [Actually, one of the men—a very intelligent, thoughtful, feminist man—in that very Feminist Theory course I discovered Daly, tried to email her for an interview for his research; she flat out refused on the grounds that he was a man and, as such, would never understand feminism.] As Audre Lorde also pointed out, Daly’s work was full of privilege.
In the few days that have passed since her death, many have voiced their opinions—full of criticism, reverence, or a cautious mixture of both—regarding Daly’s life and work. Instead of my usual blog/news links, I’ve decided to dedicate this entire Link Love post to all these different perspectives instead:
This has been sort of lightly mentioned and hinted at elsewhere, but I have to tell you this in plain language: MARY. DALY. HATED. TRANS. PEOPLE. Particularly trans women. She intimated, at times, that they were part of a plot to eliminate “real” women, and to assign “men” all “authentic” female functions. She also said that they were like whites putting on blackface (yeah: Lorde might have been right, about the whole appropriating-other-people’s-oppression thing?) and implied that they should have bodily violence done to them, or at least should be physically intimidated, by “real” feminists, so that they could not enter the feminist movement or feminist space….This is hate. This is privilege. This, right here, is the face of the oppressor.
More links after the jump
A Radical Profeminist: To Honor Mary Daly; thoughts for this day
The comments around the blogosphere about Mary’s death and life are poignant and also troubling. Troubling because there is usually the need to say “I didn’t completely agree with her on all things” or “I was never that kind of feminist” or to subtly or not so subtly put down her work as “incorrect” or “too extreme” while men’s patriarchal extremity in writing has ever been similarly ostracised or treated as if it had a contagious illness: we liked her okay, but I never wanted to identify with her.
Daisy’s Dead Air: Mary Daly 1928-2010
Not just any feminist’s passing gets mentioned on NPR. Not just any feminist’s passing is noted by the National Catholic Reporter…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.
Feminist Peace Network: Mary Daly Rest In Peace 1928-2010
Given the profound influence Daly’s work had on feminist thinking, this is truly insulting and sad and a true failure of the mainstream media. And no doubt about it, this is a case where the blogs got it first. Which is why it is so very important to support feminist media because if we don’t tell our own stories, all too often they will not get told.
The Adventures of Notorious PhD, Girl Scholar: R.I.P., Mary Daly
I read a little of her work for a feminist theory class in grad school. It didn’t really speak to me, and I thought there was plenty there to criticize. But her influence on gender studies was undeniable, and truly transformative. Her works were also those rare books written by an academic that went out and transformed the lives — yes, I do mean lives — of women and men outside the university.
Feministe: Goodbye, Mary Daly
Mary Daly’s life, in a lot of ways, is a microcosm of the public face of late 20th century second-wave feminism — a woman-centered radical movement that had (refreshingly, for some) little place for men, but that later found itself tripping over its narrowly-imposed definition of “woman.” She was a foremother, but one who eventually revealed herself unprepared (or unwilling) to embrace all of her children — especially the ones who failed to look or think like her.
It’s clear that Daly denies trans people the basic respect of acknowledging their own identity. Even more, she calls them “eunuchs,” implying they are sexless. And in the end, she gleefully imagines them being driven off from the gathering of women. Except, of course, this scene didn’t only occur in Daly’s imagination. Self-identified radical feminists have often excluded trans women in real life. They just haven’t had the aid of flying Harpies.
And finally, Historiann, on the storms that have arisen on various blogs’ Daly posts: Why Blogs Suck
Is there any other major social justice movement whose leaders and intellectuals are expected to speak for everyone and be everything to absolutely everyone all the time? Or is it just us girls who are expected to take care of everyone and make sure that no one ever feels excluded, ever, from any conversation about feminism anywhere at any time?