Dr. Mary Daly, wielding the labrys, power tool of the Goddess and Her priestesses in the most ancient Greek civilization
Dr. Mary Daly died this week at age 81 and left us stronger as women for having been here.
Two topics, women-only space and the transgender movement, generate the most controversy to pull focus away from reading works of genius written by this great woman. (Reversing the lies of patriarchy, her books have titles like Beyond God the Father, Gyn/Ecology and Pure Lust, not the pornified kind.) Let me address both topics, in hopes you will read her books, because any words of Dr. Daly’s you will read can only make you the richer, more resonant being for doing so.
The topic of “women-only space” still causes controversy when Dr. Mary Daly enters the discussion of feminism as social change. I suggest that this is because only women-only space empowers us to change our world beyond male-dominant boundaries. Only women-only space inspires us to believe in better possibilities (not greater numbers in tokenism) outside what the man-made society presents us.
It wasn’t sufficiently “politically correct” to continue “women only” seminars where Dr. Daly taught university classes, leading to her ouster from what she called “academentia,” even though she was willing to instruct men one-on-one for class credit. Our call as women today? We can honor the best of what Dr. Daly proposed as future vision by holding our own informal all-women’s gatherings where we put women first, because nobody else does.
The point about Dr. Mary Daly’s women-only space — as classroom teaching — is that she knew what all girls-to-women know: The dynamics are necessarily different, and less-than for women, when any man is in the room.
When a man is in the room, some women will be primed to defer to him, even if he atypically as a male chooses not to dominate the discussion or not to deride (if only by facial gesture or body language) the women’s points of view. Atypical (decent) male behavior will engender disproportionate energies of gratitude from some women toward the man, pulling female energy away from women and putting female energy on the male as patriarchy typically demands.
When a man is in the room, those women who have internalized misogyny to hurl at their sisters may expect his tacit approval. His presence in the room will make it all the more difficult for the women to root out the woman-hating that has been internalized and covertly projected by one woman to another.
When a man is in the room, feminist women may resist him because of his male privilege and spend energy on this man — instead of on their own process — around their resistance. Alternatively, some feminist women will be grateful to have a man in the room as validation of feminism because men as a social class carry more credibility clout in general — and this gratitude for a man interferes with women learning to get the validation about the intrinsic value of women’s lives from themselves as women.
To the extent experiencing creative genius coming from the natural/cosmological “background” might be a goal of women, a man in the room deflects too much of the women’s energy for “gynergy” to spin up, around, over and through the women. A man in the room, at women’s current stage of consciousness blocked by patriarchy, thus blocks women’s sufficiency of energy to conjure the gynergy of elemental powers and spiritual progress. This is because patriarchy as a social system (represented by male privilege and every embodied male) has been designed to block women’s connections to natural elements and transtemporal cosmology.
If race privilege among women (of color or not) can be a barrier to sisterhood, as many writers have posited, would not male privilege be as big or bigger barrier to females attempting to conjure their own creativity blocked by man-made language and man-made cultural standards?
In Dr. Daly’s world — a world we share — the “God” of this globe is not a Red, White or Black “Him” but simply “the Lord,” clearly super-hero male in gender with race or color unspecified. The Supreme Dominator is the “He” upon which all of patriarchy (and the structure of misogyny in women’s minds) has been patterned. For this reason of “God as you understand Him” alone, Dr. Daly as a world-class theologian and former Roman Catholic gave us ample cause to seek a room, collectively as women, of our own.
The Transgender Movement
How unfortunate that Mary Daly’s colorful use of language the way a trial lawyer might has incorrectly labeled her a “hater” as to transfolk on recent blogs. It is difficult, for anybody who has not read the entire body of her philosophical work, to understand the scope of her outrage that we live in a gender-role stratified global culture in which woman-born women, man-born men and transfolk engage with male-dominant medicine’s help in the suffering of surgical bodily mutilation (i.e., the suffering that a colorful user of language might call Frankensteinian, as a label also about cosmetic surgery undertaken by anybody in order to comply with gender role stereotyping).
Labeling Dr. Daly a “hater” of individuals when to my knowledge she never took the first violent action against anybody is unfair. She instead hated these things: dominant-submissive cultural patterns, gender-based social trends, and human suffering (including elective surgery done for gender-role compliance). To label her a “hater” is a misguided reversal of truth born of misunderstanding the philosophical core of Dr. Daly’s work. Much as Catholics generally hate the sin but not the sinner, I surmise that Dr. Daly hated the transgender movement (for its focus on artificial gender roles and related bodily mutilation to fulfill those roles) but not individual transfolk. (And please, I’d say to those who disparage Dr. Daly for their own political reasons, let’s not quibble about politically correct language; the “p.c.” terminology changes so often in any political movement, who could keep up, and Dr. Daly as well as Dr. Janice Raymond did most of their writing in this area many years ago.)
Were I to indulge the language of hatred, I could as easily write about seeing, in blogs following Dr. Daly’s death, an unreasoning hatred of Dr. Daly as well as a hatred of woman-born radical feminist women as Beings, of which Dr. Daly was one. This hatred of Dr. Daly, I could opine, is a hypocritical brand of hatred, pretending to be progressive politically, by which others demonize and distort any feminist who clearly opposes gender roles.
Dr. Daly wrote as a philosopher, not as a social scientist and not as a politician. She took extreme positions to make a philosophical point — mainly because she believed so passionately that gender roles are artificial constructs that distort all relations to the destruction of Life itself as embodied in individuals who ought to be free simply to Be, not woman or man, simply Being.