Friday Feminist – Mary Daly (3)

Cross posted


This will of course be called an “anti-male” book. Even the most cautious and circumspect feminist writings are described in this way. The cliche is not only unimaginative but deadeningly, deafeningly, deceptive – making real hearing of what radical feminists are saying difficult, at times even for ourselves. Women and our kind – the earth, the sea, the sky – are the real but unacknowledged objects of attack, victimized as The Enemy of partriarchy – of all its wars, or all its professions. There are feminist works which provide abundant examples of misogynistic statements from authorities in all “fields” in all major societies, throughout the millennia of patriarchy. Feminists have also written at length about the actual rapist behavior of professionals, from soldiers to gynecologists. The “custom” of widow-burning (suttee) in India, the Chinese ritual of footbinding, the genital mutilation of young girls in Africa (still practiced in parts of twenty-six countries of Africa), the massacre of women as witches in “Renaissance” Europe, gynocide under the guise of American gynecology and psychotherapy – all are documented facts accessible in the tomes and tombs (libraries) of patriarchal scholarship. The contemporary facts of brutal gang rape, of wife-beating, of overt and subliminal psychic lobotomizing – all are available.

What then can the label anti-male possibly mean when applied to works that expose these facts and invite women to free our Selves. The fact is that the labelers do not intend to convey a rational meaning, nor to elicit a thinking process, but rather to block thinking. They do intend the label to carry a deep emotive message, triggering implanted fears of all the fathers and sons, freeing our minds. For to write an “anti-male” book is to utter the ultimate blasphemy.

Thus women continue to be intimidated by the label anti-male. Some feel a false need to draw distinctions, for example: “I am anti-patriarchal but not anti-male.” The courage to be logical – the courage to name – would require that we admit to ourselves that males and males only are the originators, planners, controllers, and legitimators of patriarchy. Patriarchy is the homeland of males; it is Father Land; and men are its agents. The primary resistance to consciousness of this reality is precisely described in Sisterhood is Powerful: “Thinking that our man is the exception, and, therefore, we are the exception among women.” It is in the interest of men (as men in patriarchy perceive their interest) and, in a superficial but Self-destructive way, of many women, to hide this fact, especially from themselves.

The use of the label is an indication of intellectual and moral limitations. Despite all the evidence that women are attacked as projections of The Enemy, the accusors ask sardonically: “Do you really think that men are the enemy?” This deception/reversal is so deep that women – even feminists – are intimidated into Self-deception, becoming the only Self-described oppressed who are unable to name their oppressor, referring instead to vague “forces,” “roles,” “stereotypes,” “constraints,” “attitudes,” “influences.” This list could go on. The point is that no agent is named – only abstractions.

The fact is that we live in a profoundly anti-female society, a misogynistic “civilization” in which men collectively victimize women, attacking us as personifications of their own paranoid fears, as The Enemy. Within this society it is men who rape, who sap women’s energy, who deny women economic and political power. To allow oneself to know and name these facts is to commit anti-gynocidal acts. Acting in this way, moving through the mazes of the anti-female society, requires naming and overcoming the obstacles constructed by its male agents and token female instruments. As a creative crystallizing of the movement beyond the State of Patriarchal Paralysis, this book is an act if Dis-possession; and hence, is a sense beyond the limitations of the label anti-male, it is absolutely Anti-androcrat, A-mazingly Anti-male, Furiously and Finally Female.

Mary Daly, Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism, 1979

Update: An excellent obituary on Mary Daly, who died on 3 January 2009 – Acts of Contrition: Feminism, Privilege, and the Legacy of Mary Daly, by Sady, cross-posted at Feministe


5 responses to “Friday Feminist – Mary Daly (3)

  1. I can’t really read this without thinking about what she wanted done to my trans sister, and people like me, who she didn’t approve of either.

  2. Yes – it’s hate-filled, isn’t it. To say that Daly is “problematic” is a bit of an understatement. I reject a lot of what she says, but she’s still part of the history of feminist thought and feminist thinking. I’m aware (who isn’t!) of Audre Lorde’s open letter to Mary Daly, but I’m not aware (as in, I haven’t made the effort yet to go find any) of transwomen writing in response to her, so I will go and hunt it out and maybe try to post some.

  3. Riki wilchens in read my lips talks about her, although it is mostly about her student J. Raymond. and her book transsexual empire.

    As for history, yes she is part of it but I read the post without comment as an endorsement.

  4. No, not an endorsement, ‘though it’s fair enough to read it that way. Or maybe an endorsement of that particular passage, even though there are some bits of it that are too extreme for me, but not an endorsement of Mary Daly carte blanche.

    Hmmm…. maybe I should set up a “Friday Feminist” page where I list all the posts I have made, and make a comment about why I post them. Mostly I post them because I think it’s good to know our history, the good and the not-so-good and the bad.