Mary Daly passed away some time yesterday. To many she is best known as the lover and mentor of Janice Raymond but among Pagans she is remembered for her ground breaking work in the formation of the Dianic Pagan traditions. Her 1973 work, “Beyond God the Father: Toward a Philosophy of Women’s Liberation” was a seminal work in spiritually oriented feminism.
Mary Daly’s last book “Amazon Grace” marked a departure from her former, often somewhat over the top, radical feminist philosophy to embrace the model of the second wave European schools that emerged first in Spain and then later in France embracing the “esprit feminique” –the feminine spirit that embraces rather than reject those unique attributes of women as not weakness but indeed our strengths. This is the essence of “Wholistic Feminism”.
Rest in peace Mary, may the Goddess’ arms enfold and keep you.
“The Goddess Movement would not be the same without her. Contemporary Paganism would not be the same without the Goddess Movement. The radical essentialism of thinkers like Daly was a challenge to the pole that said “only men can communicate with the divine”. That pillar that she went up against? Mostly it has changed, leaving behind laughable relics, some of whom unfortunately still hold a measure of power. Yes, inequality still exists and yes, I am still a feminist, but things have gotten better. Much, much better. I don’t know if Mary Daly was able to see the battles she actually won.” – T. Thorn Coyle
postscript...Do You Renounce Daly and All Her Works?
As a Pagan feminist theologian, the debt I owe Mary Daly is huge. As a feminist woman, that debt is also huge. As one with an intersexed/transsexed history I cannot and will not join the hate fest against her because my own experiences as a feminist woman taught me she wasn’t completely wrong. Please allow me to explain.
Almost none of the transwomen trashing Daly even knew who she was prior to her death, I can practically guarantee most of them never read any of her books. No, if they know her name it is because she was Janice Raymond’s mentor and among transwomen, Raymond is Satan. Now most of them never actually read Transsexual Empire either, it is an article of trans-faith one must hate Raymond with the irony being I’d never met a feminist who even knew who Raymond was until some transwoman told them about her.
Now was there ever any justification for the positions that Daly and Raymond held? Many years ago I used to argue with rad-fems on that and then a funny thing happened. Over and over I was personally exposed to exactly those same behaviours both complained about…..by those who claimed some sort of “sisterhood” with me by virtue of my having been surgically assigned male at birth (I was born intersexed) and transitioning as an adult. With one major difference to most of them beyond the intersexed thing, I had always been a lifelong feminist, always been aware of my own femaleness and hyper-aware of male privilege.
I watched feminist after feminist do a mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa on trans people when I was beginning to experience something I had to coin a word for, neo-gynophobia, in the various “trans communities”. It’s out there in plain view but any mention is immediately shouted down as transphobia. Now that’s rich. My need to make my body match my soul/central nervous system/whatever was downplayed and even insulted and the rationale to do so was exactly the same as Raymond expressed! My, and other’s like me, post corrected bodies were insulted as faux vaginas, inverted penises, mutilated crotches and we were told we would never ever ever be “real” woman. Not by rad-fems, by transgender identified people! My participation in NOW was criticized by trans women because I did so as a woman without modifiers!
And talk about hatred? I’ve been subjected to hate crimes, death threats, open attempts to destroy every aspect of my life, even turned in to Homeland Security as a terrorist and outed so I would lose my job. By evil rad-fems? By the Christo-fascist right?…….no, by transpeople because I named and talked about neo-gynophobia. I know first hand the hatred Julie Bindle has experienced.
So will I repudiate all that I gained from Mary Daly’s life work because she had issues with trans women? Not on your life. In this respect she was wrong in many ways but also she was no worse than many that now demand her life be judged on this aspect.