Mary Daly teaches theology at the Jesuit-run Boston College and is revered as one of feminism’s most radical academics. She renounced Roman Catholicism after studying theology extensively in Europe during the ’60s, foregoing her original plan of changing the Church from within to make it more progressive and, most importantly, less sexist. She decided that the dreaded Catholic patriarchy was so entrenched and hated women so desperately that nothing could be done to change it short of blowing up St. Peter’s Basilica, and so she became a “post-Christian feminist.” Since even during Vatican II the Church proved less than eager to bend to her view of how things should be, she took up witchcraft.
Daly portrays witchcraft presumably in the form she practices, as having existed before Judaism and Christianity and being superior to both because it is “woman-centered,” by which she means that a goddess is worshipped and the religion is mostly adhered to by women. In her book The Church and the Second Sex she claims that Judaism and Christianity were nothing more than reactions against the worship of a pagan mother goddess.
Ironically, Daly has chosen a new faith called “Wicca” whose most common modern form was invented by a man—and not just a man, but a white, European, heterosexual man, no less—Gerald Gardner. One of the facts Daly omits in her endless listing and twisting of words’ etymologies is that Wicca is related to Wicce, a wooden figure shaped like a man that Celts filled with people and set on fire as a form of sacrifice to their deities. Also, Celtic paganism was not entirely based upon the worship of a goddess. Celts, as well as most pagans of antiquity, worshipped a pantheon which included male deities as well. This shadowy mother triple goddess Daly exalts is called Isis, Ishtar, Our Lady of Bourgillon, Hera-Demeter-Kore, Eire-Fodha-Banbha, and Thetis-Amphitrite-Nereis in her books. Beyond her names, not much else is mentioned about her.
Daly’s main targets include Christianity, patriarchy in general, and the American medical profession. If one does not agree with her basic prejudices, it is impossible to agree with much of anything she has to say on any subject. Among her essential tenets are that Christianity is by definition oppressive toward women, is irretrievably “patriarchal” (other quaint terms she uses are “phallocratic” and “jockocratic”), that the West in all its manifestations—art, music, politics, literature, law, folklore, philosophy, science, medicine, etc.—is seeking the mutilation, torture, and destruction of all women, and that if a woman does not want to be humiliated and destroyed, she’s better off staying away from men altogether.
As an orthodox Catholic, it is easy to take Daly too seriously or not seriously at all. One’s initial reaction upon reading her tomes is either hysterical laughter (after all, how seriously can one take a woman who calls Mahatma Gandhi and Dag Hammerskjöld ascetic lecherous phallocrats? who claims that her cat wrote the last part of one of her books?) or rampant destruction of whatever inanimate objects happen to come to hand most easily.
Even Daly’s style oscillates between the amusing and enraging. She has a Germanic compulsion to capitalize certain words and not others. She refuses to capitalize Jerusalem, Jesuit, Christian, Christendom, Father, Son, Holy Ghost, Saint, Church, Catholic, and Eucharist. When quoting her, I refuse to follow her guidelines of disrespect in capitalization. She cripples the English language to the point where, in order for readers to make even minimal sense out of her words, she had to publish a pseudo-dictionary, Webster’s First New Intergalactic Wickedary of the English Language, which closely resembles glossaries found in science fiction novels popular with adolescent males.
Clues about the nature of Elemental Wisdom can be gleaned from statements attributed to the apostle Paul—arch-hater of life in general and women in particular [Pure Lust: Elemental Feminist Philosophy (Boston: Beacon Press, 1984), p. 8].
The elemental wisdom of which Daly speaks is based on the classifications of spirits by Paracelsus, a sixteenth- century alchemist who, she claims, was taught by witches. It seems odd that she accepts his authority even though it is based on such ambiguous credentials and, worst of all, he was a man. Daly embraces his four categories of spirits, based on the ancient four elements—gnomes (earth spirits), nymphs (water), salamanders (fire), and sylphs (air). As there are now over 104 elements listed on the periodic table, it is interesting that no witches or alchemists have kept up with the times and named 100 more types of spirits. When it comes to science Wiccans seem to be resolutely in the flat-earth camp.
I have never felt that St. Paul was the least bit hateful toward the female gender or life in general. And it seems odd for Daly to accuse anyone of being anti-life, in light of her strange views on abortion: for example, that men insist on fighting for the right to life of unborn children because they are fetal fetishists.
Pornography, nuclear ideology, and theology are in many ways the same [Pure Lust, p. 55].
The phallocratic war against women requires continual injections of masosadism. The instruments of these injections (fairy tales, fashions, theology, psychology, romance, literature, et cetera) are tools of snools [snool=to reduce to submission, also to cringe] [Pure Lust, p. 60].
There are no groups of subjects more unrelated and in-compatible than romance, theology, fairy tales, and literature versus pornography. I can’t imagine what pornography has to do with nuclear ideology (whatever that is) at all. Bob Guccione and Hugh Hefner probably don’t have vast stores of knowledge about science and related matters, let alone about theology. It is extremely doubtful, then, that there is a conspiracy against women that involves a coalition of experts in these disparate areas.
Nags [enlightened feminists] will not avoid noting that in the history of patriarchal symbolism, heart is frequently substituted for phallus, [Pure Lust, p. 58].
The heart has always been a symbol for feelings of pure love, dedication, sympathy, and other higher emotions than raw lust and other by-products of our material bodies. It has been used as the object of devotion, as in the Sacred Heart, which has nothing to do with sex. The heart has been referred to as the seat of man’s soul, an honor never bestowed upon male genitalia.
Feminists can never forget that the actual battering of women by men is standard role behavior in patriarchy [Pure Lust, p. 66].
Phallic lust—christened religion, mysticism, duty, charity, patriotism, romantic love—is not only all right, but the height of virile virtue [Pure Lust, p. 74].
Christianity involves the protection of the weak, and in the case of brutality against women, the women are presumably the physically weaker; otherwise, they would be doing a good deal of battering back. Daly’s idea of Christianity, then, is inaccurate. Instead of oppressing women, it has promoted an ideal that disdains the behavior she claims patriarchy has perpetuated and supported. Christ, who bestowed a kindness on the women he encountered that was remarkably better than the treatment to which they were accustomed, hardly endorses beating up women in the Gospels. The code of chivalry crystallized Christian respect for women and made it a point of honor to protect them from harm.
Woman hating is at the core of necrophilia [Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism (Boston: Beacon Press, 1978), p. 62].
Patriarchy is itself the prevailing religion of the entire planet, and its essential message is necrophilia [Gyn/Ecology, p. 39; italics in the original].
Ah, but what about man-hating? Daly detests the male gender so intensely that she has attempted to ban men from her classes, but even Boston College realizes that such restrictions are akin to telling blacks they can’t vote in a particular town. Since she is forced to allow the beasts in her classroom, she retaliates by refusing to acknowledge them in class when they raise their hands to comment.
Similarly, a lecture of hers was canceled at Dartmouth College because she didn’t want men to be allowed to attend it, and her only compromise when the administration protested was to say that men could attend, but they would not be permitted to participate in the discussion.
Daly’s hatred of Christianity and her penchant for blatant blasphemy are evident whenever she discusses any biblical account of events in Christ’s or the Blessed Mother’s life. If she loathes Christianity so fiercely, one wonders at the mystery of her desire to work at a Catholic college.
The rape of the rarefied remains of the Goddess in the Christian myth is mind/spirit rape. In the charming story of “the Annunciation” the angel Gabriel appears to the terrified young girl, announcing that she has been chosen to become the mother of God. Her response to this sudden proposal from the godfather is total nonresistance: “Let it be done unto me according to thy word.” Physical rape is not necessary when the mind/will/spirit has already been invaded [Gyn/Ecology, p. 85].
The Incarnation symbolically legitimizes the rape of all matter as well as all women—a project which has been a goal of patriarchal civilization for millennia [Gyn/Ecology, p. 75].
The Protestant solution was substitution. Androgynous, sweet Jesus, the misbegotten and transsexual parthenogenic daughter who incorporated both masculine and feminine roles, being lord, savior, and sacrificial victim, was the logical surrogate for the female principle [Gyn/Ecology, p. 93].
The Immaculate Conception is the ultimate depiction of (pre-natal) woman-battering, a mythic model of incestuous assault. Within the mad illogic of dogmatic constructs, it is logically prior to the rape of the Virgin that takes place at the Annunciation, when the adolescent Mary is told by the angel Gabriel that she is to be the mother-of-God and gives her fictitious assent [Gyn/Ecology, p. 104].
The last mortal in history I would expect anyone to dislike strongly is the Blessed Mother. She is also the last woman I would accuse of being raped. Mary agreed to be the Mother of God, and her consent to be the most important woman in human history was an active one that took an inordinate amount of courage. Were she a coward, she would have shrieked and run away from Gabriel at top speed.
Daly calls Jesus androgynous and claims that he mixed male and female roles, an amusing argument from a woman who doesn’t even believe in gender-specific characteristics. She accuses Christ—precisely the person who founded a faith she views as oppressive, violent, and patriarchal—of being a wimp, an assertion that really hasn’t had much credibility since the Vikings converted to Christianity.
Besides the male West and Christianity, Daly’s third enemy is the medical community. She really believes that American gynecology ranks up there in crimes against women with Indian widow burning, Chinese foot-binding, European witch burning, and African female genital mutilation. She compares American gynecology to Nazi medicine, although she does not decry crimes against men or young boys; only females.
The mutilations and mutations masterminded by the modern man-midwives represent an advanced stage in the patriarchal program of gynocide [Gyn/Ecology, p. 226].
Since many women confide to their gynecologists and therapists private matters which they do not share with other women, the team of holy ghosts keeps women from sharing secrets with each other and thus purifies society of female bonding [Gyn/Ecology, p. 256].
For some reason Daly writes as if all gynecologists and other doctors are male, ignoring the fact that there are female doctors, and that female medical students and interns learn the same things as the male ones. Therefore, if the medical community actually were attempting to wipe out all women everywhere, the female medical students would probably have caught on to the conspiracy by now. She accuses male doctors of creating and spreading disease among women intentionally. It is true that some kind of iatrogenic infection is inherent to the existence of hospitals, but such ailments are hardly as widespread as Daly maintains. As for creating diseases, well, if AIDS, for example, is a disease concocted by male doctors to eliminate women from the world population, they have done a wretched job of it, since the vast majority of AIDS patients are male.
Daly’s influence in academia, I should think, is strong only among those people who are inclined to agree with her on general principles before they read her books or hear her speak. It is doubtful that her arguments win over many converts. As difficult as it is to read Daly’s works, it is equally difficult to consider her a political or moral threat.