In recognition of Mary Daly

I was working on my syllabus for an upcoming course on Feminism & Philosophy, when Sarah Hoagland’s email to the FEAST list linking to an online tribute to Mary Daly arrived.  (It’s quite nice, a bit long at eight minutes but how quickly must we brush past a life, after all?)

Over the years I have let Mary Daly slip from my syllabus, but I do indeed tend to reintroduce authors to syllabi when they, well, when they die.  Is that odd?  I had similarly come to neglect Arne Naess in my environmental philosophy course, but his recent death seemed to make recognition of his foundational work in Deep Ecology pressing.  It seems important to do; perhaps it reflects some foolish fear of one’s death leading to being forgotten.  For whatever reason, this old hag is going to assign a little Mary Daly, duly noting to the class her recent passing.

May you find Pure Lust in the new year.

11 thoughts on “In recognition of Mary Daly

  1. I note Okin’s recent death as well, when we read her in my classes. I think it helps us and the students to keep in mind that philosophy is not always so ancient. Here’s to Mary Daly!

  2. I hope you’ll also duly note that Mary Daly’s opinion of trans people is indefensible.

  3. Matt, thanks for telling me. I think the link will work now.

    Oh, yes indeed, dcontreras81, I plan to note the indefensible. My students tend to be ahead of me on detecting those portions, anyway. Yet the attention, I still plan to pay.

  4. did this comment make it in or find its way spamwards?

    I really hope you don’t reintroduce her to your course. Her attitude towards trans people, as dcontreras81 said is disgusting. If she were to write the same thing about any other group of people, she would be up there with the David Irvings of this world.

    You might like to read the following while reconsidering, or at very least point out when you teach her what her position on trans (and men) was (and counter her with perhaps Sandy Stone’s “The Empire Strikes Back: A Post-Transsexual Manifesto”):

    And not to forget she was the thesis dissertation of that other anti-trans hate-monger Janice Raymond for “The Transsexual Empire”, who said, “All transsexuals rape women’s bodies…” and who was also responsible for denying medical access to trans people in the US.

    Neither of these women in my mind embody the ethos of feminism, the damage they caused to trans people still continues today, and I am not alone in not mourning her death.

  5. Sorry, Frances, about your comment being lost. Our spam filter tends to eat anything with more than one link.

  6. I’ve been puzzling about/struggling with how to think about Daly’s hateful transphobia, given her really important and good other role(s).

    A thought that makes sense to me now; we need to resist the idea that human being are, or even can be, all good or all bad. It might be beneficial to use Daly as an example of someone who did some very good things and also did some very bad ones.

    I expect our students are struggling often with such questions about their parents – were they awful or really wonderful or something else – and our political life in the States is certainly going in for a lot of splitting. Harry Reid says an awful thing and so he ought to be out of office, etc.

    So I think we need to be upfront about all this, but I don’t see banishment from the syllabus as a solution.

  7. One reason I like this blog — I had to read Mary Daly in undergraduate (quite a bit, but I don’t remember exactly what), and had never learned anything about her views on trans people — hadn’t the faintest clue that she had even discussed the subject. (I haven’t really read much Daly since, and it was never touched on then.)

    I wonder, picking up jj’s comment, if Daly might perhaps be used in a class to start reflection on how narrowness of viewpoint can begin to problematize even a very strong interest and concern for justice — since despite her faults, I don’t think anyone’s ever criticized her for not being passionate about the cause of women, and, despite the passion, I don’t think it can seriously be denied that she had a troublesome tendency to treat broad, grand pronouncements from the perspective of Mary Daly as if they were definitive of the lives and potential of women generally. I actually think this may be one of the strengths of current feminist philosophy (one that comes through in comments to a lot of posts here, I think), namely, that it is ripening to a sense that feminist thought isn’t just critique but also close and honest examination of the foundations and principles of the critique itself. That gives it a richness of self-reflection that is not always found even in philosophy, and it leads to new and better ideas.

  8. Perhaps use Amazon Grace, where, amongst other things, she addresses the dangers of a heirarchal , elitist and exclusory sort of community of women….

  9. Ohh, good advice, Maura.

    I understand your hopes, frances, and I think you speak for many. But my students still read Kant, Schopenhauer, and lots of philosophers whose more heinous views I do not excuse with the old “products of their time” saw. I wish to resist the tendency to omit the texts of women with awful ideas, while persistently using the texts of influential men with deeply objectionable positions.

    Having said that, I can’t put everyone on the syllabus. Selection continues.

    By the way, Brandon, thanks for saying that! You made the bloggers’ day.

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