Thursday, January 07, 2010

Mary Daly, radical feminist/revolting hag

Mary Daly, an icon of radical feminism, has died at the age of 81 in a nursing home near Boston. The expression "revolting hag" is a self-descriptor. It it accurate.

In 1973, shortly after I joined the ranks of the Gay Academic Union in New York, some eminentos of the group told me that proficiency in feminist doctrine was a prerequisite for any adequate understanding of gay liberation,

The better to access this seemingly essential knowledge, I picked up one of Daly’s books. I soon wished I hadn't. Reading this screed, I was appalled. Whenever it suited her, the Boston scholar freely invented facts and generalizations. As a kind of bonus feature, the book was laced with a scarcely concealed hatred of men. Over the years this misandry became more outspoken, as Daly enounced her wish that men be reduced to some 10% of the population. Apparently even genocide did not lie outside outside the boundaries of radical feminism. Put simply, hers was an evil doctrine.

It was said that Daly’s jaundiced view reflected her run-ins with the administration at Boston College, a Jesuit institution, where she taught theology for 37 years. However, these difficulties were of her own making. For almost thirty years Daly had engaged in the despicable practice of excluding men from her classes. They were “dysfunctional.”

Such discriminatory behavior is a serious violation of academic ethics, not to speak of federal law. For centuries minorities and women had fought for full access to knowledge. And here a woman was engaging in the same vile practice of exclusion.

Daly claimed that she was willing to provide separate instruction for men who wanted to take her closed courses. In view of the uncomfortable prospect of being given one-on-one instruction by a hostile professor, I wonder how many male Boston College students were prepared to take up this offer? At all events this is an instance of "separate is equal." But separate is NOT equal. It is segregation.

From time to time individual students would protest that they wanted to be admitted to the actual classes, so that they could benefit from the give and take of the group experience. Perhaps the benefit would be slight, but at least they would be able to judge for themselves.

Oh, no. Daly would not budge. In practice, she would handle the matter by taking a leave of absence, whicb she did several times. Once she returned to campus, this unethical professor would simply resume her unyielding policy of exclusion. Her contumely was persistent and seemingly inexhaustible. In 1999, however, the long period of indulgence finally came to an end, as one student insisted on pursuing serious legal action. By this time Daly’s star, and that of radical feminism in general, had faded, and the hitherto craven college authorities decided to take action--at last. A negotiated settlement led to her retirement. A manifest charlatan, she should never have received tenure in the first place.

Ostensibly, Daly came out publicly as a lesbian in the early 1970s. As far as I know, no actual lesbian partner has ever been identified. In one of her more entertaining books, Wickedary, Daly defines lesbian as "a Woman-Loving woman; a woman who has broken the Terrible Taboo against Women-Touching women on all levels [and] rejected false loyalties to men in every sphere." Did she ever touch anyone in a meaningful way? It seems that Daly was not merely misandrous--man hating--but misanthropic as well. She herself personified the quality she claimed to oppose, necrophilia. She was antihuman and antilife.

To put it mildly, she was not a decent human being, but a seething cauldron of hatred. That said, what was the actual content of her radical feminist scholarship? Daly adhered to the doctrine of primordial matriarchy, a hypothesis formulated by the Swiss scholar J. J. Bachofen 150 years ago. No conclusive proof of this notion has ever appeared, as shown by Cynthia Eller’s scintillating expose, The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory, Boston: Beacon, 2000. Nonetheless, Daly was a True Believer, holding that under the succeeding historical regime of patriarchy men had “stolen” the insights that women had achieved in prehistoric times, when this utopia supposedly reigned. For example, Daly believed that the Christian doctrine of the Trinity usurped a “worldwide” belief in Three Goddesses.

A practiced adept in the dubious science of Victimology 101, Daly claimed that nine million witches had been killed in late medieval and early modern Europe. Most reputable historians believe that the true figure ranges between 60,000 and 100,000. Over the years I found that Daly's deplorable example of simply inventing evidence was eagerly followed by a legion of gay and lesbian pseudoscholars. They were apt pupils, and she was the Pied Piper of Hamelin. No proof was needed if the assertion was in a good cause, or what seemed to be such.

Raging largely unchecked far and wide for thirty years, this unprincipled advocacy scholarship came to rank as a major contributor to the decline of American academic standards.

To be sure, there are many varieties of feminism. Achieving legal and social equality for women is a very worthy goal, one that has made salutary advances over the years. But crazies like Daly have done this cause no good. And, as I have indicated, the resulting damage has extended far beyond the precincts of radical feminist advocacy.



Anonymous generic viagra said...

Such discriminatory behavior is a serious violation of academic ethics, not to speak of federal law. For centuries minorities and women had fought for full access to knowledge. And here a woman was engaging in the same vile practice of exclusion.

1:17 PM  

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