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Remembering Radical Feminist Mary Daly (including Jon Stewart’s 1999 Riff on Her)

mary dalyI read Mary Daly’s Beyond God the Father when I was a sophmore at a Catholic girls high school in Sacramento, CA. Theologically and intellectually, it was way over my head at that time. But I learned one important thing: Theology can and should be shaped by one’s lived experience. If theology doesn’t touch your life anywhere then it’s the theology that’s wrong, not your life.

“Few major feminists, ” Daly wrote, “display great interest in institutional religion. Yet this disinterest can hardly be equated with lack of spiritual consciousness. Rather, in our present experience the woman-consciousness is being wrenched free to find its own religious expression.”

Daly, who died on Sunday at age 81, was extreme and funny, brilliant and uncompromising. She always contended that as long as you could swim then you might as well swim in the deep end. And she did. But she had that furious intuition of right and wrong that is peculiar to Irish Catholics, especially as it relates to women.

In lieu of a large memorial service, Daly asked that those who want to remember her gather together in their locales and read and discuss her work.

Below are a round-up of excerpts from her obituaries and a great 1999 bit by John Stewart on Daly’s forced retirement from Boston College:

“She was a great trained philosopher, theologian, and poet, and she used all of those tools to demolish patriarchy — or any idea that domination is natural — in its most defended place, which is religion. In the way that painters and artists become more valuable after they’re gone, I hope Mary will be kept alive by people going to her work.”–Gloria Steinem

“Her contributions to feminist theology, philosophy, and theory were many, unique, and if I may say so, world-changing. She created intellectual space; she set the bar high. Even those who disagreed with her are in her debt for the challenges she offered…She always advised women to throw our lives as far as they would go. I can say without fear of exaggeration that she lived that way herself.”–Mary E. Hunt, co-founder and co-director of the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER)

” ‘The Church and the Second Sex‘ was every bit as important in the Catholic world as Betty Friedan’s ‘The Feminine Mystique,’”–James Carroll, an author and columnist for the Globe’s opinion pages who formerly was a Catholic priest.

“She literally turned the standard theological concepts upside down. Mary played with language in such a way that you simply had to stop and think. … You couldn’t use old words in the old ways. Her legacy is a cloud of women witnesses and male theologians, too, who have now been released into whole new understandings of what the tradition really holds and really means for all of us, male and female. She was a great thinker, she was a great icon. She will be maligned by some, but history will see her very differently.”–Sister Joan Chittister, a feminist author and a member of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie, Pa., said

“I think she was a central figure for the feminist movement in the 20th century, and hopefully beyond. She had a fierce intellect and an uncompromising soul that sometimes gave even her most loving friends indigestion, but it was worth it. She redefined the parameters of philosophy. She called herself a feminist philosopher, and she really was — she was the first.”– Robin Morgan, who edited Sisterhood is Powerful: An Anthology of Writings From the Women’s Liberation Movement.

“She basically fairly clearly defined the outer limits of radical feminist theology.People around the world are generally grateful for her having done that.”– Robert Daly, who chaired the theology department during much of Dr. Daly’s tenure and was not related to her.

For a little something on the fun side, see a slim trim Jon Stewart skewering Daly when she was forced to leave Boston College in 1999 for not agreeing to teach men in her classroom.

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Books by Mary Daly include:
*”Beyond God the Father: Toward a Philosophy of Women’s Liberation”
*”Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism,” which defined categories of political theory and philosophy of religion.
*”The Church and the Second Sex”
*”Pure Lust: Elemental Feminist Philosophy,” an exploration of patriarchy and feminist vision.
*”Websters’ First New Intergalactic Wickedary of the English Language,” a humor-filled work of words aimed at “freeing the English language” from its patriarchal roots.
*”Outercourse: The Be-Dazzling Voyage,” a philosophical autobiography.
*”Quintessence… Realizing the Archiac Future: A Radical Elemental Feminist Manifesto,” another consideration of feminist thought.
*”Amazon Grace: Re-Calling the Courage to Sin Big”

Mary Daly, radical feminist theologian, dead at 81 (National Catholic Reporter)

Mary Daly, Pioneering Feminist Who Tussled with BC, Dies at 81 (Boston Globe)

Feminist Theologian Mary Daly Remembered (NPR)

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