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Wednesday 14 April 2010

Obituary: Wonder-Filled 'Revolting Crone' Mary Daly

Posted in: Comment
By Craig Young - 5th January 2010

Mary Daly was a thought-provoking, controversial radical feminist philosopher and consummate, original stylist. Her passing deprives us of one of the oldest, uncompromising lesbian feminist utopian voices.

Mary Daly (1928-2010)
It's hard to believe now, but Daly spent almost thirty years of her life at a Jesuit-run academic institution, Boston College. Her first book, The Church and the Second Sex (1968) was a reformist Catholic work, written shortly after Vatican II and Humanae Vitae, which closed down discussion of contraception and abortion from a critical pluralist perspective within the institutional church. Due to her discovery of her own lesbianism, she moved beyond Christianity in her next book, Beyond God the Father (1973), in which she condemned Christianity as irredeemably tainted by male domination and called for women to form an exodus community, otherwise the male dominated church would maim their minds and scar their bodies.

In Gyn/Ecology (1978), Pure Lust (1984), Websters First Intergalactic Wickedary (1987), Outercourse (1992), Quintessence (1998) and Amazon Grace (2006), she advocated a bold vision of lesbian seperatist utopian existential personhood and independence, which endeared her to many in the womens spirituality movement, as well as ecofeminism, given that she was an outspoken ethical vegetarian and animal rights supporter as well.

There were some wrong notes. African-American lesbian feminist Audre Lorde questioned the marginalisation and invisibility of women of colours specificity in her work, while in the nineties, transgender rights activists slammed the transphobia in her work, as well as that of Janice Raymond, an allied radical feminist philosopher. In the late nineties, her seperatist philosophy pitted her against a right-wing dismissal move at Boston College, which she related in her final work.

Lesbian feminists weren't the only ones whose selfhood and independence benefited from the work of this Profoundly Revolting Crone (to use her gift of reclaiming formerly derogatory words and revalorising them). As she Spins into the embrace of Sister Earth, let us remember this legendary feminist figure.

In Memoriam, Mary's website:

Craig Young - 5th January 2010

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