Mary Daly is dead

The news is gradually filtering out that Mary Daly (1928-2010) died yesterday. I heard the news first on Facebook via Amy. Mary E. Hunt has sent out the following announcement, which has been disseminated via iRobyn and other blogs:

With a heavy heart, yet grateful beyond words for her life and work, I report that Mary Daly died this morning, January 3, 2010 in Massachusetts. She had been in poor health for the last two years.

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….

Mary E. Hunt — Hoechenschwand, Germany

With all due credit to all the other women doing feminist theology during the 1960s, Mary Daly was indeed world-changing. Beyond God the Father, her greatest work, is still a radical book. For people in my generation, it’s easy to forget how radical she was and is: we’re too aware of the inadequacy of her responses to womanist and third-wave feminist theologians; we’re too critical of her binary, either-or, definitions of gender. But Mary Daly’s work is part of our intellectual foundations — in many ways, we would not be who we are if it were not for her.

Daly was a voice for liberation. Maybe I disagree with the details of what she says, but basically she’s right: women have historically been oppressed by religion, they continue to be oppressed by religion, and that oppression has to end, whatever the cost. That oppression continues within Unitarian Universalism: last I heard our women ministers still earned less, on average, than our male ministers; sexual misconduct by male ministers all too often gets passed over lightly; better than 90% of our religious educators are women (’cause, you know, raising children is women’s work) and most of our religious educators receive inadequate pay.

I would feel better about Daly’s death and the rest of this if the rising generations were more radical in their feminism, but they are not. We live in a world where feminism is either in retreat, or has been co-opted by consumer capitalism merely in order to expand the pool of consumers to be exploited. When you remove their equality as consumers, in many ways women and girls are less equal today than they were 20 years ago.

Mary Daly, we’re going to miss you.

One thought on “Mary Daly is dead

  1. Jeremiah

    I am perhaps too young to know much about Mary Daly, but the second-wave feminist mindset was critical to my mother’s spiritual development, leading her away from the church of her youth and to Unitarian Universalism. In that sense, I owe her and her compatriots a debt of gratitude. While I remain concerned that second-wave feminism was almost as destructive as it was transformative, I suspect that it could not have evolved any other way.

    Also: excellent point on DRE’s. I don’t think I’ve EVER met a male one. A great many congregations don’t take the position seriously. In Maine, I suspect that for the churches that even have such a position (many don’t), that the average hours per week are something like 10-12, and the pay is a joke. The unspoken expectation is that it’s a mom or elementary school teacher or retired person, but it’s not a career. There’s one full-time position in the entire state. As a result, turnover is incredible. It’s not uncommon to see someone in a DRE position for a year or even less. Meanwhile many evangelical churches have full-time youth pastors just for teens. It’s embarrassing and shaming.

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