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Please Say More, My Radical Lesbian Feminist Friend

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Mary Daly: Voice from the Fringe

Well, “fringe” for me.

I’ll confess: I’ve not been so conversant with feminist theology or philosophy. And this: it had not even occurred to me to think about it.

Sometimes a different perspective helps cut the fog.

Sometimes a different perspective helps cut the fog.


But then I read our daughter’s college paper on Kierkegaard and his potential exclusion of women. Our daughter’s reference to the self-described radical lesbian feminist Mary Daly and her Beyond God the Father: Toward a Philosophy of Women’s Liberation (Boston: Beacon Press, 1973) was something like click-bait for me and I had to order the book. I’m glad I did. Mary Daly’s voice has been a playful, combative, eye-opening excursion into seeing things differently. I’m only a chapter in, but already she has named patriarchal theology and turned it on its ear. Ms. Daly has suggested all sorts of thought-exercises that would never occur to anyone living in the usual theological/philosophical grid system:

For example, women who sit in institutional committee meetings without surrendering to the purposes and goals set forth by the male-dominated structure, are literally working on our own time while perhaps appearing to be working “on company time.” The center of our activities is organic, in such a way that events are more significant than clocks. This boundary living is a way of being in and out of “the system.” (43)

You don’t have to be a theologian or philosopher (or even a radical lesbian feminist) to appreciate the different way of seeing things Ms. Daly offered. A quick glance through her Wikipedia entry suggests there was personal a cost to seeing things differently—especially in the male-dominated structures she worked within.

What I like about this particular quote is how it points beyond authority to the organic or self-directed work each of us knows as our own. Much has changed since Ms. Daly wrote this in 1973. We still have male-dominated structures and maybe those are changing, though too slowly for many.

But think about “structures” for a moment.

Reading the quote as a freelancer and entrepreneur, I cannot help but notice how exactly her description fits anyone with a growing sense of their own work or mission—especially where that work or mission differs from the work or mission handed down from authority.

Regardless of gender.

The point is not to agree with everything Ms. Daly said. The point is to begin to hear. And to begin to see—so then we can begin to name the framing system we live within. By noticing and naming, potential solutions may begin to appear.


Image credit: Kirk Livingston

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