Monday, January 4


Mary Daly died yesterday.

This wouldn't be my blog if I didn't write about her passing, and so here I am, doing my best to ignore the internal tug that would pull this blog out (waaaay out) of the sorts of things I usually write about and into the intense tension that is radical feminism. Yup, I could go there. Quietly, I do. Most of the people I know don't know that about me, that I could happily live and breathe the air of that discussion. I choose not to, probably because I am too sensitive to withstand the fight without crumbling, which does not mean I can't or don't or won't stand up for myself.

Most people know her as the woman, the theologian, who taught Feminist Ethics at Boston College, a Jesuit institution, and was eventually fired because she would not allow men to attend her course (she did offer them separate independent study). Actually, it's a little bit (or a lot) more complicated than "she was fired" but you can read the story yourself, so I won't belabor the details, except to say that the spark that lit the flame came from the hands of two male students who enrolled in her course not out of interest or desire to learn, but expressly to challenge her policy (neither had fulfilled the course prerequisite). One of the students was backed from the start by a right-wing conservative think tank, which proceeded to sue BC. 'Nuff said. And let's not even get started on the irony therein.

I thank her for her objection (vociferous, ever, always) to the term "forcible rape", as if there is any other kind.

I thank her for the deep humor expressed in Websters' First New Intergalactic Wickedaryof the English Language. I was a young woman when it was published, and I heard her read from it at Mama Bear's Books in Oakland, California. I was transfixed. Yeah, these days we all talk about "reclaiming" words, but I had never heard anything like it. Her discussion of dis-ease, gyn/ecology, and sin-tactics made me laugh, made me wonder, made me think. They still do. I gotta dig up my copy of that book.

Oh, yes, I know that she was and will continue to be immensely controversial, that many disagree with her, that she was criticized for her omission of people of color and for her negative statements about transsexualism. She wasn't afraid of critique. I admire her courage. As she said: "...courage is like -- it's a habitus, a habit, a virtue: you get it by courageous acts. It's like you learn to swim by swimming. You learn courage by couraging."

You learn courage by couraging. Who else could have said that?

The thing that strikes me most about her writing and thought is that it embodied a movement, an era, of which I was a part. A place that no longer seems to exist, or if it does, it is deafeningly quiet. She said unpopular things, but she said what she thought. That's what fierce means to me.

You know, we joke about "political correctness". We think we've transcended it, so many of us. We think we (and our politics) are progressive, sometimes even radical, and we are happy to flash our credentials through our use of "code words", our adoption of inclusive labels that reproduce like rabbits, our marches. And while all of that is going on, we have private conversations. I've been privy to many of them. Conversations that reveal that, individually, there are many of us that have problems with things we 're not supposed to have problems with. Few of us will say it out loud. We smile, we nod, we say "absolutely", we protest for the "right things" . We'd be outcasts, within our own communities, no matter how thoughtful the analysis or commentary.

Like someone else we know, eh?

Light a fire for her. And while you're at it, light one for truth and courage, too.

"There are and will be those who think I have gone overboard. Let them rest assured that this assessment is correct, probably beyond their wildest imagination, and that I will continue to do so."

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