22 SES 10 B, Feminist Ways of Being, Knowing and Teaching in the Academy: A Double Symposium
Mary Daly was one of the key thinkers of second wave feminism but her work has now been largely forgotten and assigned to the margins of the philosophical canon. Mary Daly described herself as a radical feminist separatist lesbian, and devoted herself to a root and branch criticism of patriarchy, misogyny and sexism in her teaching and in her writing. Her major works include Beyond God the Father (1974), Gyn/Ecology (1978), Pure Lust (1984) and Wesbster’s First New Intergalactic Wickedary of the English Language (1987). She taught theology at the Jesuit-run Boston College from 1966 but retired in 1999 when Boston College removed her tenure rights after a male student, with the backing of the Centre for Individual Rights, challenged her refusal to admit male students to her feminist ethics class (she insisted that her public classes be women-only spaces). Mary Daly’s work is challenging, uncompromising and confrontational. She both sought and continually found controversy. For example, Audre Lorde (1979) accused her of excising, trivialising, and co-opting to white agendas Black women’s experiences in her book Gyn/Ecology, and Daly castigated her critics as ‘fembots’ and mere dupes of patriarchy while refusing to engage with their criticisms. However, Daly’s writings are witty, imaginative and compelling. Through inventive wordplay she incisively diagnosed the ‘aphasia, amnesia and apraxia’ that results when women cannot speak of their experiences; her creative leaps of the imagination enabled her to cast (old) gendered injustices in new lights; and her euphoric commitment to women’s equality in all spheres knew no bounds. My paper, then, provides a way into a re-encounter with Mary Daly’s work and suggests how it may support feminist ways of being and knowing in the contemporary academy. I address the question: What relevance does Mary Daly’s philosophy have for higher education today? I answer this question by focusing on three particular strands. First, I consider the construction of the philosophical canon as a gendered materialisation of knowledge process which seek to produce feminist knowledge as ‘other,’ and I argue that the hegemony of male-stream knowledge requires continuing contestation (Hoagland and Faye, 2000). Second, I reflect on the discourse of the intellectual ‘radical,’ to consider how this is both a gendered and political discourse. Thirdly, I appraise how Daly’s philosophy might lend support to pedagogic practices oriented to raising feminist fires in the contemporary neoliberal academy.
Daly, M. (1974) Beyond God the Father. London: The Women’s Press. Daly, M. (1978) Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethcis of Radical Feminism. Boston, Massachusetts: Beacon Press. Daly, M. (1984) Pure Lust. London: The Women’s Press. Daly, M. and Caputi, J. (1987) Wesbster’s First New Intergalactic Wickedary of the English Language. London: The Women’s Press. Hoagland, S. and Faye, M. (2000) Feminist Interpretations of Mary Daly. Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Statue University Press.
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