Radicalfeminism in the United States: the work of mary Daly

Arguments against "extreme" positions and revulsion from "extreme" behavior have run as a leitmotif through the history of feminism since its beginnings as an identifiable movement. When suffragists in England and the United States chained themselves to public buildings at the turn of this century, their behavior deeply offended all decent feeling; when, in June of this year, feminists in the state of Illinois poured animal blood on documents in the halls of the legislature after it had refused to ratify an equal rights amendment to the American constitution, thereby defying majority opinion and destroying the possibility of such an amendment and its benefits for decades to come, their symbolic gesture provoked righteous disgust throughout the national press.
Of course "extreme" is a meaningful term only relatively. Thinking people know very well that a powerful group does not share its power willingly, and demands for justice fall on deaf ears. Having themselves defined the very nature of their petitioners as fit only for subservience, the powerful are not compelled to see that subservience as unjust. Women have achieved their advances only by forcing attention on the issue of women's rights, and since men pay little or no serious attention to women, that attention is won only by behavior men define as extreme. I need not defend the suffragists of another era; with respect to the women in my state and country who poured the blood out of a profound and justified anger, I can only say how fortunate men are that women do not express anger with the violence of men. But the problem of behavior, of demeanor, does not stem simply from the opponents of women's rights, but from their advocates, women and men, who demand of women an angelic patience, a consideration for their oppressor's feelings, that they would never demand of any other group suffering from clear and palpable injustice.
Women in the United States, after more than fifteen years of an active women's movement, still earn less money than do men working at the same jobs. A few women do work at jobs formerly held exclusively by men, but the progress has been slow and the experience often bitter. Rape has increased, and judges often impose minimal sentences when rapists are convicted; furthermore, rapists are permitted to go free on bond while their cases are pending, free to rape again. The police, despite improvements in educating them to cope with violent crimes against women, still treat victims with contempt suggesting that they are responsible for attacks against them. Brutal wife- beating has increased, and police refuse to interfere, as if violence against women by their husbands cannot be considered criminal. Horrorfilms depicting the terrorizing and brutal murder of women are being produced in unprecedented number, and their popularity is commensurately great.[1]
This is far too brief and inadequate an account of the ground from which radical feminism has emerged, for it deals with a part only of the American day to day reality, and, too, it ignores the legacy of the Vietnam era which drove many American women into the feminist movement from the male-supremacist politics of the New Left. Nevertheless, it will suffice, I hope, to suggest some of the circumstantial particularity that spurs the women's movement in the United States. Against this background, what happens is something like this: Women protest against blatant injustice, and the response, at best, seems minimal. A few more women are hired, a few more admitted to study law and medicine, but in the lives of women nothing really changes (the woman lawyer is still expected to run a household and care for children without any participation by her male partner). Women are then radicalized in two ways: emotionally, they become angry and bitter and determined to fight more aggressively; intellectually, exchanging ideas with one another, they bring scholarship and learning, philosophical and psychological acumen to bear on their problem to discover the extent of women's oppression, its effects on women's development, and the reasons for the obduracy of the male establishment in the face of overwhelming evidence of oppression and injustice (which they profess to abhor). The knowledge acquired and the insights achieved convince many women that their situation is even worse than they had at first realized before male hostility and increasing violence goaded them to undertake more serious inquiry, and thus many women have become committed to radical feminism, for, in a sense, what I have been describing is one way of describing the raising of consciousness.
Radical feminism, then, is an effect of three interrelated causes: (1 ) the social, economic, political and cultural reality shared by the women who embrace it, (2) the personal experience, the particular pain suffered by each woman in her effort to achieve fulfillment, to become a fully human person in defiance of the external and psychological impediments imposed by the culture, and (3) the conclusions reached as a result of scholarly research into the past, and an educated critique of the present, its institutional structures and social attitudes.
In order to discuss the emergence of radical feminism in the United States so that it may be seen as a development relevant enough to offer insights to women everywhere, I shall discuss the work of one radical feminist whose background is American, but whose personal experience is to some extent shared by many European women and others who share the culture of Roman Catholicism. Her work seems to me to offer a paradigm of the development of radical feminism in the United States because she has produced three full-length books which exhibit the philosophical movement from a demand for equal rights in, to a rejection of society as we know it. It is important to bear in mind, however, that a paradigm is a model, formal and empty. "Radical feminism" does not always point to the same ideological orientation in those who consider themselves radical feminists. In both the United States and France conflicts between homosexual and heterosexual women have occurred within radical feminism, and in France between those radical feminists who oppose theory as "pernicious," and those who insist on "a rigorous theoretical stance." But if I may take radical feminism to designate the belief that radical social change alone can liberate women, the paradigm remains as fruitful as the unique achievement of these books is illuminating; for their author is one of the most intellectually gifted and learned of the theorists of the women's movement in the United States. From the background, as I have suggested it, of American life, and the personal experience of a Roman Catholic student of theology and philosophy, she moves from a hopeful reformist position on the church to a radical critique of Christian theology and an "extreme" position on what might be called a genuinely feminist way of life. Mary Daly is a distinguished theologian with doctorates in both sacred theology and philosophy from Fribourg, Switzerland, and she is on the faculty of Boston College in Boston, Massachusetts.
Her first book, The Church and the Second Sex, was published in 1968; the second, Beyond God the Father: Toward a Philosophy of Women's Liberation, in 1973; the third, Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism, in 1978. If one takes into account the years of thought and labor preceding the first book, including the period of the second Vatican Council, it took some thirteen or fourteen years for the author to move from the hope that the Roman Catholic church could undo the wrongs it had done women throughout almost two millenia, to the conviction that Christianity, like Judaism, and indeed all other world religions - Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism - is rooted in a concept of male superiority and male hegemony and is consequently a lie to be repudiated, not an institution to be reformed.
The first book, The Church and the Second Sex, considered "the case against the church," arguing that the church has denied full personhood to women, idealizing them to dupe them into satisfaction with submission and a narrow, biological role, and yet humiliating women as dangerous, unclean, sexual beings. Daly traces the history of Christianity's documents on women as revealing "the conflict between the Christian teachings on the worth of every human person and the oppressive, misogynistic ideas arising from cultural conditioning." (p. 74) The new spirit of Vatican II is discussed in Chapter Three, entitled "Winds of Change," in which Daly presents documentary evidence of great improvement in the church's attitude toward women, as well as conservative resistance to it. In the following two chapters that resistance is closely examined under the rubrics of idealization and sexual prejudice. She then goes on to consider the theological roots of misogynism, arguing that misogynism is perpetuated by a theology to which it has itself contributed, and that "it would be unrealistic to suppose that the status of women in secular society does not affect the thinking of theologians." (p. 191 ) Daly concludes in hope that Catholics can "transcend the archaic heritage and move toward a future whose seeds are already within us." (p. 222)
In a preface to her second work, Beyond God the Father, Daly says that since the first, her perspective has been "greatly radicalized," and what follows confirms her assertion. It is in a precise sense radical. No longer is the Roman Catholic church at the center of discussion, but rather Christianity and the entire Judaeo -Christian religious tradition. No longer is misogynistic theology attributed to cultural conditioning. God the Father is conceived as male, as is Christ the Son; thus the western religious tradition is corrupt at its roots in consigning woman to the role of everlasting "other." She finds the concept of original sin profoundly anti-feminine; women, she believes, are a subordinate caste, condemned because of their biology to a submission legitimated by our "one-sex symbolism for God." She focuses on twentieth century Christian thought, and her quotations from Barth, Tillich, Bonhoeffer, Niebuhr, Chardin and others, reinforce her contention that Christianity of all denominations is a religion "invented" by men for the purposes of men, a major one of which is the suppression of women and the denial to them of full humanity, and that churches (indeed any patriarchal ritual) are the "murderers of women." Concluding that the dualism of sexism feminine and masculine stereotypes, sex-role identifications - is destructive to women and men alike, she believes that these ought to disappear in a "psychic wholeness" or androgyny. She argues, finally, that feminism is not simply a "limited" cause that ought to give way to wider human concerns: "Only radical feminism... of all revolutionary causes... opens up human consciousness adequately to the desire for non- hierarchical, nonoppressive society, revealing sexism as the basic model and source of oppression." (p. 190)
Although Beyond God the Father clearly went far beyond The Church and the Second Sex in its rejection of patriarchal, hierarchical religion, and in its call for a new spirituality founded in sisterhood, Mary Daly felt that she had stopped short of adequate insight in that work. In her third book, Gyn/ Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism, she affirms the ideas expressed in Beyond God the Father while rejecting her first book altogether.
However, she must now discard three words used in her second book: God, androgyny, and homosexuality. Masculine imagery cannot be removed from God, androgyny is a confusing word for integrity of being, and homosexuality is reductive and really "excludes gynocentric be-ing/Lesbianism." (i) Gyn/Ecology is a significant, if not altogether successful, departure from the previous books. It is divided into three parts called "Passages", containing ten chapters. In it Daly tries, first of all, to characterize and simultaneously to transform the relations of women to one another; their relations are unique and not analogous to what is called male bonding, nor should they be. Second, and related to the first, is her attempt to deal with what she considers corrupt language and to find new ways for women to talk about their experience of themselves. The chapters devoted to these two purposes are difficult to read, and I shall return to them presently. Her third purpose is embodied in a series of essays which are painful testimony to the oppression of women throughout the world. The first part, or "Passage," contains two chapters on myths as products of hatred of women, the second of which is devoted to "Christian and Postchristian Myth," its title. The second and central part, or "Passage," contains five chapters and a conclusion and afterword to the fifth (chapter seven); these are devoted to what are characterized as sadistic practices against women; each chapter is a scholarly essay written in conventional scholarly language, and the titles are very informative: "Indian Suttee: The Ultimate Consummation of Marriage," "Chinese Footbinding: On Footnoting the Three-inch 'Lotus Hooks,"' "African Genital Mutilation: The Unspeakable Atrocities ... .. European Witchburning: Purifying the Body of Christ," "American Gynecology: Gynocide by the Holy Ghosts of Medicine and Therapy," and the afterword, "Nazi Medicine and American Gynecology: A Torture Cross-Cultural Comparison."
The titles of these chapters indicate unambiguously the well-known subject matter they contain as well as providing a glimpse of the savage irony which permeates her interpretations of the phenomena she has documented in them. The preface to the third "Passage" and the final three chapters focus on what women must do to escape the trap of a male-centered and male-defined universe, to achieve genuine bonding in friendship among women, and to experience a spiritual transcendence.
Mary Daly's three books are an emotinally moving and intellectually stimulating account of one American woman's journey to radical feminism, and the three causal factors I suggested earlier may help us to examine that journey more closely. The American background she shares with other radical feminists, I have tried briefly to suggest. The personal experience, as it is for all of us, is in some sense, of course, unique. Yet in another sense, all educated women may respond to parts of it with some recognition. Mary Daly, born and brought up in the Roman Catholic church, tells us in her "Autobiographical Preface" to a 1975 second edition of The Church and the Second Sex that her "passion had been to study philosophy and theology." (p. 8) Since the latter meant Catholic theology to her, she came to Fribourg to study because its state-controlled faculty "could not legally exclude women," (p. 8) and there was no place in the United States where a female could study for the canonical Doctorate in Sacred Theology. During her years at Fribourg she spent a month in Rome at the Second Vatican Council. The experience was profoundly important. She speaks of feeling euphoric and says that "it appeared that a door had opened within partriarchy which could admit an endless variety of human possibilities." (p. 9. Italics in text.) Her perception of the demeaning position of women at the Council - the black dresses and self -deprecating manner of the nuns are contrasted with the "arrogant bearing and colorful attire" (p. 10) of the cardinals -this perception was nonetheless clear, and she wrote an article on sexism and religion which appeared in Commonweal in January, 1965. She was then invited by a British publisher to write her first book.
As I have suggested, the tone of that book was hopeful despite the indictment, and the "modest proposals" for reform, including the ordination of women, to which, she pointed out, there is no valid theological objection, were offered firmly, openly, and cogently, but without hostility and without rejection of the basic doctrines of Christianity. (And, of course, male theologians were taking some of her positions as well.) As Thomas Merton said, she had unmasked "the latent anti-feminism in so much Catholic thinking and practice." What followed for Mary Daly herself was dismissal from her faculty appointment at Boston College. Since no reason was offered for denying her promotion and tenure, one cannot in justice point to the book. But of course everyone did, and in her recollection of the event in the 1975 preface she remarks that "an uppity Second Sex was just too much for the church." (p. 11 ) Boston College is run by the Jesuits, but its students protested in large numbers. Her dismissal became a cause célébre in 1969, and was publicized nationally and internationally, and that summer, again without any reasons given, she was informed that she had been granted tenure.
In the "Feminist Postchristian Introduction" to the 1975 edition of The Church and the Second Sex Daly offers an extraordinary critique of the book which points unerringly to its weaknesses and echoes the arguments of Beyond God the Father. Disavowing the reformism of her first book, she summarizes her criticism succinctly: "if God is male," she insists, "then the male is God." (p. 38) In short, by 1975 the existential situations of Mary Daly as American woman and as a product of Roman Catholicism had in a sense converged. American feminism had been revitalized by the anti-war movement and the civil rights movement in the United States. By 1975 it was clear that both racism and sexism were endemic, and that women faced a long, enervating struggle with no final victory in sight. By 1975, and certainly as she worked on her third book, the reaffirmation of pre-Vatican II positions on women was unmistakable. Despite the opinion of distinguished theologians, Humanae Vitae in 1968 reaffirmed the church's position on contraception, and a Vatican release in January, 1977, stated that exclusion of women from the priesthood was Christ's intent. In the United States today moves to have women participate more fully in celebrating the mass - distributing communion, for example have been rescinded except in case of emergency, that is, when no men are available.
The circumstances which radicalized Daly seem plausible enough as causes. But radical feminism is not simply an emotional revulsion in response to outrageous injustice. It is, as well, a structure of thought, a systematic analysis of the dehumanization of women which offers both a description and an explanation of their plight in psychological, political and sociological terms, and which considers the institutional changes that must be made in order to eliminate sexism. And it is precisely with respect to the intellectual component of feminism that the term radical has real meaning. For it is the case that many women are angry and bitter, but radical feminists alone are truly threatening: they do not ask that an occasional woman be permitted to share power, to be made, as Carolyn Heilbrun puts it, an honorary man. Rather, radical feminism demands that the entire dominance-subservience relation between women and men be abolished: and that means the economic dependency of women, which in turn means the institution of marriage and the nuclear family in which women alone are relegated to child care and domestic labor simply because of their biological part in procreation. Most men resent and fear that demand, and the church fiercely opposes it. Suffragists had to affirm over and over again their devotion to marriage, home and family in order to achieve the franchise in Britain and the United States, and most must have done so sincerely. But the fear of their opponents, women and men, perhaps concealed a deeper wisdom.
Because men cling to their institutional and personal dominance, and women are so deeply conditioned to their dependency, radical feminists may well be discouraged. Mary Daly's third book is addressed to radical feminists, and her invitation to the bitter, exhausted women whose cause is just and yet seems hopeless is both brilliant and moving. As I noted briefly earlier, the argument of Gyn/Ecology does three things: it extends Daly's analysis of the 11 condition of women" to the entire globe by adding China, India and Africa to her indictments of western Christendom; and in addition to dealing with the contemporary circumstances of women, it gives an historical account of the positive misogynistic act of witch burning to balance Daly's earlier accounts of doctrinal misogynism in texts and its negative exclusion of women.
Second, in this book Daly attempts to invent a new language free of the anti-female corruptions of the old. I shall not try to explain this in detail, but I can indicate some of the techniques which are applicable to any language. There is the practice of oppressed groups who adopt an insulting name given them by their enemies; the English Quaker and Shaker sects did this. Daly uses pejorative terms for women, arising from the witch-hunting era of the 16th and 17th centuries, as terms of honor. Then, extrapolating from the etymologies of some pejorative terms, she redefines verbs to use them as descriptive of new women's activities that she will discuss.
These chapters are difficult to read partly because the unfamiliar words and spellings are irritating and seem at first an unnecessary affectation. However, one can be more sympathetic if one persists and recognizes Daly's third aim, and it is formidably difficult, and perhaps impossible to achieve with the language of spirituality currently available. For Mary Daly is trying to create a new religious orientation for women; not a new religion, however, but rather a way for women to experience transcendence in terms of communion with women, a transcendence, in other words, not corrupted by male-centered religions which have relegated women to the status of matter-bound other."
In the preface she says that the book is about separation, and is an invitation to women to be present to each other: "The words gynocentric be-ing and Lesbian imply separation." (xii, italics in text.) It is important to note here that while Daly's use of the term "Lesbian" remains ambiguous, for many radical feminists it does not necessarily denote a sexual preference, but refers rather to identification with females and their values rather than with men and theirs. Throughout the book Daly rejects the apparently good causes which have sapped the energies of women: they are a demonically double-sided trap, for of course reforms, such as legalization of abortion, aid many women in desperate situations. However, because the "changes" that are achieved are victories in a vacuum, that is, in a totally oppressive social context, they do not essentially free the Female Self but instead function to hide both the fact of continuing oppression and the possibilities for better options and for more radical freedom. (p. 375)

A footnote follows which says that the reader: "has already confronted the fact that Lesbians/Spinsters have no need of abortions, unless forcibly raped."
It may well be that the greatest offense of radical feminists is not their total rejection of male institutions and their works, but their apparent sexual rejection of men, and Daly's Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical-Feminism is no exception. She does not turn her back on the women who cannot make such a choice:

Since women have a variety of strengths and since we have all been damaged in a variety of ways, our yes-saying assumes different forms and is in different degrees [and] ... since it is a Journey, a process, there is no simple and adequate way to divide the Female World into two camps: those who say "yes" to women and those who do not. The Journey of this book therefore, is ... (< for the Lesbian Imagination in All Women." (xiii)

But the formidable intelligence which analyzes and indicts even the apparent feminist positions of some men, seems to contradict the generous tolerance of the passage quoted.
On the face of it, then, Daly's position contains serious weaknesses. The human species is composed of two sexes, and she fails to deal with that fact in two ways: she does not really account historically or philosophically for the origin of women's subservient status, and, in her positive philosphy of women's liberation she recommends a separation which, carried to its logical conclusion, would eliminate the human race. In reviewing Gyn/Ecology for the feminist journal, Signs (Winter, 1979, 345-56), Ross S. Kraemer notes some similar objections:

Daly's philosophy exhibits remarkable affinities with the system propounded by the Christian Gnostics. . . [who] viewed the universe as an arena for a cosmic conflict between souls ... and evil archons and demons who controlled the material realm ... With the substitution of women for the ... souls and men for the archon/Demons, Daly's system ... falls ... into place.

He goes on to say that Daly, like the Gnostic Savior, issues a call to women 11 to renounce all ties with earthly families and kin, to become wanderers." Kraemer points out the problem of the survival of the species that Daly's radical feminism shares with ancient Gnosticism, and accuses her of dealing with it only tangentially in implying that radical feminism will never draw large numbers of adherents. He takes her to task, too, for accepting the existence of matriarchies and goddess worship despite what he argues is a lack of evidence that cannot be attributed to male erasure of women's history.[2] In view of these and other serious strictures, his final assessment seems strange, yet I think it is just:

Daly's sustained analysis of the pervasive interconnections between phallocratic society and religion poses the most systematic challenge yet to those women who would attempt the reformation of traditional religions into systems reflective of female being.

I should like to comment on two issues raised in Kraemer's review, Daly's affinities for Gnosticism and the question of goddess worship. It has always seemed to me, first of all, that attempts to account historically for the oppression of women are, at least at the present time, terribly unsatisfactory. Further, the varieties of human cultures and social structures and the location of human societies all over the globe render unlikely, in my view, a single revolutionary change to patriarchy at a particular moment in the past. However, the question is beyond my competence, and scholarly opinion would seem to be by no means unanimous at the present time. To the extent, then, that Daly's arguments seem to depend on the existence of widespread prehistoric matriarchies as a premise for which she offers no argument in her book, her conclusions may be said to be weakened.
On the other hand, it seems to me that her discussion of goddess myths - and goddesses were not invented by feminists - and the matriarchal structures they suggest serve a function in her attempt to forge an acceptable communal spirituality for women similar to the function served in Leviathan by Hobbes's postulation of a brutish state of nature preceding organized human communities, or Cicero's tale in De Inventione of the wise man who used wisdom and eloquence to persuade wild humankind to unite in a civil body. We do not need to know whether Hobbes or Cicero believed that these prehistoric states of nature existed to appreciate their explanatory functions in the philosophic systems in which they appear.
Daly opposes the reification of goddesses in any case, and her concept of being is rooted rather in process. It is a sense of being such that being is verbal, an everlasting becoming. Whether or not there waswidespread matriarchy at some point in human development, the term is a rhetorical common place with patriarchy and offers a necessary conceptual tool for postulating viable institutional structures in which women exercise full autonomy.
The affinity Kraemer notes to Gnosticism is illuminating, but if he is right in saying that Daly demonizes men, she at least has concrete, phenomenal evidence of demonic behavior on their part toward women. In fact, my choice of affinity would have been less glamorous than that famous heresy. Daly's call to separation seems to me almost an inversion of one of the less appealing aspects of Catholic theology, the belief in the superiority of chastity to human, heterosexual congress. Chastity had to be a limited ideal if Christianity was to survive, but that it remained an ideal in Catholicism witnesses to the persistent demeaning and degredation of women.
Yet it is well to remember that monasticism bears witness to truths as well as to misogynism. It asserts the absolute necessity f or rejecting the world and its snares in order to be in touch with a transcendent reality. When Mary Daly began her study of theology and philosophy she did so because they involved what she terms "the most fascinating of all questions." (Pr. 1975 edtn. CSS) She appreciated in St. Thomas Aquinas "his ontological sense, his intuition of being." (Intr. CSS, p. 23) In Gyn-Ecology the ultimate questions have not lost their fascination, and she is still concerned with the intuition of being. The book is dedicated to a journey which leaves behind the false gods of patriarchy and looks forward to the continuing realization of a new kind of spirituality. That she should see the male-centered world, its language, its institutions and all its works as impediments to that spiritual quest is not surprising.
Mary Daly is not a fool and does not need to be reminded of the logical consequences of a position. When she says that she considers of secondary importance the numbers of women who reject males and their institutions, I do not consider her assertion tangential, as Kraemer does, and I do her the courtesy of believing that she means what she says. And it seems to me that she is right.
Of first importance is the fact that radical feminists like Mary Daly do not permit women to deceive themselves with the small gains, however much pain those gains may alleviate in one arena or another. The gains often prove to be temporary. Because radical feminists are implacable in their exposure of the cruelty to and hatred of women, because they will not accept token membership in a corrupt body, and above all because they insist in many formulations, but with one voice that female-male subservience-dominance is the paradigmatic instance and the historical root of all oppressive human social relations, Mary Daly and the radical feminists she exemplifies, perform an invaluable service for us all.


Radikaler Feminismus in den Vereinigten Staaten: Das Werk von Mary Daly
Der Vortrag beginnt mit einer einführenden Darstellung der historischen Dichotomie zwischen gemäßigtem und radikalem Feminismus: Frauen versuchen - weil man ihnen nachsagt, sie würden ihrer Sache schaden, wenn sie radikale Standpunkte vertreten durch Mäßigung ihrer Forderungen und durch Abschwächung ihrer Kritik die Männer zu beruhigen, um dann feststellen zu müssen, daß man sie ignoriert, wenn sie nicht aggressiv und auf drohende und abstoßende Weise handeln - und folglich, Aufmerksamkeit erregen.
Radikaler Feminismus, so wird in diesem Vortrag dargelegt, ist die Folge eines real existierenden Phänomens: Frauen protestieren gegen himmelschreiende Ungerechtigkeit die Reaktion ist, bestenfalls, minim. Man stellt ein paar Frauen mehr ein, man erläßt ein Gesetz, aber im Grunde ändert sich nichts. So werden Frauen auf zwei Arten radikalisiert: emotional -sie werden wütend und verbittert und dazu gebracht, aggressiv zu kämpfen; intellektuell - sie wenden Gelehrsamkeit und philosophischen und psychologischen Scharfsinn auf ihr Problem an, um das Ausmaß der Unterdrückung der Frauen aufzudecken, die Wirkung auf die Entwicklung der Frauen zu beleuchten und die Gründe für die Halsstarrigkeit des männlichen Establishments aufzuzeigen in Anbetracht der überwältigenden Evidenz von Unterdrückung und Ungerechtigkeit (was die Männer stets vorgeben zu verabscheuen). Das erworbene Wissen und die gewonnene Einsicht überzeugen viele Frauen, daß ihre Situation noch schlimmer ist als zuerst angenommen, bevor männliche Feindseligkeiten sie dazu anstachelte, das Problem ernsthafter zu untersuchen. Auf diese Weise kamen viele Frauen zum radikalen Feminismus.
In einem kurzen Vortrag ist es unmöglich, die Entwicklung des radikalen Feminismus in den Vereinigten Staaten während der letzten 15 Jahre zu untersuchen; noch viel weniger ist es möglich, die Untersuchung auf andere Länder auszudehnen, mit denen die Autorin außerdem weniger vertraut ist. Statt dessen konzentriert sich der Vortrag auf einen scheinbar paradigmatischen Fall, auf eine Instanz, eine Institution, die sich weit über die Vereinigten Staaten erstreckt: die Römisch-Katholische Kirche.
Der Vortrag untersucht drei Bücher der amerikanischen Theologin und Feministin Mary Daly, welche diese innerhalb von 10 Jahren publiziert hat und welche die Entwicklung beschreiben von einer gemäßigt reformistischen Haltung der Kriche gegenüber zu einem Standpunkt der radikalen Verwerfung »patriarchaler Religion«. Das erste Buch »The Church and the Second Sex« (dt. »Die Kirche und das andere Geschlecht«, vergriffen) (1968) erwägt »den Prozeß gegen die Kirche«: argumentierend, daß die Kirche den Frauen eine volle Persönlichkeit abspricht, indem sie die Frauen einerseits idealisierte, um sie - als Unterwürfige, auf die biologische Rolle Reduzierte in Zufriedenheit zu wiegen, andererseits erniedrigte die Kirche die Frauen zu gefährlichen, unsauberen sexuellen Wesen. Die Geschichte der christlichen Doku menteüber Frauen liest Daly als Aufdeckung «des Konflikts zwischen den christlichen Lehren über den Wert eines jeden Menschen und den grausamen misogynen Ideen, welche den kulturellen Bedingungen entspringen« (p 32). Im 3. Kapitel wird der neue Geist des Zweiten Vatikanischen Konzils diskutiert, mit dem Titel »Winde der Veränderung«. Daly legt darin Dokumente vor, die sowohl die großen Fortschritte in der Haltung der Kirche gegenüber den Frauen wie auch den konservativen Widerstand dagegen belegen. In den folgenden zwei Kapiteln wird dieser Widerstand genau untersucht: unter den Gesichtspunkten von ldealisation und sexuellem Vorurteil. Dann verfolgt Daly die theologischen Wurzeln der Misogynie weiter, erkennend, daß die Misogynie von einer Theologie verewigt wurde, welche selber zu eben dieser Misogynie beigetragen hat. Es wäre, meint Daly, »unrealistisch anzunehmen, die Stellung der Frau in der weltlichen Gesellschaft wäre ohne Einfluß auf die Theologen« (p 149). Daly schließt hoffnungsvoll, indem sie das ablehnt, was sie Simone de Beauvoirs Charakterisierung des Christentums nennt: eine »schwere Bürde vererbt von der Vergangenheit«. Daly glaubt vielmehr, daß wir »das alte Erbe übersteigen und auf eine Zukunft uns zubewegen können, deren Keim schon in uns ist« (p 180).
In einem Vorwort zu ihrem zweiten Buch, »Beyond God the Father« (1973),[3] sagt Daly, daß seit ihrem ersten Buch ihre Perspektive sich »gewaltig radikalisiert« habe. Und was folgt, bestätigt ihre Aussage. Es ist in einem wörtlich-genauen Sinn radikal. Nicht mehr die Katholische Kirche ist im Zentrum der Diskussion, sondern das Christentum und die ganze jüdisch-christlich religiöse Tradition. Misogyne Theologie wird nicht mehr auf kulturelle Bedingungen zurückgeführt. Gottvater wird als männlich vorgestellt, wie auch Christus der Sohn; folglich ist die religiöse Tradition schon in ihren Wurzeln korrupt, da sie der Frau die Rolle der ewigen »Anderen« zuschiebt. Daly betrachtet die Vorstellung der Erbsünde als zutiefst anti-feministisch; Frauen, glaubt sie, sind eine untergeordnete Kaste, biologisch verurteilt zu einer Unterwürfigkeit, die durch unser »eingeschlechtliches Bild von Gott« legitimiert wird. Im Brennpunkt hat sie das christliche Denken des 20. Jhs.: ihre Zitate von Barth, Tillich, Bonhoeffer, Niebuhr, Chardin und anderen bekräftigen ihre Behauptung, daß das Christentum aller Konfessionen eine Religion ist, »erdacht« von Männern für die Zwecke der Männer. Eine der wichtigsten Absichten dabei ist die Unterdrückung der Frau und die Verweigerung ihrer vollen Menschenwürde, das bestätigt der Umstand, daß Kirchen (oderjedes patriarchalische Ritual) »Frauen morden«. Aus der Folgerung, daß der sexistische Dualismus - männliche und weibliche Stereotypen, Geschlechterrollenidentifikationen - Männern wie Frauen schadet, schließt sie, dieser Dualismus müsse in einer »psychischen Ganzheit«, einer Androgynität aufgehen. Sie deutet den Feminismus nicht bloß als »begrenzte« Bewegung, welche den Weg für allgemein menschliche Belange bereite: »Nur radikaler Feminismus ... von allen revolutionären Bewegungen ... öffnet das menschliche Bewußtsein adäquat für den Wunsch nach einer nicht hierarchischen, nicht repressiven Gesellschaft und entlarvt Sexismus als Grundmodell und als Quelle von Unterdrückung« (Hervorhebung stammt von mir).
Obgleich »Beyond God the Father« deutlich weiter ging als »The Church and the Second Sex« in der Ablehnung von patriarchalisch-hierarchischer Religion - wie auch in der Forderung nach einer neuen, geistig begründeten Schwesternschaft -, hatte MaryDaly das Gefühl, daß sie im zweiten Buch ihre Analysen nicht ganz zu Ende gedacht habe. In ihrem dritten Buch »Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminisrn«[4] bekräftigt sie die Ideen aus »Beyond God the Father« und verwirft zugleich ihr erstes Buch total. Aber sie muß drei Begriffe aus ihrem zweiten Buch aufgeben: »Gott«, »Androgynität« und »Homosexualität«. Die Vorstellung von Gott als einem männlichen Wesen läßt sich kaum aus der Welt schaffen; »Androgynität« ist ein verwirrendes Wort, um die Integrität der Existenz/des Seiens zu beschreiben; und der Begriff »Homosexualität« reduziert das Problem und schließt »gynozentrisches Seien/Lesbianismus« aus. (cf erste Seite des Vorworts)
»Radikaler Feminismus ... « beschreibt im folgenden den von den früheren Büchern abweichenden Weg der »Gyn/Oekologie«. Darin versucht Daly vor allem, die Beziehungen von Frauen untereinander zu beschreiben und gleichzeitig umzugestalten: sie sind einzigartig und entsprechen nicht dem (und sollen auch nicht), was man mit Männerbünden bezeichnet. Zweitens, und in Beziehung zum ersten, versucht sie das zu behandeln, was sie für korrupte Sprache hält, und sie sucht nach neuen Wegen, auf denen die Frauen ihre eigenen Erfahrungen aussprechen/verbalisieren können. Das diesen beiden Aspekten gewidmete Kapitel ist in der Tat schwierig zu lesen; die Schreibweise von »Sei-en« (be-ing) und der Titel des Buches mögen hier als kleine Beispiele dienen. Drittens, finden sich mehrere Aufsätze, die von Frauenunterdrückung auf der ganzen Welt schmerzvolles Zeugnis ablegen. Der erste Teil/die erste Passage enthält zwei Kapitel über Mythen als Produkte von Haß auf Frauen, nur der zweite Teil widmet sich den »christlichen und nachchristlichen Mythen«. Die zweite Passage/der zweite Teil enthält sechs Kapitel zu sadistischen Praktiken und Bräuchen, die in seriösen, gelehrten Aufsätzen, geschrieben in konventioneller Gelehrtensprache, ihren Niederschlag gefunden haben: »Indische Sati/Witwenverbrennung in Indien«, »Füßeeinbinden in China«, »Genitalverstümmelung in Afrika«, »Hexenverbrennung in Europa«, »Amerikanische Gynäkologie« und ein Nachwort zu »Nazi- Medizin und amerikanischer Gynäkologie«.
Als nächstes bedenkt das Buch die Bedeutung von »Gyn/Oekologie«, macht einer wenig gedämpften Wut Luft und zeigt mit Nachdruck auf, daß die Frauen keine andere Alternative haben, als die Männer und die patriarchalische Zivilisation mit ihren von Männern geschaffenen Werten abzulehnen.
Der Vortrag schließt mit einer kurzen Erörterung der Bedeutung von Mary Dalys Reise von Reform zu Radikalismus und mit der These, daß ihr Weg über die Erfahrung einer einzelnen, einmaligen Frau hinaus relevant ist. Was auch immer die persönlichen Ereignisse sein mögen, die Professorin Daly dazu gedrängt haben, die kontinuierliche Forschungsarbeit und das tiefgründige Nachdenken auf sich zu nehmen, das ihre Bücher und den radikalen Wandel ihrer Ansichten hervorbrachte, die Früchte dieses Forschens und dieses Denkens sind öffentlich. Sie war die erste, die auf englisch eine ausführliche Anklage verfaßte gegen die Römisch-Katholische Kirche und deren Haltung den Frauen gegenüber. Sie war eine der ersten, die den Sexismus als mögliche psychologische Wurzel und als Modell von repressiven, Herren-untergeordneten menschlichen Beziehungen deutete. Die Geschichte der Leiden der Frauen, die Daly in »Gyn/Oekologie« nachzeichnet, kann unabhängig bestätigt werden. Ihre Analysen und Interpretationen sind eindrücklich. Ihre Bejahung des »Separatismus«, in Wirklichkeit ihr Eintreten für Lesbianismus (in einer Bedeutung, die weit über die bloß sexuelle hinausgeht) - was nicht alle von uns akzeptieren können - ist beunruhigend, denn sie ist äußerst überzeugend. Mary Dalys Philosophie des radikalen Feminismus legt Zeugnis ab von der tiefsitzenden Wut der Frauen. Dafür sind wir ihr dankbar.
Zahava K. McKeon August 9,1982
übersetzt aus dem Amerikanischen von einer schweizerischen Schulklasse.

Diskussion zu:
Radicalfeminism in the United States: the work of Mary Daly, von Zahava K. McKeon

Diskussionsleitung: Manon Maren-Grisebach

A.:: I have read all three books of Mary Daly and was most impressed. Nevertheless, I must contend that her despair of Christianity was premature because modern European historical biblical criticism, which makes it possible to read the bible as a book of liberation, had not yet reached America. Let me offer one example: in Genesis, 1, we read mankind, not man. The word 'ha5dam' means that mankind was created male/female in the image of God without distinction of roles. Both sexes are directed to care for the following generation and to shape the world. This chapter and verse, 1.26, wasthe origin of the feminist 'purity' movement which proposes to read the bible as a book of liberation, and there are many opportunities to do so. Mary Daly despaired early and deprived herself of this possibility.
Zahava McKeon: I understand and appreciate your point; many women theologians in the United States are offering feminist readings of the bible and do not reject Christianity. However, that European biblical criticism was not available to Mary Daly as soon as it was published seems to me a highly questionable assumption. Regardless of lags in translation, Mary Daly is f luent in both French and German and is herself an experienced and distinguished theologian who may be assumed to keep abreast of relevant material in scripture studies. More pertinent to understand ing her'despair'are verses 22 and 23 of chapter 2 of Genesis, the Adam's rib verses. I believe that Daly would argue, correctly, that 1.26 has not in fact been the crucial one for the development of western attitudes; rather, 2.22 and 23 have served to establish the subservience of women. Furthermore, in the west we anthropomorphize god (certainly in Jesus), and god remains male. She does not believe that, given the history of Christianity, any approaches to women'sfull humanity based on Judaeo- Christian sources can be hopeful. Certainly there are other points of view; hers is one and inevitably limited. But I don't believe your citation can truly refute her.
B:.: There are two areas in which Daly is vulnerable to criticism which you did not mention: First the lesbianism and second, the fact that Catholicism is not the sole source of the position of women, especially in the United States. Protestantism and puritanism were even worse, having driven women into the home. Medieval Catholicism with its celibate clergy was less destructive to women than protestantism with its image of the housefather as clergyman and his wife exclusively devoted to children. There is a need for more research on the protestant image of women, research not yet even begun. On the other hand, I do not think the bible ought to be our only source for the foundation of the position of women in the world. We ought to go back to humanism in which men and women are not merely sexual beings, but persons and human beings primarily. Thus I believe'the rights of man'enable us to claim for women as much right to develop their personalities as men have. That is a better source than the bible.
Zahava McKeon:: Personally I agree with Professor Tielsch'sfinal remarks insofar as I see no reason for seeking in the bible a justification for my rights as a fully human being. Indeed, I am not sure that 'authoritative', texts, including'the rights of man', are at all useful when they are a part of a male-dominated cultural past. However, I would liketo clarifywhat I take to be a misunderstanding of Mary Daly in her earlier remarks, and of my paper. I have criticized Daly's lesbianism on the only grounds I consider justified - philosophical grounds. I have said that "she recommends a separation which, caried to its logical conclusion, would eliminate the human race." As a foundation for the liberation of women, that position is untenable. Second, only Daly'sfirst book concentrates on Catholicism and the Catholic church exclusively. In her second book she attacks Christianity as a whole and devotes considerable attention to major twentieth-century protestant theologians. She continues that attack in her third book and extends it to non-Christian cultures.
C.: It should be mentioned that Mary Daly's books are available in German, published by Verlag Frauenoffensive, the second under the title Jenseits von Gott Vater Sohn und Co., and the third as Gyn-Oekologie.
D.: Unfortunately, in the German translation, the double meaning of Gyn/Ecologie is lost.
E.: Yes, I ask myself whether this undertaking, to develop now a feminist inspired religiosity, whether it isn't at the start after all a mistake. I proceed on the hypothesis thatreligion isgenerallyan authoritarian model of power structures -whether now, of patriarchal, or also of such structures under women. That is just an impression which has formed in me by readingsof thewritings of Mary Daly-whether it is not something [ja] whereby one makes for oneself also illusions, illusions of ones own strength, and with which one also perhaps [makes] illusory goals, just like the pursuit of final truth, which is also there in Mary Daly, there as a further step to be taken. So that from this point on, for me this undertaking is still problematic.
F.: Would you accept this, Gaby: I was recently at a German Catholic day - and there was present there a Dutch woman theologian who exactly the same theses proposed as here, that for a determined group of society, which, for example, are still anchored deeply in Catholicism, it is valid; but not universally valid for all women? Would you [be able to] see it like that - also that at least the justification of an innerchurch, or interreligious movement of freedom is thereby given? [in M. D.'s writings.]
Zahava McKeon: With your permission, I should like to make a final comment on this brief discussion of my paper, a thought-provoking discussion for which I am indeed grateful. With the last comments I agree. Manon, and Gaby in her pointed silence, are right in recognizing, I believe, that there are women and men who have a deeper need for some kind of spiritual transcendence than do others, and for such people a liberation movement must have its roots in what, for want of a better term, we must call 'religion'. However, I do not want that obvious fact to obscure Gaby's misgivings with respect to'illusions of strength' and 'illusory goals'. Already, Daly's lesbianism - more a kind of monastic separatism than a strictly sexual choice - is itself an illusory goal which will prevent the militant women who embrace it from engaging in the struggles that may increasingly, if not perfectly, liberate women in the phenomenal world while these women enjoy an illusion of strength in a kind of 'noumenal' freedom, not because they have won victories in the cause of women, but becausethey havewalked away altogether from the battle. I admire Mary Daly's scholarship, insight and courage; I find her vision seductive. But I must agree with Gaby that her undertaking is indeed problematic.