It wasn’t the end of the problems with Daly. For starters: Daly hated on trans people something fierce. This has been sort of lightly mentioned and hinted at elsewhere, but I have to tell you this in plain language: MARY. DALY. HATED. TRANS. PEOPLE. Particularly trans women. She intimated, at times, that they were part of a plot to eliminate “real” women, and to assign “men” all “authentic” female functions. She also said that they were like whites putting on blackface (yeah: Lorde might have been right, about the whole appropriating-other-people’s-oppression thing?) and implied that they should have bodily violence done to them, or at least should be physically intimidated, by “real” feminists, so that they could not enter the feminist movement or feminist space. Let’s not be coy, here: no matter whether she believed this for her entire life, no matter whether she privately got over it later, she published it, without apparently ever publishing a retraction, as far as I can tell. This is hate. This is privilege. This, right here, is the face of the oppressor.
And I’m not saying this to defile Mary Daly’s grave. I’m not saying it because I get a dirty little thrill out of tarnishing the legacy of a fallen feminist. I’m not saying it because I want to start a fight. I’m saying it because, for much of my young life, Mary Daly was my favorite feminist author, meaning that I believed this shit, too. There are still women who believe this, and these women often call themselves “radical feminists.” Because queer-bashing and misogyny are just so fucking threatening to the Patriarchy, apparently. I believed it, because Mary Daly published it, and I believed in her. And, let me tell you, I have worked like Hell Itself to get over that, and to get over the privilege that allowed me to place such emphasis on my own oppression that I could go around blithely oppressing other folks because clearly I had won the Whose Suffering Is Most Important game, and to be an actual functioning ally. Some encouragement from Mary Daly – some retraction, some statement of accountability – would have helped. It would have slapped me out of this unbelievably gross way of thinking with one blow, rather than making me go through life hurting people and being an asshole and having to receive many, many less powerful slaps until I got my shit straight.
Daly and I were both Catholics, at one point, so I know both of us understand the power of Confession – not the version handed out by the church, where you say it and apologize for it and have all your guilt magically wiped away by the hand of God, but the version that actually works in the real live world, where you admit to being wrong and you take your consequences like a grown woman and you do your acts of contrition and your assigned penance, for the rest of your life, by living with those consequences and not repeating the actions that caused them in the first place. People might forgive you; they might not. The point is to value doing the right thing, for the sake of the right thing, more than you value your own personal comfort.
I’m exerpting this from the rest of the essay because I think this will be an important dialogue for feminists to have, and to continue to have, until the particular forms of transphobia which are fostered by the radical feminist movement die a long-awaited death. Mary Daly’s passing provides fodder for this conversation — a starting point — but it’s not really the core of what needs discussing.
Feminism is, still, used as a tool of oppression against trans people. Those who perpetuate this violence toward fellow human beings should feel ashamed. If they, like Mary Daly, have an investment in the imagery of the church — they should confess and repent. If they, like me, have no such investment, then they should apologize and stop hurting other people immediately.
Also, rest in peace Mary Daly and thank you for the good work you’ve done, but that’s just a footnote to this conversation.