5. A Story

[16] Shortly after Mary Daly’s death, I gathered with a small group of women and men to talk about her influence on our lives.  One woman talked about how, shortly after the publication of Gyn/Ecology, she moved to women’s land in rural Massachusetts.  The women there were living Mary Daly’s ideas.  She had an entertaining and powerful story about living without watches as a rejection of patriarchal time.  I imagine that such groups existed in many places after the publication of Gyn/Ecology.  The woman who told that story expressed some regret that feminist community had lost that wildness.  I agree that feminist/lesbian community no longer exudes the spirit of wild resistance she recounted.   Any wildness we seek we must fight to retain.  Where I find myself located, this kind of wildness is not a useful strategy.  I can’t reject patriarchal time and I can’t function without my planner.  However, I do have a glimpse of another way to live.

[17] I was the only academic in that gathering.  My story centered on how my thinking was and is shaped by key concepts in her work, such as the foreground/background distinction and the concept of reversals.  I am, after all, a product of analytic philosophy, among other things.  Daly’s work structured my experience of the academy.  Upon realizing the depth of the mystification and mindbindings perpetrated by academics, as evidenced in Gyn/Ecology, I found it difficult at times to remain part of the profession.  I took heart in Daly’s insistence on remaining at Boston College.  Where better than the ‘belly of the beast’ to do her work?

[18] In hearing the others’ stories, I was moved by how deeply Mary Daly’s work has traveled outside the academy.  I find that to be one of the most significant achievements of her work.  No doubt her passionate unruliness is one reason for her appeal, and is also what may put off academics.  In her highly original, mad-genius way, she opened up new possibilities.  In naming and mapping the Background, she shows that there is meaning and sense outside of the mainstream—that to move out of the mainstream is not to move into madness, though it may appear that way to some.

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