Mary Daly: Voice from the Fringe
Well, “fringe” for me.
I’ll confess: I’ve not been so conversant with feminist theology or philosophy. And this: it had not even occurred to me to think about it.
But then I read our daughter’s college paper on Kierkegaard and his potential exclusion of women. Our daughter’s reference to the self-described radical lesbian feminist Mary Daly and her Beyond God the Father: Toward a Philosophy of Women’s Liberation (Boston: Beacon Press, 1973) was something like click-bait for me and I had to order the book. I’m glad I did. Mary Daly’s voice has been a playful, combative, eye-opening excursion into seeing things differently. I’m only a chapter in, but already she has named patriarchal theology and turned it on its ear. Ms. Daly has suggested all sorts of thought-exercises that would never occur to anyone living in the usual theological/philosophical grid system:
For example, women who sit in institutional committee meetings without surrendering to the purposes and goals set forth by the male-dominated structure, are literally working on our own time while perhaps appearing to be working “on company time.” The center of our activities is organic, in such a way that events are more significant than clocks. This boundary living is a way of being in and out of “the system.” (43)
You don’t have to be a theologian or philosopher (or even a radical lesbian feminist) to appreciate the different way of seeing things Ms. Daly offered. A quick glance through her Wikipedia entry suggests there was personal a cost to seeing things differently—especially in the male-dominated structures she worked within.
What I like about this particular quote is how it points beyond authority to the organic or self-directed work each of us knows as our own. Much has changed since Ms. Daly wrote this in 1973. We still have male-dominated structures and maybe those are changing, though too slowly for many.
But think about “structures” for a moment.
Reading the quote as a freelancer and entrepreneur, I cannot help but notice how exactly her description fits anyone with a growing sense of their own work or mission—especially where that work or mission differs from the work or mission handed down from authority.
Regardless of gender.
The point is not to agree with everything Ms. Daly said. The point is to begin to hear. And to begin to see—so then we can begin to name the framing system we live within. By noticing and naming, potential solutions may begin to appear.
Image credit: Kirk Livingston
Color is hard to find in a Minnesota winter.
But golden brown is available. See more on golden.
Image Credit: Kirk Livingston
A lot rides on identity
- We aren’t torturers, that’s for sure. Except for…wait, it looks like we are (read the report here).
- We believe in the rule of law, unless we’ve been violated. Then we stand above the law.
- We believe in the level playing field, where everyone has the same opportunity. Except bankers and corporate boards and Wall Street and race are exposed nearly every week as rigging the game and handing big money and privilege to the rule makers.
- We’re not a police state, except for when we are. And it looks like we are building in that direction.
The personal and local and national conversations we need to have are getting harder and much less comfortable. Maybe that’s because we’ve put them off so long and been in denial for so long. Maybe it is because we remain afraid of talking with people unlike us.
But we need these conversations. These are the conversations that help us figure out who we are. These are the conversations that help us move forward.
Image credit: Kirk Livingston
“a gallon of information…dumped in a river of routine communication”
John Kotter’s Leading Change (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1996) does an excellent job explaining the difficulty of vision moving through an organization. A guiding coalition may take hundreds of hours to study a situation and come to conclusions. But as they do this intellectual work, they are also doing the emotional work of “letting go of the status quo, letting go of further options, coming to grips with the sacrifices, coming to trust others….” (88)
This is all part of the process and when that guiding coalition finishes and forms their conclusion they naturally feel their work is done.
Their work is not done.
That’s because nobody outside the coalition has done any of this difficult intellectual and emotional rejiggering. In fact, most will be blindsided because they’ve been hard at the tasks they always do. They don’t have a clue what is coming.
This is typically the point of failure. Someone from the coalition gives a speech or authors an article in the company newsletter. Or maybe a series of three articles. Here’s Kotter, very bluntly:
So a gallon of information is dumped into a river of routine communication, where it is quickly diluted, lost, and forgotten.
Compacting and condensing and boiling down the intellectual and emotional journey is essential before anyone else can or will sink their teeth into the vision. But who budgets time or money for that piece of the process?
Those who understand vision needs legs and motivation to run through an organization.
Transmitting vision must be an intentional invitation.
Image credit: John Kotter, Leading Change (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1996)