Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Wicked Grammar

Apparently Mary Daly died recently; she was a well-known feminist theologian who taught at Boston College (a Jesuit college). She was also famous for insisting that she should only have to teach women, not men. Fred Sanders has a quote that is pretty typical of her writing:

We do not use words; we Muse words. Rhymes, alliterations, alteration of senses–all aid in the breaking of fatherland’s fences. Liberation is the work of Wicked Grammar, which is a basic instrument, our Witches’ Hammer. Websters denounce the patriarchal usage of women and nature and of words. We denounce both good usage and bad usage, proclaiming the termination of usage. In this process, words and women guide each other. Our guiding is reciprocal, requited. United, our movements are directed by sagacious Sin-Tactics. Together we work to expel the bore-ocratic chairmen of the bored. We strive to make the world Weirder.

Which is all lovely, but an example of telling, not showing, as was much of Daly's work when it came to empowering women: all program and proclamation and no progress and practical effects. She also had an occasional bad habit of conflating Woman with Mary Daly; her opinions were Woman's opinions, her methods Woman's methods, criticisms of her were criticisms of Woman. For that matter, she more than occasionally conflates Feminist with Mary Daly. I confess that whenever I read her (as I did quite extensively in my undergrad years, because I was interested in feminist writing) I found her for the most part extraordinarily boring. No Helene Cixous or Simone de Beauvoir, she. But some people, I think, found reading her to be a fun way to try out a different view of things. And while her use of language was neither so wicked, nor so innovative, nor even so interesting as she liked to pretend, it has to be admitted that Mary Daly's language has a zest and a life that is sometimes quite striking; as part of a fight against the bore-ocrats (a fight with which I sympathize) it had its moments.

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