Today, with a misogynist bully scam artist having grabbed the role of "change agent" for America, I find myself wishing Mary Daly was still alive. She'd be wielding the Amazon woman's double-headed ax and she'd have the words. The best words!
What would this radical feminist theologian who devastatingly chipped Christian theory say about Trump? Specifically, what would Daly have said about the aggressor/abuse predations Trump uses for conquest and control of women, and, the acceptance -- even by some women -- of the denigrating rhetoric and the actual sex-abuse behavior of this diseased messiah? Daly, the Boston College "heretical" professor who died in 2010, left a luscious, lingering canon that contains legions of appropriate quotes.
“Male religion entombs women in sepulchres of silence in order to chant its own eternal and dreary dirge to a past that never was.”
A past that never was! See, Mr. Great Again Trump is tapping directly into a patriarchal strain of brainwashing that aims to gaslight the acolytes into darkness and despair!
Or this from Daly:
“Every woman who has come to consciousness can recall an almost endless series of oppressive, violating, insulting, assaulting acts against her Self. Every woman is battered by such assaults - is on a psychic level, a battered woman.”
There are many levels at which Trump and Trumpism needs to be unpacked and analyzed, but none more certainly now than a feminist analysis -- a radical feminist analysis even more so. The pussy-grabbing sex tape in which Trump confirms his abuses of women was more than an October surprise.
That phrase tends to address a political event that upends a national campaign. In Trump's case, given his self-described abuse of women and the taped "proof" -- as if we needed Access Hollywood to "know" -- the shift to women's rights, women's role and how men treat women has become primary. The fallout from Trump supporters who are pushing back against "political correctness" extends to a new campaign call: Repeal the 19th amendment, which gives women the right to vote. Maybe they're joking. It's all so very funny and cavalier, isn't it? Who needs women anyway?
It was the reason Michelle Obama, in a speech that far surpassed its original assignment to stump for Hillary Clinton, set forth an argument about what Americans as a society must accept as a standard for behavior between each other. At its heart, the First Lady's speech was as devastating as it was because it laid bare the insidious and person-condemning ways in which men's treatment of women -- from overt to subtle -- continues to make women feel at the margins of acceptance (at best) to outright objects for desire, control and abuse.
With her words, Michelle Obama struck a chord of pain for so many women who've been groped or marginalized or talked over or paid less than men. That's a majority of women, at least. It struck fast and hard in part because of Trump used his large body to stalk Clinton during the second presidential debate -- physical presence that many women and maybe many men immediately identified as a deliberate, controlling threat. When and where might the pussy-grabby and tongue-down-the-throater strike next?
We have not witnessed racism and demagoguery such as what Trump is brandishing in this heinous year of anger and hate. Neither have we witnessed so plain the stalking, insidious threat of not just white, male privilege, but male domination. It is a radicalizing moment. It is so viscerally disarming that the recent Trump speeches, abuse revelations and his subsequent double-down threats have led me to reconsider why and how a feminist theologian had, in our own recent history, set forth an actual philosophy of separation between men and women.
I would like to believe that Mary Daly, the Schenectady-born radical feminist philosopher who died at age 81, would have something succinct to say about the way Trump divides women: The pretty, leggy ones he grabs by the pussy and the ugly ones he would never touch and the ones that he does grab by the pussy but aren't beautiful enough by his standards so he uses them as evidence that he is not an abuser. Look at her? Trump taunts. Who would touch that? The only evidence is the word of the women. And what evidence is that?
See? This is no small political matter with a small "p." This is Political with a capital "P" because what Trump has perpetuated both in his actions and his denials of action is at the core of women's subjugated, secondary, lesser-than, unequal role.
Daly, an astounding and controversial, stood herself far outside the patriarchy. She was a radical lesbian feminist. She was a "separatist" from male society because it was the only way to confront the damage done by men and their systems not just to women but to the planet.
Daly's radical philosophy pushed beyond what Freud would have called "the narcissism of small differences" between Marxism and Nazism, Christianity and Judaism or Buddhism. All of these ways of organizing the world were merely "sects within the grand (and tragic) religion of patriarchy,'' wrote religious studies professor and Shimer College president Susan Henking.
In order to demystify the patriarchal structures and world views, Daly wrote in ways that are legendary and radical and thrilling. Her quotes are astonishing and brutal. But within Daly's philosophy of reorganizing the earth in balance, necessary. For instance:
“If life is to survive on this planet, there must be a decontamination of the Earth. I think this will be accompanied by an evolutionary process that will result in a drastic reduction of the population of males.”
Or this, which distilled Daly's primary tenent that when God is seen as male, males are gods:
“God's plan' is often a front for men's plans and a cover for inadequacy, ignorance, and evil.”
Others have called Daly's principle agenda an act aimed to "reveal the structures and myths within patriarchy which degrade all, but especially women's, humanity." She started with her book "The Church and the Second Sex," where Daly reviews the historical record of Christian theory and practice to show its inherent misogyny.
"Drawing on the work of Simone be Beauvoir, Daly notes that Christianity, since its inception, has sought to oppress and deceive women. It holds up unattainable visions of the Virgin Mary as the exemplar of the good Christian woman, while also affirming that Mary was made pure only through the act of a male god and only for the sake of a male savior,'' one of Daly's interpreters, Dr. Wesley Wildman at Boston University.
"The paradigmatic woman is passive, asexual, and, in a striking reversal of the normal order, kneels in submission before her son. The model of Christian piety is essentially one of submission and of patient suffering in light of oppression. Women achieve some merit only by accepting and internalizing their role as the patient sufferer who will be rewarded in the life to come, or by somehow "rising above" the handicap of their sex and embodying more fully the masculine norm of spiritual rigor, as was the case with Teresa of Avila,'' Wildman said.
Adam to Eve. Trump to attractive women. It is still as it was written, only more coarse and barbaric since we're supposed to have moved forward.
For all the wrong and frightening ways in which Trump talks and motivates his base of American voters, the October surprise is that -- among the dispiriting and deadly "truths" he deals in -- Trump has laid bare the primal and primary ways in which men and women are divided in this society due to patriarchal systems that have yet to be smashed. Trump's misogyny is the patriarchy playing out en flagrante delicto.
Most women and many men understand this disqualifying pathology. Misogyny lives. The only consolation is that it's finally the reason Tump loses -- even after all of Trump's other denigrating and abusive forms of hatred were allowed a pass. I'll take comfort in that. Mary Daly would not.
Is a former political and sports columnist who worked great cities like Albany NY, Seattle, Baltimore and Harrisburg PA. She lives New York.