Form and Content
Mary Daly, professor of theology and philosophy, was motivated by anger at what she and other feminists call the patriarchal oppression of women, reinforced by the Judeo-Christian tradition that views God as male and thus denies women their humanity and spirituality. (The word “patriarchy” comes from the Greek meaning “rule of the father” and refers to a system of unequal social, economic, and sexual relations which creates and reinforces men’s authority and power over women.) Daly hoped that her radical approach to theology and philosophy in Beyond God the Father: Toward a Philosophy of Women’s Liberation would make a difference by inspiring women with the courage of “Be-ing,” her verb describing “an Other way of understanding ultimate/intimate reality.” In a sequel to her work The Church and the Second Sex (1968), Daly here introduces her departure from “reformist” feminism (that which tries to work within a patriarchal system such as the Christian church) to a “post-Christian radical feminism” (that which calls for the destruction of the male power structure in its spiritual institutions).
Daly acknowledges her debt to twentieth century British writer Virginia Woolf, whose essays in A Room of One’s Own (1929) and Three Guineas (1938) have inspired countless feminists. Woolf was one of the first to analyze British society as a patriarchy and the first to introduce the idea of woman used as a scapegoat for all humankind’s ills. These concepts are keys to Daly’s thought as well.
Daly uses references to books and journal articles as the basis for her discussion of the “sexual caste” system that she believes exploits women. Her purpose...
(The entire section is 708 words.)