(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

In Beyond God the Father, Mary Daly traces a “spiraling journey” of discovery to enable women to change their “conception/perception of god from the ‘supreme being’ to Be-ing,” that is, from a male, patriarchal God to a nonsexist verb that shows life and spirituality as continually evolving processes. Daly urges women to live “on the boundary”—outside of patriarchal institutions such as Christianity—so that women can rediscover their own potency, creativity, and potential for metamorphosis. Daly claims that the sexual caste system and the totally masculine symbolism of Christianity reinforce and justify the oppression of women. Too many people trivialize this problem by suggesting that war, racism, and poverty are more important; they may deny women’s oppression by claiming that “in Christ there is neither male nor female.”

In “After the Death of God the Father,” Daly argues that patriarchy takes advantage of a false polarity between the “masculine” image of reason, objectivity, and aggression versus the implied “feminine” image of emotion, passivity, and self-sacrifice in order to argue for male superiority. The identification that occurs between men and God, who is always referred to as a “He,” leads many theologians and philosophers to assume that God has ordered women’s subordination and exploitation. This belief and the language of faith (“Our Father”) force women to remain outsiders, strangers, the Other—not male, thus not God-like, thus not true persons. To establish the nature of the struggle facing women, Daly dismisses male myths of separation and return and of conflict and vindication, instead urging women to embrace the myth of integrity and transformation that leads to independent spiritual rebirth. She further seeks to dethrone false deities that excuse or justify oppression or...

(The entire section is 761 words.)