In a post this month about a satirical essay by Martha Burk on controlling male fertility, weblogger Glenn Reynolds offered this parenthetical remark,
Though if you think that calling Burk’s piece “satire” changes the face of feminism you’re showing your ignorance. There are other writings by academic feminists calling for the elimination of men and similar absurdities in dead earnest, though at nearly midnight I’m not going to run them down. But as a guy who once edited Catharine MacKinnon, I know a bit about this stuff.
Barry Deutsch then challenged Reynolds as to whether there are really academic feminists who have called for the complete elimination of men. Reynolds turns up references in Mary Ann Warren’s “Gendercide,” which Deutsch says isn’t good enough.
Well, there is one academic feminist who is both a fan of parthenogenesis and advocates the elimination of men (and most women) — Mary Daly. Until a few years ago, Daly was a professor at Boston College. She was finally forced out there because she refused to allow men to participate in her classroom.
Daly has long advocated for research into parthenogenesis to dispense with men. Her book, Quintessence, is half-science fiction novel, half bizarre manifesto in which she explicitly lays out her views. Daly herself is a character in the book who visits a utopian continent where — thanks to the influence of Daly’s books — a lesbian elite reproduce solely through parthenogenesis.
And there is no doubt that Daly considers this both desirable and possible. Here’s Daly from a 2001 interview with What Is Enlightenment magazine (emphasis added),
WIE: In your latest book, Quintessence, you describe a utopian society of the future, on a continent populated entirely by women, where procreation occurs through parthenogenesis, without participation of men. What is your vision for a postpatriarchal world? Is it similar to what you described in the book?
MD: You can read Quintessence and you can get a sense of it. It’s a description of an alternative future. It’s there partly as a device and partly because it’s a dream. There could be many alternative futures, but some of the elements are constant: that it would be women only; that it would be women generating the energy throughout the universe; that much of the contamination, both physical and mental, has been dealt with.
WIE: Which brings us to another question I wanted to ask you. Sally Miller Gearhart, in her article, ‘The Future, If There is One, Is Female,” writes: “At least three further requirements supplement the strategies of environmentalists if we were to create and preserve a less violent world. 1) Every culture must begin to affirm the female future. 2) Species responsibility must be returned to women in every culture. 3) The proportion of men must be reduced to and maintained at approximately ten percent of the human race.” What do you think about this statement?
MD: I think it’s not a bad idea at all. 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. People are afraid to say that kind of stuff anymore.
Of course, what Daly is advocating here is nothing short of gendercide, and yet Daly is taken seriously by radical feminists.
Radical feminist Andrea Dworkin, for example, called Quintessence a “masterpiece.” When the Boston College controversy erupted, Daly’s supporters held a fundraiser called “A Celebration of the Work of Mary Daly” which included Diane Bell, Director of Women’s Studies at the George Washington University; Mary Hunt, Co-Director of the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual; Frances Kissling, President of Catholics for a Free Choice, and others. Daly also counted Eleanor Smeal, Gloria Steinem, and other feminists outside of academia in her corner.
The press release announcing the celebration explicitly includes Quintessence as one of Daly’s celebrated works. Can you imagine for a second the outrage if men in and outside of academia got together to celebrate the works of a misogynist who complained of female “contamination” and advocated “a drastic reduction of the population of females”?
And that, in a nutshell, is what is wrong with contemporary feminism — that such nutcases are not only tolerated but openly celebrated. And they still wonder why so few college-aged women want to self-identify themselves as “feminists.”
Mary Daly event in Washington, DC, Jan. 29, 2001. Mary Hunt, E-mail press release, Jan. 10, 2001.
The Thin Thread Of Conversation: An Interview With Mary Daly. Catherine Madsen, Cross Currents, Fall 2000.
Change Agents in the Church: Mary Daly. Rev. Joan Gelbein, Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, Sunday, January 7, 2001.