Radical feminist theologian [later post-Christian philosopher] Mary Daly talks of the ‘phallic ethic’ …

“For the beauty of strong, creative women is “ugly” by misogynistic standards of “beauty”. The look of female-identified women is “evil” to those who fear us. As for “old”, ageism is a feature of phallic society. For women who have transvaluated this, a Crone is one who should be an example of strength, courage and wisdom.”


Forcibly retired from her position at Boston College due to disputes concerning her refusal to admit male students to her classes, Daly has to some become the archetype of radical feminism transcending into female gender bias. It is my view that instead of empowering society to unite over issues of discrimination, Daly’s philosophy encourages separation and ultimately fails to empower women not to mention her use of Nietzsche.

Living now in a 21st century society less defined by traditional gender conceptions, perhaps the imagery of a phallic ethic has become redundant and decidedly unhelpful in conversations of misogyny or sexism.

University has been the space in my life I have found the most accepting and intellectually broadening. Generally, people are willing to give value and respect to your opinions whilst at the same time you reciprocate by doing the same to theirs. Institutions of higher education can be heralded in this respect and do in many ways live up to their reputation of questioning what has come before and redefining the future. However, when the ugly face of misogyny raises its head, it comes as an even greater surprise because it is in many ways uncommon and out of place in what we have come to expect.

Tutorials, for anyone unfamiliar, are small discussion based groups with peers from lectures where you bring your own questions and interpretations on topics or primary texts from your course. Often quite awkward~ the humble tutorial is usually a place of uncomfortable eye contact and sighs of desperation from the PhD student tutor who would much rather be working on their dissertation.

On the rare occasion that conversation begins, the tutorial can suddenly become quite fruitful. People unclench everything and begin to discuss. However, this can sometimes be where things start to go awry. After weeks and weeks of tutorials I have noticed that the group is often carried by one or two men whilst the women (myself included) and other men in the room remain relatively silent.

  • This blog post is not going to argue that those one or two men carrying the conversation should be quiet and give space to others in the room.
  • This blog post is going to argue that it’s time for everyone else to join in the conversation.

Ultimately, if you are feeling oppressed or in an environment where it is difficult to make your voice heard; the best tactic is to speak up and make your presence known. You can create any sort of safe space you wish, but sadly the world is not a reflection of this. Whether the phallic ethic is there looming in the background or not, it is how you decide to approach the situation that matters.

The moment you allow someone else to speak for you is the moment your story gets lost. 


Everyone speak up. Whether you think your opinion is valid or completely  irrelevant, by remaining silent you’re depriving yourself of a chance to experiment and take intellectual risks that are going to help you develop not only arguments in your work but your entire person.

quotation source: ‘GYN/ECOLOGYTHE METAETHICS OF RADICAL FEMINISM’, MARY DALY, Beacon Press: Boston : 1978


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