I first read Daly's work decades ago and then somehow lost sight of it - yet, when re-reading this book, I could not understand why or how this had happened (but of course life happens).
Her work is indeed brilliant. She sees through to the core of this patriarchal world and her book is a merciless expose of the atrocities committed against women by men. Telling the truth about patriarchy requires the ugliness of men's evil deeds to be uncovered, like picking up a rock and seeing the squirming, slimy worms hiding underneath it; nevertheless she is not about hating men but about hating the world they have created (don't you?) and she is all about loving women.
In "Gyn/Ecology" Mary Daly (RIP) explores the methods that have been used to keep women bound, showing a relationship between many seemingly disparate phenomena including Nazism/fascism, Indian suttee, Chinese footbinding, genital mutilation (Africa and Arab countries), European witchburnings and American Gynecology (modern medicine - with its chemical and surgical "cures" for the disease of femaleness - now being understood by many but Daly was far ahead of her time when this book was first published in 1978) - how all these evils are proof of the deep hatred of male for female.
Daly explains in each of these types of hate-cripplings & hate-killings how the basic elements were/are identical:
1. fixation on "purity";
2. erasing male responsibility (Chinese mothers broke and bound their daughter's feet and African/Arab mothers excise their daughters' genitals, etc. This is done to ensure daughters' respectability and marriagability but it creates hatred of mothers);
3. how the maiming/killing spreads from upper classes to lower, in pyramid fashion;
4. women used as token torturers (in modern medicine, the nurses and the few women doctors - again creating hatred of women);
5. obsessive and repetitive (reptilian) in a compulsively orderly manner, with a fixation on details, which serves to misfocus attention from the fact of phallocratic evil;
6. all of the horror and dissipation/misfocusing of energy quickly becomes accepted as normal and remains so for hundreds, often thousands, of years;
7. the sado-ritual becomes legitimised by researchers and "scholars" who write with indifference and detachment and who minimise the sadistic nature of these acts - the basic cultural assumptions which make the atrocious ritual possible and plausible remain unquestioned, and the practice itself is misnamed and isolated from other parallel symptoms of the planetary patriarchal practice of female maiming and massacre - erasing their significance.
Worldwide and for thousands of years, four methods have been essential for mystification in the games of the fathers: erasure of women (massacre of millions of women as witches has been massively erased in patriarchal scholarship), reversal (Adam gives birth to Eve, Zeus to Athena, in patriarchal myth), false polarisation (male-defined "feminism" is set up against male-defined "sexism" in the patriarchal media), and divide and conquer (token women are trained to kill off feminists in patriarchal professions). Deeper and deeper layers of these demonic patterns are embedded in the cultures, implanted in our souls, and constitute mind-bindings comparable to the footbindings which mutilated millions of Chinese women for a thousand years.
From this book and also the second half of "The Great Cosmic Mother" (also a classic) I really felt deeply how all men need all women to be unhappy, that they need the energy sucked from women, who are the natural energy-creators - whilst denying what they are doing. The historical facts are well-researched and supported thru direct quotations from men who have perpetrated and defended the torture & killing of women in the name of "culture". Daly strongly refutes the argument that one society cannot judge the practices of another, proclaiming that the lives of women take precedence over such constructs as culture.
One of the most important books ever written.