Valerie Hudson’s take on Taylor Petrey: A Misogynist in Sheep’s Clothing?
Today I read some articles by Valerie Hudson, a Mormon feminist and ex-BYU Poly Sci professor who’s written on interesting topics like the relationship of gender equality to state security. Here at MSP, we talked about her here.
Back in 2009, she created some hubbub regarding the “real teleos” of marriage: its gender complementarity as an argument against same-sex marriage. She argued that the national anti-same-sex marriage campaign is failing because it’s lead by patriarchal men who focus on reproduction, when the real reason to support traditional marriage is its gender complementarity, and its supposed results: “democracy, freedom, prosperity, and other goods such as state peacefulness [to] continue to have strong root and be sustainable” (as quoted from this article of hers). Her version of Mormon feminism strikes me as simultaneously esoteric and widespread, which is a paradox, I know. There’s plenty of critique out there of her, which I won’t get into that here.
The reason I bring her up now is because I noticed that she’s recently written an article in response to Taylor Petrey’s recent Dialogue article “Toward A Post-Heterosexual Mormon Theology.” In his article, he critiqued her notion of same-sex relationships as “gender apartheid.” Speaking of gender apartheid, she notes that, regarding the reception of his article,
Interestingly, the commentary on Petreys article has overwhelmingly been penned by men. Searching for response on Dialogues website for the Petrey article, I can find no letters to the editor written by women. Similarly, at By Common Consent, the commentators [on his article] are almost all male, though there are a few blogs where the issue has been enjoined by women. I find this noteworthy, because I believe that Petreys vision is a veiled attempt at the erasure of women in LDS theology, reminiscent of what French philosopher Sylviane Agacinski calls the nostalgia for the one in philosophy.
I think she’s right there is an androcentrism on the question of gayness in the Church. From the official GAs to gay Mormon organizations, there are primarily men at the highest levels speaking about human sexuality and gender roles. This creates a tension that needs to be explored, explained, worked through and hopefully toppled. Toward a lesbian Mormon theology, anyone?
But regarding the content of Petrey’s article, Hudson says that his philosophy basically renders femaleness absent, the female body as devoid of meaning, female ideas about motherhood obsolete, etc — by employing the philosophy of gender theorist Judith Butler (who Hudson doesn’t note explicitly, which is noteworthy). She labels Petrey’s essay “occult misogyny.”
Here’s a couple quotes from Hudson’s piece, regarding this supposed “misogyny”:
No doubt he would also argue that his vision is meant to be emancipatory for women, constrained as they truly are by unjustifiably narrow cultural gender roles across the world. However, as a woman, I believe Petrey deceives himself and his readers. When I read Petreys essay, I see a different bottom line: Women are no longer necessary for the Plan of Happiness to obtain. Women are no longer necessary for temple sealings to take place. Women are no longer necessary for the work of the gods in the eternities, or for there to be brought forth spirit children: indeed, there need not be a Heavenly Mother, or, for that matter, earthly mothers. Women are dispensable in Petreys rethinking of LDS doctrine.
Does reproduction in the afterlife require male and female parents? Petreys take on this is that the organization of intelligences does not necessarily require reproductive organs (109). He asks, must we imagine that male gods deposit sperm in the bodies of female gods (who menstruate monthly when they are not pregnant), that the pregnant female god gestates spirit embryos for nine months and then gives birth to spirit bodies? (109) Maternity, you see, is absurd. Menstruation is absurd; pregnancy is absurd; birth is absurd. Why, we are asked to consider, would gods choose to do any of these things? Petreys unspoken assumption here is that there is no value in these things; indeed, these bodily activities are in some way contemptible and beneath what it means to be a god.
Petrey’s intent, as I read it, was to ask whether Mormons must necessarily understand Earthly reproduction as Heavenly reproduction so as to continue to discriminate against same-sex relationships and gay parenting. Is Hudson twisting his words toward her own heterosexist ends, or is there truly a misogyny here to address?
(Sorry in advance if this post assumes a lot of previous reading!)