Episode 146: Queer Polygamy

Written by Lindsay Hansen Park on . Posted in year of polygamy

Join Lindsay as she interviews Mormon feminist and scholar Blaire Ostler about the concept of “queering polygamy,” or how polygamy could potentially fit into Mormon cannon in a way that would reduce harm. Links mentioned in this podcast:

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Comments (8)

  • Mandy

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    While I appreciate what you’re trying to do here, this was a tough episode for me. The disclaimer in the beginning seemed to be genuine, but I do not feel that Blaire truly understands the pain that polygamy has brought to countless women in the church and by saying that the problem isn’t polygamy, it’s patriarchy – it feels very invalidating. Don’t get me wrong, I know she’s saying that the ways in which we frame it and how it has been mandated is wrong and if we remove those ideals, it would be fair for everyone but that is not true. For how long have we heard the phrase, “when they bring back polygamy???” There are men in our church who have been chomping at the bit to have multiple wives. Many have lined them up already! Normalize polygamy and you will be the catalyst for “bringing it back” in the modern LDS church and you will be responsible for the broken hearts of women and children. In your world, the wives would not have to consent…. but the husband still could. This could mean the breaking up of families. It would be a chaotic nightmare. I wish that Blaire could find a different agenda because while she feels that she is being liberating and innovative, she is ripping open the hearts of women all over the world. I have typically found your podcast to be comforting but this seeming attempt to normalize polygamy is making my heart race in a very bad way.

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    • Scott L

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      One of the biggest issues I’ve had with the modern implementation of polygamy, is the abuse of power in both keeping people from being educated and the use of under age marriage.

      If informed, consenting mature humans decide they want to live in this manner, then more power to them. It’s not the job of the state to intervene with religious or personal relationships.

      But when you involve underage kids and/or people who have not been able to form a complete understanding of their world, you are limiting their ability to make an informed decision.

      And that is unacceptable.

      Reply

      • Mandy

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        That is the problem, though. In the LDS church, this cannot be approached on a basis of consenting adults because the women have been manipulated to believe that they are going to have to practice polygamy if they want to get into heaven. You’re mansplaining. I really do not believe it is possible for anyone to understand unless they’ve been an LDS woman who has grown up in the church.

        Reply

  • Isaac Mathews

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    I’m on board with Blaire Ostler on this, all of it! I’ve thought this way all my life, but until I heard Blaire on A Thoughtful Faith podcast with Gina Colvin and then watched her speeches on YouTube, I never knew how to put my inner world into words. I believe people in and out of Mormonsim have the right to be married in any form of marriage, to whomever they desire, as long as all involved are consenting adults.
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    We must not only stop shaming others who have different relationships than our own, but culturally, religiously, legally, and socially allow each woman, man, queer, asexual, etc. be as they are. Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgender, and Queer are just as valid a way to live healthy and happily in Mormonsim. But our culture needs to have radical love for all, like our Heavenly Mother and Father do! Yup, I believe this is of God.
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    I am LDS. I have been in the culture for 40 years. I have served as a full-time missionary, Bishop, Stake High Councilor, Elder’s quorum president, Sunday school teacher, Young Men’s Pres., etc. in the LDS Church for 20 + years in this Mormon culture, and I know that it is time for ALL people to be accepted, loved, and not shamed! Especially not to have members be excommunicated or “disciplined” by LDS leaders who need to learn to love as Christ does!
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    This is not only wrong, but harmful. Seriously, look at suicides in Mormon communities and in the world in general which I believe is a sad and needless result of cultural intolerance and shaming.
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    The binary worldview of gender, sex, and loving relationships is harmful, unrealistic, inappropriate, patriarchal (in the masoginistic and abusive form of Patriarchy), sexist, biased, and unfair. God is love, literally and metaphorically. As long as there is no abuse, force, exploitation, manipulation, coercion, and/or in balanced power, all people have the right to marry who they choose, in and time and all eternity. God’s ways are mysterious. Gods plan of happiness is for all.
    Thank you Blaire Ostler for giving a voice to that which has been in my heart all my life! Thank you Linsday for this podcast. Feminist Mormon Housewives has been awesome! The last two years has been so educational for me to listen to all your podcasts. I have listened to every podcast in the Year of Polygamy. Your work is brilliant!

    Reply

    • Mandy

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      I think that is my point, though. Due to our history in Mormonism, it isn’t possible to remove coersion from polygamy, at least not at this point. Women have already been conditioned to believe that they are going to have to do this, even if they do not want to. Let’s say polygamy is made legal. Let’s say the church “brings it back” or at a minimum, allows for it. All of these women who have been mentally abused by their husbands about how there will be polygamy and if the wives disagree, then they are just selfish… are you telling me that those women are not going to feel coerced to practice it, even if they are against it? While I appreciate your attempt at a liberal, inclusive view, you are over-simplifying it. This is complicated on another level than gay marriage. Nobody in the Mormon culture grew up being taught that one day, they’d be forced to practice homosexuality, even if they don’t want to and if they don’t, they won’t go to heaven. The same cannot be said for polygamy. This is offensive and it invalidates LDS women and their pain.

      Reply

  • Scott L

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    Thanks for the great interview.

    Politically, there should be no interference in what consenting mature humans do with their own property.

    Individuals, not the state, should determine the nature and terms of their relationship.

    Cheers
    Scott~

    Reply

    • Mandy

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      I think we are missing the point here, though. After years and years and years of LDS women being practically conditioned into believing that they will not be able to go to heaven unless they share their spouses, this isn’t really consent. Perhaps in another community where all parties approach on equal ground, your point makes sense but that is not the case here. There is already a power differential. Until the church abolishes polygamy from its rumors and past teachings and a generation has had the opportunity to grow up, not being told that one day, they’d have to practice polygamy, there is no equal ground on this issue in the church.

      Reply

  • Kimberly

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    Given the way LDS women have been forced to accept polygyny as a spiritual “ideal” (for the great majority of the women that reads: “threat”),it’s easy to condemn all forms of polygamy without due consideration regarding which factors lent to coercion.

    > “Ideal” LDS gender roles which keep LDS women financially dependent, keeps it from being fully consensual since the woman can’t walk away freely.
    > Sealings of multiple women to men in this lifetime,demonstrating their consignment throughout eternity.
    > Linking the practice spiritually in attaining the highest level of the CK forces any professed LDS woman to consider something against her personal convictions in favor of a commandment. There can’t be a higher level of pain than feeling like your Creator devalues your own happiness all the way into eternity.

    While I happen to favor Blair’s view of polygamy, I believe it will be very difficult for traumatized LDS women to objectively embrace something that has been used to abuse them at the deepest levels.
    I did a sexuality series at fMh where the last installment discussed polyamory and open arrangements and predictably, all hell broke loose.
    It goes beyond the scope of many LDS women, who are afraid the patriarchal practice of it hangs over their head in D & C through eternity, and could possibly be reinstated temporally. I get that 100%.

    So maybe the egalitarian practice of it could be considered with more open-mindedness if the scriptural aspect of it was retracted and not tied to the ambitions of men who would be kings with wives and children as subjects.

    Reply

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