Last night professor Jordan Peterson—daddy of all lobsters, Kermit of all frogs, palest of the spiders crawling around on the Intellectual Dark Web—stopped by The Moore for the second time since May. I didn't attend the lecture because I wasn't invited, but I do want to celebrate his departure. Since it's #pride this weekend, and since Slog is appropriately gay themed this morning, I thought it might be nice to briefly review Mr. Peterson's ideas about gay marriage and gay child-rearing. He's a clinical psychologist, after all, so maybe he has some interesting things to say about those subjects.
Surprise! He doesn't.
Let's begin with the most recent of the two videos I'll discuss. It was posted in early May of 2018, and it's called "Thoughts on Gay People Raising Children." When asked what he thinks about gay people raising kids, he says "I think the devil's in the details to tell you the truth."
Peterson ultimately offers his blessings, but only under the condition that the gay couple "accept the fact that it's necessary for kids to have models of both sexes," believe deep in their hearts that "the sexes are different" in the first place, and realize they have a "tremendous responsibility" to provide for their children "what it is they would get in the classical human unit," which he describes as "father, mother, child." He specifically seems most worried about one or the other parent not taking on the father's role, which he claims is to initiate "rough and tumble play with the kids."
So Peterson approves of you lesbian ladies adopting children, but only if one of you promises to put on the pants and throw the kid into the lake, a role he thinks you might not naturally perform due to your sex. And you gay mens can raise babies all you want, but only if one of you plays the role of the nurturing Yin chaos mother.
Peterson might be worried about the fates of kids raised by gay couples, but an overwhelming number of other scientists are not. Only four of 79 studies surveyed by Columbia Law School suggested that kids raised by gay parents faced any adverse effects, but "all four took their samples from children who endured family break-ups." Over at the Guardian, Nick Evershed cites two other reviews that support the conclusion that kids are just as well off being raised by gay parents as they are by straight parents.
But this question of gay couples raising kids doesn't happen in a vacuum, it happens in a country with an adoption crisis and a broken foster care system. We need gay couples to adopt children if we want to help more kids out of foster homes and into stabler situations. But Peterson is so obsessed with enforcing gender norms in parenting that he doesn't even think about this larger issue.
Now, should gay people even get married in the first place? Though it seems like a pretty settled subject for the majority of Americans, even in 2017 Peterson still had some concerns.
"That's a really tough one for me. If the marital vows are taken seriously, then it seems to me that it's a means whereby gay people could be more integrated more thoroughly into standard society, and that's probably a good thing. And maybe that would decrease promiscuity, which is a public health problem, though obviously that's not limited to gay people," he says.
Seems like he's into it for all the wrong reasons, but whatever, I don't always require purity of motive. But then in the video Peterson makes a little turn. He describes gay marriage as a wedge issue, and says it isn't obvious to him that "that legalizing gay marriage has done anything to decrease the demands that the radical left neo-Marxist types are placing on traditional society." You see, he's "concerned about the undermining of traditional modes of being, including marriage, which has technically and historically been a union between a man and a woman fundamentally for the purpose of raising children in a stable...environment."
Again, Peterson's so obsessed with his weird little worldview that he sees gay marriage not as a fight for equal treatment under the law, not as a fight to claim next of kin so you can be in the hospital room when your partner is sick and dying, not as a fight to be just as miserable in love as straight people in marriages, but as one more milestone in a vast neo-Marxist conspiracy to erode "traditional modes of being."
For the last time: this ~*free thinker*~ is not to be taken seriously. His ideas are "dangerous," but not in a cheeky contrarian way. If people adopted Peterson's ideas on LGBTQ issues, gay couples wouldn't be able to adopt children, and they might not even be seen as couples in the eyes of a law.
But more than "dangerous," Peterson's ideas are boring, tedious, retrograde, and confused. He's a tradition-humping reactionary crank feeding off of the "Make the Present the Past Again" sentiment driving some of the worst impulses in the country right now.
He's been roundly and thoroughly skewered by writers who've spent lots of time with him and by writers who haven't. But he's also been glorified as a savior of not-just-white-men on the internet. I'm sympathetic to readers who say Peterson's books saved them from the precipices of far right, but he doesn't seem to be pulling them back that far.