opinion

Jordan Peterson has a problem with women.

Dr Jordan B Peterson does not have horns or a tail.

He says interesting things. He’s exceptionally intelligent. He’s dedicated a life to study and reading and teaching and lecturing.

He thinks people’s lives are hard and that they need discipline and fortitude and purpose to keep moving forward.

He believes in a straight back, a made bed and a commitment to meaningful pursuits that challenge a person to greatness. Even just a tiny piece of greatness, like holding down a job and showing up every day.

He thinks we all need the love of someone who encourages us to be a little bit better than we were yesterday.

And he is a gifted public speaker who has the confidence to sit on a stage before 9000 people and struggle with his Windows (Windows!) log-in, stroke his beard and keep everyone waiting in baited silence for the next Canadian vowel to drop.

All of those things are true. And from that synopsis, you might imagine that one of the world’s most talked-about men is a stern-but-kind lifetime academic, who maybe became accidentally mega-famous when his book, 12 Rules For Life, An Antidote to Chaos, became the kind of runaway bestseller that happens once in an extraordinary lifetime.

But that’s not true. There is not a whiff of the dotty professor about Peterson, who, on a Tuesday night in Sydney stood onstage in a carefully-curated, blue, slim-legged three-piece suit and soaked up the adoration of thousands of young men who made sure to have a shave before they showed up to see their guru.

The young men love this guy. They stood up and whooped and cheered and yelled for him, before he’d said a word. They giggled at his (very) occasional jokes and they grunted approvingly at his familiar themes. During the particularly dense philosophy bits, they went to the toilet a lot. They paid around $200 each for the pleasure.

Meanwhile, feminists hate this guy.

An overview: This is what you need to know about Jordan Peterson. Post continues below. 


They hate him because generally, he seems to hate us.

Even the laziest of Googles will provide an onslaught of videos of Peterson ANNIHILATING, DISMANTLING, SCHOOLING and DESTROYING feminists and hapless female television interviewers, one after the other, like so much raw meat to be sliced and diced by an excellent orator who’s been in training for decades.

He’s flawless in his brutal deflection.

Professor, why are mostly men in charge of everything?

Well, most men are not in charge of anything. So what’s your point?

Well, um.

Peterson doesn’t believe in the patriarchy. In the same way some of us don’t believe in the Easter Bunny.

He believes men and women, left to their own devices, will self-select along stereotypical gender lines. Men in charge of the working and the moneys. Women in charge of the home and the family. Men as warriors, women as nurturers, working together. As it has always been.

He believes that hierarchy is a reflection of competency and merit. It’s mindboggling that such an outrageously smart man could think such a thing in the era of Trump, but, there you go.

ADVERTISEMENT

He believes that any kind of legislated push towards equality (like, say, quotas to ensure more women on a Government front-bench) is an assault on biology and common sense.

His particular disdain for “Social Justice Warriors” and “identity politics” is what has scored him an invite to every alt-right meet in the world, and a special seat at every debating table. Got a soggy Leftie whose bleeding heart is showing? Everyone knows who to call.

He’ll take on the climate change people for you. The Black Lives Matter people. He’ll definitely take on the #metoo people. And the trans bathroom people. He’ll take on JUSTIN TRUDEAU, for God’s sake.

Watch Jordan Peterson’s response on last night’s episode of Q&A. Post continues…

Which is why it’s almost surprising that, on that Tuesday night in Sydney, what Peterson spends most of the evening talking about is not politics, or women, or his infamous fury over gender-neutral pronouns. It’s God.

Sure, he frames his 90-minute sermon as a rebuttal to the women who irritated him on Monday night’s Q&A on the ABC. After the kind of stunt-casting that surely earned the producer a bonus that week, Peterson was on a panel with Cate McGregor, Labor front-bencher Terri Butler, feminist writer Van Badham, and a male Liberal politician whose name escapes me and for good reason (jks, I know his name).

The whole thing was remarkably good-natured considering its combustible potential, and Peterson’s teeth only started to show when he was asked whether or not stay-at-home mums were undervalued.

“Young women are being sold a lie,” he said, referring to the idea that a career would be enough to fulfill them.

When Terri Butler pointed out that men were being sold the same lie, but somehow that was “meaningful work” that was worth making your bed for (she didn’t say that, she’s too smart), he turned on her with something like disgust.

And at Tuesday’s Sydney show, Peterson’s great mind took cheap shots at Butler’s “incorrect” assertion that people were worthy of respect because they were people. He did the same with Van Badham, delighting in his description of her as a “Twitter Queen” and clearly adoring taking apart her assertion that she was a “Marxist and a Christian”.

If there’s something Peterson likes less than a feminist, it’s a Marxist. He rejects class structure, and he rejects group identity. He basically rejects everything other than the power of the individual to pull their bloody socks up.

Which is exactly what makes him so very dangerous.

Because Professor Jordan B Peterson claims that he is not a political figure. But we live in tumultuous times, and everyone roundly agrees that things have got a little out of hand lately. What we don’t agree on is how we got here and how to fix it.

On one side, we have the idea that it is a push from minorities for power that is destabilising a functioning status quo. That people who used to just shut up and know their place are mounting a concerted campaign for control, with their quotas and their language policing and their naming and shaming.

ADVERTISEMENT

And on the other, we have the idea that decades of unfettered global capitalism has only worked out well for a very few, that the jobs of old are gone, that including women and people of colour in powerful institutions will result in better outcomes for all. And that collective action is the only thing that does ever change anything. See the Civil Rights movement, the Union movement, the push for women’s suffrage, Land Rights… Mardi Gras for God’s sake.

jordan-peterson
"He is skillful at dressing up deeply conservative values and ideas as common sense." Image: Getty.

There’s no question that Prof Peterson is on the first team. And he can fill stadiums, and get standing ovations, and three-million book sales, and almost two million YouTube followers.

He is skillful at dressing up deeply conservative values and ideas as common sense.

That makes him an inherently political person, and one more powerful than most people who are actually in government.

That’s why it matters that along with the bed-making advice, there’s a side feminist-bashing. That’s why it matters that hidden in the Nietzsche cliff-notes, there’s a strong message about gender roles.

And that’s why it matters that he has a problem with women. That he can barely contain his visible irritation when they speak to him about ideas.

When Jordan Peterson was done with God on Tuesday night, before his second standing ovation, he talked about his wife.

He’s been married to Tammy Peterson for 30 years. She, he says, challenges him. He’s smarter than her (obviously, he’s smarter than everyone) and he’s more articulate, quick with words, a professional debater.

She, he told us, is great with “intuition and dreams”.

Men and women, left to their own devices, self-selecting along stereotypical gender lines.

So no, Dr Jordan B Peterson does not have horns and a tail.

And he’s all the more dangerous for it.

00:00 / ???