I finally got around to reading that Cathy Young op-ed about Jordan Peterson — I’ve been distracted, and the names “Cathy Young” and “Jordan Peterson” do not inspire enthusiasm. It was rather awful.
The whole thing can be summarized briefly as, “Gosh, Jordan Peterson is kinda goofy on some stuff, but he is exactly right when he bashes on feminism”. It’s about what you’d expect from Young, who is an anti-feminist in the same vein as Christina Hoff Sommers. There are lots of moments where I’m just flabbergasted at her biases.
For all his flaws, Peterson is tapping into a very real frustration: More than half a century after the modern feminist revolution began in the 1960s, we have yet to figure out new rules for partnership between men and women.
No, we’ve got no problems figuring out the rules, they’re easy. Treat women with the same respect you would men. She also glosses over the real problem, that women in the workplace are not there to form a “partnership”, especially not a sexual partnership, with their male colleagues. That’s the real problem, that some men are incapable of relating to women without assuming that their role as women is to be sexual…when it’s not. We don’t have an issue with men flirting with their male colleagues, yet for some reason it’s not possible for women to be present without sexual banter flying about, and when it happens, it’s all the woman’s fault.
Although Peterson can sound like a chauvinistic crank when he seems to suggest that women incite sexual harassment by wearing makeup to the office, his larger points — that evolving norms are generating confusion and mixed signals, and that women play a role in sexualizing work environments — are far from absurd.
Young is incorrect. They are totally absurd. He claims that women wear red lipstick because
they turn red during sexual arousal. No, that’s not it. It’s because we have social conventions of attractiveness that differ for men and women, and we all heed them out of a general interest in fitting in, and in being presentable in the workplace. Why do men shave their faces, wear neckties, and shun wearing skirts? I’m sure you can invent a biological rationale for all of that, but that doesn’t make it true. A woman accepting the social standards for appearance of her peers and community is no more flaunting her sexual availability than is a man doing likewise — she is trying to generally look good, just like every other person on the job.
I mean, otherwise, look at the man in that interview, wearing a long tie to boast about his possession of a penis. Disgusting. Maybe we need workplace regulations that prohibit ties, pants, and stereotypically masculine hair styles in the office.
Consider: We have rejected traditional sexist proprieties that forbade coarse language in front of “the ladies,” yet a man can now be fired for telling a crude joke that offends a female co-worker. Calling women “the weaker sex” would be considered shockingly retrograde, yet ambivalent sexual encounters are easily recast as violations of women, with men presumed entirely responsible for ensuring consent. Workplace romances abound, yet flirting could be one step away from someone’s idea of sexual harassment.
I thought this was enlightening, although perhaps not in the way Young intended. Go ahead, take a look at the link she gives for some radio hosts getting fired for telling a crude joke that offends a woman. The story actually says there were “multiple complaints against both hosts over the course of more than a dozen years” and that there were many “allegations of inappropriate comments and bullying”.
This kind of minimizing is a common strategy by the anti-feminists. A pattern of frequent abuse and belittling behavior is recast as a one-off incident, and a man is being punished for a brief mistake. But that’s not the case. In her example, these men had multiple warnings and explicit prior actions to change their behaviors. One was given “one-on-one anti-harassment training for him and a warning…that he was creating an uncomfortable work environment”, which is a darned serious step to take prior to their firing. These were apparently popular radio hosts, so the station wasn’t going to fire them on a whim — there was sustained provocation.
But sure, it was just a crude joke.
The conclusion of Young’s piece is blatantly dishonest, and I’m surprised no editor caught it and said they couldn’t possibly publish this lie.
For all its successes, contemporary feminism’s main message to men is not one of equal partnership. Rather, it’s: Repent, abase yourself, and be an obedient feminist ally — and we still won’t trust you. It’s no wonder that Peterson has found an eager audience in this climate. If feminists don’t like his message, they should offer a better one.
Wow. First she says the message of feminism is
Repent, abase yourself, and be an obedient feminist ally — it isn’t, by the way, and it’s nothing but the ridiculous faux feminism Young always bashes — and then she blames feminism for having a poor message, when the message is purely hers.
How about if we ask a real feminist, someone like bell hooks, for instance, what the real message of feminism is?
Simply put, feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression.
But maybe she thinks men are supposed to abase themselves and be obedient?
When men embrace feminist thinking and preactice, which emphasizes the value of mutual growth and self-actualization in all relationships, their emotional well-being will be enhanced. A genuine feminist politics always brings us from bondage to freedom, from lovelessness to loving.
It seems to me that feminism already has a better message than that bullshit Cathy Young makes up. It’s definitely a lot better than the nonsense Jordan Peterson peddles.