Jeez. Jordan Peterson really hates human rights and gender issues. Those things really fire him up, which suggests there’s something deeply wrong with him. So he’s been meeting with Doug Ford to complain, and it’s disturbing that Ford thinks Peterson is providing credible input, especially when Peterson is raging about basic human decency.
The faster the Ontario Human Rights Commission is abolished, the better @fordnation. There isn't a more dangerous organization in Canada, with the possible exception of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education: https://t.co/xB3IbUV7yu pic.twitter.com/4zsh8tfdb9
— Jordan B Peterson (@jordanbpeterson) October 10, 2018
Oh, yeah, he also hates education. But that’s nothing: man, is Peterson pissed off about the American Psychological Association.
The American Psychological Association (APA) recently released its Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Boys and Men. It manages to be simultaneously predictable, reprehensible, infuriating and disheartening — no mean feat for a single document. Make no mistake about it: this document constitutes an all-out assault on masculinity — or, to put it even more bluntly, on men.
The coup of the APA undertaken by the ideologues is now complete. The field has been compromised, perhaps fatally. And the damnable guidelines provide sufficient, but by no means exhaustive, evidence of that.
He’s very upset that the APA argues that traditional masculine roles can do harm (I imagine they’d say the same thing about traditional feminine roles, but this document focuses on men and boys), and translates their words to be
men who socialize their boys in a traditional manner destroy their mental health. How horrible! Except it’s true. “Traditional” here means narrow and limited, and they are quite right to say that wedging kids into a predetermined role can be damaging. Why should this be considered controversial? Here’s the specific quote from APA Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Boys and Men (pdf):
Boys and men have historically been the focus of psychological research and practice as a normative referent for behavior rather than as gendered human beings (O’Neil & Renzulli, 2013; Smiler, 2004). In the past 30 years, researchers and theorists have placed greater emphasis on ecological and sociological factors influencing the psychology of boys and men, culminating in what has been termed the New Psychology of Men (Levant & Pollack, 1995). For instance, socialization for conforming to traditional masculinity ideology has been shown to limit males’ psychological development, constrain their behavior, result in gender role strain and gender role conflict (Pleck, 1981, 1995; O’Neil, 2008; O’Neil & Renzulli, 2013), and negatively influence mental health (e.g., O’Neil, 2008, 2013, 2015) and physical health (Courtenay, 2011; Gough & Robertson, 2017). Indeed, boys and men are overrepresented in a variety of psychological and social problems. For example, boys are disproportionately represented among schoolchildren with learning difficulties (e.g., lower standardized test scores) and behavior problems (e.g., bullying, school suspensions, aggression; Biederman et al., 2005; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015). Likewise, men are overrepresented in prisons, are more likely than women to commit violent crimes, and are at greatest risk of being a victim of violent crime (e.g., homicide, aggravated assault; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2015).
Those are facts: boys exhibit more learning disabilities, men are more likely to commit violent crimes. Why? The APA argues (and backs up with literature citations) that one source of conflict in the lives of boys and men is the social constraints we place on them — that we socialize boys to belittle education and to deal with conflict with violence. Peterson knows this is true; he’s bragged about wanting to beat people up. These are also real problems that, if you are genuinely concerned with the welfare of boys and men, you ought to want to address.
So what is Peterson objecting to? He wants to insist that the nature of boys is instinctively aggressive.
First, there is no scientific evidence that aggression, per se, is learned. Like fear, pain, hunger and thirst, rage is instinctual. The biological evidence for this is crystal clear and unshakeable.
Whoa. It is definitely true that anger has biological correlates — sure, take blood samples from people in fights, their adrenaline is way up, as is their blood pressure, etc. I don’t even know what he means by “instinctual”, but he seems to think it implies a response that is ungovernable by reason. But that isn’t true! If someone steps on your foot, do you instantly ball up your fists and punch them in the face, in the same way that you’d pull your hand back from a hot stove? You might “instinctively” feel anger or distress, but normal men and women don’t respond automatically with aggression…and you probably also cool quickly if the offender expresses remorse and an apology. You know, those learned responses we have to help diminish aggressive reactions, so we don’t end up in jail or in a bloody melee. I think it’s crystal clear that most of us have social and psychological mechanisms for reducing violent responses, which is a good thing to encourage.
But let’s play Peterson’s game. Let’s give him the idea that males are naturally, biologically, fixedly aggressive, and that you can’t unlearn it. Then where’s the harm in raising them in an environment that encourages peaceful resolution of conflicts and teaches alternative methods for cooperating? If he’s right, it won’t make a bit of difference, that boys will be battering each other and assaulting the girls, and he and his culties will be standing smugly aside giving the thumbs up to all the helter-skelter viciousness. Boys will be boys, you know, and if the APA wants to try and civilize the little thugs it won’t change a thing.
But Peterson wants to also argue that better behavior can be taught — it’s just that the only way to do that is via traditional masculinity, taught by men, and that the real problem is all those fatherless families where the boys are being let down by their mothers.
So the idea that aggression is learned is not only wrong, it’s backward. Aggression is easy. Civilized behaviour is difficult. It is the integration of aggression that is learned. And it is primarily men who teach it, particularly to aggressive boys.
To back that up, he points to the elevated rates of social problems in fatherless families, which is true. He doesn’t seem to appreciate the compounding factors involved here: that these families are often also produced by economic stress and disruption, that fathers are often the ones responsible for the abandonment of their families and failure to teach that “integration of aggression”, and that he doesn’t show how enforcing traditional norms somehow corrects the problems. Nope, none of that. Blame for any problem of learning disabilities or increased incarceration rates falls only on those single mothers — the ones who typically step up and take the majority of the responsibility for raising the kids in those fractured families, for which the fathers are blameless.
And also the APA is the problem. Look at the venom frothing in this characterization:
The primary axiom of the ideologues who generate this kind of propagandistic discourse is that Western culture is to be regarded as an oppressive patriarchy: unfairly male-dominated, violent, racist, sexist, homo-, Islamo- and trans-phobic — and as uniquely reprehensible in all those regards. There is no doubt, to give the devil his due, that human history as such is a blood-drenched nightmare — and that is also true of Western civilization. However, to view humanity in general or the West in particular as solely characterized by its pathology is indication of a profound and fatal failure to discriminate good from bad.
Wait. The APA guidelines are some horrible propaganda that blames all of Western culture, and only Western culture, for oppression, and that it holds all men at fault for this “blood-drenched nightmare”? Wow. I’ve gotta read this dramatic story of feminist accusations against the whole of Western civilization. So I did.
I was disappointed.
Rather than raging against the patriarchy, the document is strongly and appropriately centered on the welfare of men and boys. It’s a set of reasonable suggestions for how psychologists ought to regard the role of men and boys in their lives, and it’s essentially entirely positive. This is a pro men paper, that encourages professionals to respect and treat the unique problems of men and boys. I read it looking for any hint of a “kill all men” attitude, or any sign of victim-blaming, and it just isn’t there. There also isn’t anything about blaming only Western culture.
It’s a long document, so I’ll just pull out the 10 short guideline recommendations. You tell me where this looks anything like Peterson’s mischaracterizations. I tried hard to find the
all-out assault on masculinity or the
reprehensible, infuriating and disheartening content.
- Psychologists strive to recognize that masculinities are constructed based on social, cultural, and contextual norms.
- Psychologists strive to recognize that boys and men integrate multiple aspects to their social identities across the lifespan.
- Psychologists understand the impact of power, privilege, and sexism on the development of boys and men and on their relationships with others.
- Psychologists strive to develop a comprehensive understanding of the factors that influence the interpersonal relationships of boys and men.
- Psychologists strive to encourage positive father involvement and healthy family relationships.
- Psychologists strive to support educational efforts that are responsive to the needs of boys and men.
- Psychologists strive to reduce the high rates of problems boys and men face and act out in their lives such as aggression, violence, substance abuse, and suicide.
- Psychologists strive to help boys and men engage in health-related behaviors.
- Psychologists strive to build and promote gender-sensitive psychological services.
- Psychologists understand and strive to change institutional, cultural, and systemic problems that affect boys and men through advocacy, prevention, and education.
OMG. Boys and men have multiple aspects to their social identities? Horrendous. Everyone knows we should make The Hulk our ideal at all times and in all situations.
“Encourage positive father involvement…”, how evil. Oh, wait. Except that’s what Peterson thinks is good, too.
They want to reduce aggression, violence, substance abuse, and suicide? WHERE DOES THIS INSANE ANTI-MEN AGENDA COME FROM? Probably feminists.
We apparently need a stronger call for gender insensitive psychological services. Men thrive when treated insensitively. Because we’re tough.
I think the real objection Peterson has is that the APA doesn’t endorse the reductionist biological determinism that he, a non-biologist with a demonstrable ignorance of biology, wants to assign to human behavior. The APA doesn’t subscribe to his crackpot theories, imagine that.