The Gender Inclusivity of Diverse White Privilege Equity

Blame Shiv for this one; she posted about someone at Monsanto inviting Jordan Peterson to talk about GMOs, and it led me down an interesting rabbit hole. For one thing, the event already happened, and it was the farce you were expecting. This, however, caught my eye:

Corrupt universities—and Women’s Studies departments in particular, he says—are responsible for turning students into activists who will one day tear apart the fabric of society. “The world runs on ideas. And the ideas that are in the universities are the ideas that are going to be in the general public in five to ten years. And there’s no shielding yourself from it,” he said.

Peterson also shared a trick for figuring out whether or not a child’s school has been affected by the coming crisis: If a schoolteacher uses any of the five words listed on his display screen—”diversity,” “inclusivity,” “equity,” “white privilege,” or “gender”—then a child has been “exposed.”

What’s Peterson’s solution for all this? “The answer to the ills that our society still obviously suffers from,” he said, is that “people should adopt an ethos of responsibility rather than continually clamoring about their rights, which is something that we’ve been talking about for about four decades too long, as far as I can surmise.”

Four decades puts us back into the 1970’s, when women’s liberation groups were calling to be able to exercise their right to bodily autonomy, to be free from violence, to equal pay for equal work, to equal custody of kids. If Peterson is opposed to that then he’s more radical than most MRAs, who are generally fine with Second Wave feminism. I wonder if he’s a lost son of Phyllis Schlafly.

But more importantly, he appears to be warning us of a crisis coming in 5-10 years, one that invokes those five terms as holy writ. That’s …. well, let’s step through it.

Diversity training started sometime before the 1980‘s… by white male corporate managers, who were worried some of their employees didn’t have the proper training or knowledge of corporate culture. Over time, employee feedback suggested including said managers as well to help weed out their biases. By the 1990’s, diversity training was booming thanks to corporate interest.[1] The reasons were pretty simple: the workforce was becoming increasingly diverse, minorities were gaining wealth and purchasing more, and companies were increasingly becoming international.[2]

“Inclusivity” is tougher to nail down; sometimes it appears synonymous with diversity, but in other cases it stands as a call for voices that were otherwise excluded to have a say in how things are run. It may not have started with feminists, either.

My interest in establishing the International Journal of Inclusive Education derives from lessons drawn from feminist and anti-racist educators while trying to make sense of policy-making in the area of what is deflectively called ‘special educational needs’. Len Barton (1987), the distinguished editor of Disability & Society, observes that special educational needs is a euphemism for the failure of regular educational provision to include and educate all students. Traditionally, disabled students have been subjected to segregated special schooling outside of the regular classroom away from their ‘normal’ peers. Subsequent shifts to mainstream entitlement have, in the main, been highly regulated and underpinned by enduring special educational thinking and practice albeit expressed through amended lexicons. What is apparent is that ‘mainstreaming’, ‘integration’ and, most recently, ‘inclusion’ do not represent reformations consistent with lessons from cultural politics. […]

The voices of disabled students and their advocates, disabled researchers or disability politics activists are silenced by current bureaucratic settlements. What is striking is that special educational needs policy, mainstreaming or integration is predominantly assimilationist in character and effect. The drive is for ‘normalization’ so that disabled students will prove more docile bodies capable of fitting into non-disabled educational cultures and protocols. Just as some anti-racist educators have challenged liberal multiculturalism (Troyna 1993) as an assimilationist imperative, just as feminists have argued that the aim of gender inclusive schooling is not to increase the participation of girls in unchanged patriarchal formations of school curricula and processes (Weiner 1994), and just as compensatory education for disadvantaged students has been robustly critiqued (Connell 1994), it is apparent that inclusion leading to full citizenship is not mediated through the politics of redistribution with respect to disabled students.[3]

If we define “inclusivity” as explicitly incorporating silenced groups, then there are examples which date back to the 13th century, well before feminism was a thing.[4]

“Equity” is a strange one, people usually equivocate it with “equality.” The only time I see it treated distinctly in social justice circles is via this meme.

It has the deepest roots of all these terms, however.

Equity came into existence during the 13th century. At that time the courts of law had froze the types of claims they would hear as well as the procedure governing the hearing of those claims. The range of claims that would be heard became narrow and the processes to bring the actions to court became so technical with jurors often being bribed. As a result of these changes plaintiffs with meritorious claims were often denied relief.

To attempt to counteract this discrepancy remedies could be obtained by petitioning the King, who had residual judicial power to deal with such matters. The King began delegating the function of dealing with such petitions to the Chancellor. The post of Chancellor at this time was usually a clergyman and King’s confessor. The Chancery evolved into a judicial body known as the Court of Chancery, until by the end of the 15th century the judicial power of the Chancery was fully recognised.[…]

In the Earl of Oxford’s Case (1615) the Court of Chancery issued a common injunction prohibiting the enforcement of a common law order. The matter was referred to the Attorney General Sir Francis Bacon when no resolution could be reached between the 2 courts. Sir Francis upheld the common injunction and stated that

in the event of any conflict between the common law and the law of equity, equity would prevail’.

Lord Ellesmere pointed out in the above case why there was a need for a Chancery. He stated

‘Men’s actions are so diverse and infinite that it is impossible to make any general law which may aptly meet with every particular and not fail in some circumstances. The office of the Chancellor is to correct men’s consciences for frauds, breaches of trust, wrongs and oppression of what nature so ever they be, and to soften and mollify the extremity of law.’

Equity law recognized that “fair” and “lawful” didn’t necessarily coincide, and empowered special judges to ignore unjust laws. It persists to this day, also popping up in Canada, India, Australia, and the United States, but has also become more rigid than originally intended.

“White privilege” is the next-oldest of the lot. The concept apparently originates with W. E. B. Du Bois, a historian, around the 1920’s

The discovery of personal whiteness among the world’s peoples is a very modern thing,—a nineteenth and twentieth century matter, indeed. The ancient world would have laughed at such a distinction. The Middle Age regarded skin color with mild curiosity; and even up into the eighteenth century we were hammering our national manikins into one, great, Universal Man, with fine frenzy which ignored color and race even more than birth. Today we have changed all that, and the world in a sudden, emotional conversion has discovered that it is white and by that token, wonderful! […]

This theory of human culture and its aims has worked itself through warp and woof of our daily thought with a thoroughness that few realize. Everything great, good, efficient, fair, and honorable is “white”; everything mean, bad, blundering, cheating, and dishonorable is “yellow”; a bad taste is “brown”; and the devil is “black.” The changes of this theme are continually rung in picture and story, in newspaper heading and moving-picture, in sermon and school book, until, of course, the King can do no wrong,—a White Man is always right and a Black Man has no rights which a white man is bound to respect. […]

America, Land of Democracy, wanted to believe in the failure of democracy so far as darker peoples were concerned. Absolutely without excuse she established a caste system, rushed into preparation for war, and conquered tropical colonies. She stands today shoulder to shoulder with Europe in Europe’s worst sin against civilization. She aspires to sit among the great nations who arbitrate the fate of “lesser breeds without the law” and she is at times heartily ashamed even of the large number of “new” white people whom her democracy has admitted to place and power. Against this surging forward of Irish and German, of Russian Jew, Slav and “dago” her social bars have not availed, but against Negroes she can and does take her unflinching and immovable stand, backed by this new public policy of Europe.

… but I can’t find any evidence Du Bois ever wrote “white privilege.” The term itself seems to have organically arrived in the early 1960’s, in critiques of apartheid South Africa. It was accepted on campuses and within feminist circles by the mid 1980’s, by this time with a more general meaning.

“Gender,” as it related to sexuality, was crafted in the 1950’s by John Money,[5] an academic who specialized in the study of sex, and promoted by other psychologists.[6] While some of Money’s views were later challenged,[7] his idea of separating a fixed biological sex from a fluid, performative gender was very influential and rapidly adopted by feminists.

So of the five terms that Peterson wants us to watch out for, the only two with any plausibility of being created by “social justice warriors” were “inclusivity” and “white privilege,” and in the latter case the concept had existed in academic circles nearly a century ago. “Diversity” came out of private enterprise, “equity” is an old legal term of art, and “gender” is from Peterson’s own academic branch. All of them were generally accepted as of twenty years ago, but some got to that point decades or even centuries earlier.

What’s up with this “coming crisis,” then? Imagine complaining of a looming crisis due to widespread belief in plate tectonics; the barn door has been open for weeks, and the sky hasn’t fallen. He’s also got causation mixed up, as “SJWs” picked up most of these terms from universities and not vice-versa. Whatever “corruption” he’s complaining about existed forty years ago, the time where Peterson implies everything went to pot.

Jordan Peterson’s assertions fall apart if you apply the barest bit of skepticism towards them. It’s rather embarrassing that a psychologist would be ignorant of psychology’s importance in defining the term “gender.” And his response to being invited to talk about GMOs was to spit out irrelevant talking points about universities. How the hell do people take this guy seriously, let alone are cool with keeping him as a professor?

[1] Rynes, Sara, and Benson Rosen. “A field survey of factors affecting the adoption and perceived success of diversity training.” Personnel Psychology 48.2 (1995): 247-270.

[2] Sue, Derald Wing. “A model for cultural diversity training.” Journal of Counseling & Development 70.1 (1991): 99-105.

[3] Slee, R. “Supporting an international interdisciplinary research conversation.” International Journal of Inclusive Education 1 (1997): i-i.

[4] Kittell, Ellen E., and Kurt Queller. “” Whether man or woman”: Gender Inclusivity in the Town Ordinances of Medieval Douai.” Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 30.1 (2000): 63-100.

[5] Money, John, Joan G. Hampson, and John L. Hampson. “Imprinting and the establishment of gender role.AMA Archives of Neurology & Psychiatry 77.3 (1957): 333-336.

[6] Goodwin, Donald W. “Sex and Gender: On the Development of Masculinity and Femininity.” JAMA 206, no. 6 (November 4, 1968): 1310–1310.

[7] Beh, Hazel Glenn, and Milton Diamond. “David Reimer’s Legacy Limiting Parental Discretion.” Cardozo JL & Gender 12 (2005): 5.