“You Can’t Beat Jordan Peterson With Arguments I Attributed To You,” A Very Useful and Good Faith ArgumentComments
Cathy Young offers an anti-anti Jordan Peterson column, which proceeds roughly as you’d expect:
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.
“He sounds like a chauvinistic crank, but actually his victim-blaming is right.”
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.
What’s amazing is that even the cherry-picked anecdotes that wouldn’t prove any general trend don’t fit the argument. The first link goes to this story about the firing of Leonard Lopate and Jonathan Schwartz:
This investigation by reporters at WNYC News has not determined the specific reasons for the termination of Lopate and Schwartz. However, it has learned of multiple complaints against both hosts over the course of more than a dozen years. In several cases, they involved allegations of inappropriate comments and bullying.
Some of these incidents were brought back to the attention of management after news of the behavior by the former host of The Takeaway, John Hockenberry, became public. NYPR declined to comment on the incidents described in this article and would not say whether they contributed to the decision to fire Lopate and Schwartz.
In its statement, NYPR said that both men had been the subject of complaints this year: “The investigation into Leonard Lopate’s conduct was prompted by recent allegations of inappropriate behavior, following a previous substantiated investigation in February of this year of inappropriate remarks made by Lopate to staff. That previous investigation resulted in one-on-one anti-harassment training for him and a warning to Lopate that he was creating an uncomfortable work environment.
In other words, we don’t know everything that went into the decision, but we do know that neither was fired for “a crude joke” put for patterns of misbehavior after being warned, and it’s very misleading to suggest otherwise. The other link goes to, natch, Bari Weiss’s article about Aziz Ansari. The problem here is that Weiss is just mischaracterizing the discussion. Ansari has not faced any legal sanctions, still has his Netflix show, and the general consensus about his behavior was not “he belongs in jail” but “men should hold themselves to a higher standard that formally legal consent.” If these are the worst excesses of feminism that Young can come up with, I’d say things are OK. And certainly there’s nothing here that would make Peterson’s grossly atavistic gender politics remotely defensible. Really, this kind of argument is just sill evasion: “feminists cannot come up with bright-line rules that tell men what to do in literally every situation leaving no possible ambiguity, so maybe it’s time to give sexist arguments more of a hearing.” OK.
And now, from the depths of the contrarian imagination, this summer’s indie horror sleeper — THE STAWFEMINIST:
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.
No wonder people are turning to Jordan Peterson, when feminists [cites omitted] just keep telling all men at all times without exception or qualification to abase themselves. You can’t beat a pompous bullshit artist with nothing. CHECKMATE FEMINAZIS!