History of Feminism: Part 3

For the last article in our “History of Feminism” series, Laura Wu (Alumni and Mentorship Coordinator) focuses on the current climate in our society through interacting with some of Jordan Peterson’s controversial views.

Jordan Peterson’s View on Feminism: A Worthwhile Consideration

Jordan Peterson, a University of Toronto professor, psychologist, and bestselling author of the book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos is perhaps one of the most incendiary public figures to step on Queen’s University’s campus. Peterson reeks of eccentricity. He simultaneously suggests seemingly banal pieces of advice such as “clean your room” and “stand up straight” while also expressing polarizing views on transgenderism, fascism, and gender roles. Though it can be tempting to disregard all Peterson’s points if you disagree with him on one, I believe that his views on feminism deserve your time and thought. His views present material for genuine discourse, argumentation, and, hopefully, progress. Only by exposing ourselves to viewpoints that either supplement or challenge deeply-set beliefs can we truly defend our own opinions, and the controversy surrounding Jordan Peterson presents the perfect opportunity to do so.

Prior to diving in, I’d like to quickly offer a brief disclaimer: although I have read his book and have been heavily intrigued by his recorded lectures and interviews, I have by no means watched and read all of Peterson’s material. I am neither denouncing or championing any of his thoughts; this article is simply a petition for an open-mind regarding a few of Peterson’s ideas that I find interesting.  It is also by no means exhaustive and simply represents how my own ideas interact with Peterson’s views.

The Wage Gap and its Underlying Causes

Jordan Peterson claims that women are, on average, slightly more agreeable than men; essentially, this means that women have a higher regard for maintaining relationships when making decisions. This factor can be reliably measured via tests and has been objectively proven to be true. However, the crux of Peterson’s argument regarding this topic is that agreeableness is negatively correlated to how Western corporate culture defines career success, a characteristic that is intrinsically linked to wages in our society. He admits that a quantitatively-observed gender gap genuinely exists but states that it is also attributable to other factors that are inherent to each gender. The gender pay gap is typically calculated by adding together all the annual salaries of women who are working full time, doing the same with the wages of men, and comparing the median salaries against one another. If women work lesser-paying jobs because they are direct manifestations of typically “female” characteristics, is the gender wage gap truly the right metric to measure progress of feminist agendas? I believe that Peterson posits an interesting challenge to one of the longest-running mantras of modern-day feminism and warrants some further analysis.

Are Men in the Modern Western World in Crisis?

Peterson argues that feminism has contributed to the weakening of the male gender throughout the years. Although I believe that feminism has somewhat liberated men from the confines of traditional masculinity, Peterson claims that accusations of “toxic masculinity,” “mansplaining,” and “manspreading,” as well as the recent #MeToo spotlight, has rendered the male gender a dangerously repressed version of itself. The message of contemporary feminism – he believes – is a commandment for men to act as an obedient feminist ally and to avoid questioning the rationale behind various platforms. His argument is more complex and substantiated than the classic “femiNazi” claim, but it is quite similar: when feminism is either misconstrued or misrepresented, both genders suffer, and the onus is on everybody to assess everything we do with a critical lens.

My Take

I believe that Peterson offers one of the most compelling sources of discourse surrounding feminism. His arguments are too complex for me to fully adopt or throw out completely, but I think that it is vital that we acknowledge them as supported by logic and reason, whether or not we agree with the conclusions. For further insight into Peterson’s opinions, I suggest you invest 30 minutes in the following video:  

Peterson has a plethora of further views that I do not have confidence in representing intelligently. Hopefully this article presented enough insight to at least solicit interest and will prompt you to give his (and various other reactionary figures’) thoughts more consideration. With our beliefs being challenged from all fronts, we can strengthen what our own opinions by pursuing, not avoiding, hard conversations, to solidify and better defend our own beliefs.