Subscribe to FII's Telegram

Jordan Peterson is a Canadian clinical psychologist, novelist and decorated intellectual. He rose to international fame when he opposed the Bill C-16 which added gender identity and expression as prohibited grounds for discrimination. Peterson went on to denounce what the Bill, in his view, implied – he had a problem that he was now required by law to use preferred pronouns of trans people. He claimed it was ‘compelled speech’, which in his view could have serious implications on freedom of speech.

Image Source: Fox News

From then on came a series of YouTube videos which turned him into a highly controversial figure. In one of the videos, Jordan Peterson denies the existence of a male dominated patriarchal society. When the interviewer counters by noting how majority of wealth and capital in almost every field of work is owned by men, he says that it’s ‘a tiny substrata of hyper successful men’. He goes on to argue that bad things happen to both the sexes, so one can’t dominate the other.

What Peterson (at least in this video) doesn’t acknowledge is how men’s oppression of women is not bound by how much wealth one has, even low income families are entrenched within the patriarchy. Moreover, most crimes against women are done by men. Bad things do happen to both the sexes. But it can’t be ignored that one sex is the majority ‘doer’ of those crimes against the other sex.

In one of the videos, Jordan Peterson denies the existence of a male dominated patriarchal society. When the interviewer counters by noting how majority of wealth and capital in almost every field of work is owned by men, he says that it’s ‘a tiny substrata of hyper successful men’. He goes on to argue that bad things happen to both the sexes, so one can’t dominate the other.

His videos also reveal that he has a major contention with the ‘trope’ that everyone simply ‘accepts’ – that western civilization is a male dominated patriarchal structure. He terms this as a misreading of history. Women have actually been left out of the process of historiography, or the recording of history for a very long time. They have definitely made history, but their oppression in part has been because they have been kept from the realization of their own history. People don’t just accept this trope, they experience it. Patriarchy isn’t a myth that has been created, it is a structure that affects real people – both men and women.

Why Are We Talking About Him?

My main motivation to talk about Jordan Peterson in this article is to bring to light the influence of public intellectuals. His brand of intellectual videos has encouraged a group which is quite dangerous – men who feel wronged by the feminist movement. There are numerous videos of him online, all titled along the lines of – ‘Jordan Peterson Destroys/Dismantles Liberals/Feminists/Lefty Reporter’. A quick scroll through the comments introduces one to his main audience – mostly young white males, who denounce feminism, call it ‘dangerous’, celebrate Peterson for shutting up feminists, etc. Feminism is painted and angry and irrational, out to get them all. The vitriol is real, and Peterson’s influence is helping breed it, whether knowingly or unknowingly.

Jordan Peterson has had controversial views on issues of feminism, political correctness, abortion, gender identity, etc. There is a kind of danger, however, in one crucial aspect which I’ll discuss more later: all his arguments and debates are presented in a manner which reflect his credibility as a researcher and academician. He seems to use statistics, biology and social conditioning to justify existing power hierarchies in society – hierarchies that are inherently discriminatory, oppressive and misogynistic. To attempt to refute those in its entirety would certainly be a tough task – and many would accept these arguments as irrefutable simply because of the intellectuality they appear to carry.

Looking at the Indian context, we have people affiliated to both the right wing and the left wing whose statements and their corresponding influence are necessary to examine. For example, Arnab Goswami has been linked to the popularization of the terms ‘Urban Naxals’ and ‘anti nationals’ when speaking of people critical of the current government. Now, these phrases have become popular – almost colloquial in the right wing Indian household – descriptors for protestors and dissenters in the current political climate.

Ramachandra Guha
Image Source: Hindustan Times

On the left, prominent historian Ramachandra Guha made an infamous comment in an opinion piece entitled ‘Liberals, sadly’ His piece was in response to civil rights activist Harsh Mander’s article which talked of the elimination of the political identity of Muslims in India. Guha wrote: “Many people, this writer among them, object to Hindus flaunting saffron robes and trishuls at rallies. While a burka may not be a weapon, in a symbolic sense it is akin to a trishul. It represents the most reactionary, antediluvian aspects of the faith. To object to its display in public is a mark not of intolerance, but of liberalism and emancipation.” His words are an example of the left’s tendency to dilute Muslim religious identity under the guise of secularism and liberalism.

Also read: Dear Privileged Liberals, Do Not Appropriate But Ally Against CAA

More recently, Shashi Tharoor’s remarks on the ongoing anti CAA protests in the country have again exposed the ‘liberal’ gaps in our secularism. In response to the usage of an Islamic religious chant as a slogan in the protests, he tweeted: “Our fight against Hindutva extremism should give no comfort to Islamist extremism either.” What he fails to understand is that assertion of Muslim religious identity is extremely necessary – especially now when laws like the CAA are actively trying to eliminate that identity.

A huge number of liberals in the country take pride in their supposed progressiveness arising from intellectualism. Led and often inspired by these intellectual figures, it is extremely pertinent to delve into their words and comments. While Arnab Goswami’s words are dangerous might be obvious to us. But certain sentiments of the politically left leaning figures must also invite similar scrutiny, because they also have the potential to be dangerous. In the instances mentioned above, feeding into a narrative which implies that Muslim identity must be muted in order to achieve a secular India has consequences which hide the ground reality of the community in our country.

What Should Be Done?

The times we live in are extremely divided. So much so, that sometimes it is hard to see the grey. Each side is asserting itself strongly, making their presence known, counting their numbers. You can’t claim to be neutral in this political atmosphere. The state of things today practically pulls people out to declare their allegiance. Both sides of the divide are fighting. Fighting to win. Fighting for the very essence of what they believe in. There is strength in numbers, true, but infallible strength that the notion of intellectual credibility can give to a set of ideas is something else entirely.

Tharoor and Guha might be controversial figures at times, but they are attractive nonetheless – their intellectuality is attractive. Like Peterson, they provide a notion of almost unquestionable credibility.It’s not that these people themselves are dangerous – it would not be appropriate to call them so regardless of their views. It’s that the power of their words, in congruence with their political leaning and public position might turn out to be so.

Public intellectuals wield a power whose influence runs long and deep. For a group of people holding an opinion (however flawed or possibly prejudiced, if at all), the backing of a strong personality from a background in academia or any other field that gives their words legitimacy, strengthens that opinion. And the opinion holding group grows fervent. An idea, an ideology manifests itself more deeply, establishes itself in a society as a result of how many faithful followers it has. And intellectual figures who have the privilege of being in the limelight – they can inspire many, and can turn the tide in a particular direction.

When it seems that someone like Jordan Peterson is giving well accounted for facts and reason for the validity of someone’s oppression it is our duty to get into the why and how of it. Especially if it seems credible, because anything that even slightly attempts to deny the reality of oppression that exists, that seems to argue against its existence – that is not credible, because it’s simply untrue. Similarly, Tharoor and Guha might be controversial figures at times, but they are attractive nonetheless – their intellectuality is attractive. Like Peterson, they provide a notion of almost unquestionable credibility.

It’s not that these people themselves are dangerous – it would not be appropriate to call them so regardless of their views. It’s that the power of their words, in congruence with their political leaning and public position might turn out to be so.

Also read: Anarcha Feminism: The Beginning Of The End Of All Forms Of Oppression

And this is where scrutiny becomes necessary. It is not only important to question the opposing side to counter them, but also equally important to question your own side to keep them on track. Falling for the guise of credibility – seeming credibility – can blind reality.


13 COMMENTS

  1. “What he fails to understand is that assertion of Muslim religious identity is extremely necessary – especially now when laws like the CAA are actively trying to eliminate that identity.”

    There are way more appropriate ways to assert Muslim religious identity than chanting ‘La Ilaha Illallah’ (There is no god but Allah). This was the slogan used by Jinnah and his followers during the Partition to gather support for the idea of Pakistan. Later, it was used by the Pakistani Taliban, and the Kashmiri separatists during the exodus. Tharoor was correct in criticising it’s usage, given the history attached with the slogan (and the fact that it is religiously exclusionary in it’s definition).

    Anyways, I disagree with the rest of the article as well. While some arguments by these intellectuals are taken out of context and weaponized by a dangerous faction of the society, misguided and irrational outrage against the intellectuals is not the answer. Clever rebuttals are.

  2. So you call someone misogynist because he speaks real facts about gender issues?

    Wow, no wonder why feminism is so unpopular.

  3. Very poor article, the author accuse of misogyny those who think differently, search for statistics and real problems. This feminazi lady keeps deleting comments like most ferminist journos do.

  4. Please read more. This article shows the lack of understanding about Dr. Jordan Peterson. I would agree with you on other related matters, but to correlate what is happening in the West to our country is a false narrative. This creates false divides. My advice to you would be to thoroughly go through the content of Jordan Peterson and then make a comment. This article is a good example poor journalism.

  5. This post is highly slanderous and contains a malicious and premeditated agenda embedded within. His comments on hierarchies of competence apply to Western countries. He didn’t outright deny the existence of patriarchy in the world because there are obviously patriarchal societies, for instance South-East Asian countries like India and in the Middle East. What’s worse is that Jordan Peterson has addressed these issues countless times. Deceitful publications such as this one will just conveniently ignore what he is ACTUALLY saying. You will fail in your endeavor to defame him. He is a moderate intellectual and the public already knows this.

  6. Garbage you have no idea of what Peterson really his outside politics he redifines masculinity something which feminists have no right over. Simply put.
    “No woman can tell me how to be a man simply because she is a woman and not a man.” You can’t stop his prominence anywhere forget alone india do u think these hit peices do any good? Most men have watched your lies being brutally slaughtered by the prophets of truth like Peterson. Man hating feminism misandrism is dying and will be dead. Nobody can stop it.

  7. A majority of crime done to men are by men as well. Are men oppressing themselves? You completely missed the point where a majority of men statistically differ only slightly from women in aggressiveness, but the extremes of the population show a manifestation of this trait vastly more pronounced than the average men / woman. The reason why most crimes are done to both men and women are simply the fact that most crimes are done by men. Period. Because to be a criminal, you have to be much more aggressive than the average population, and when you choose the most aggressive individuals in a population, they are almost always men. Factoring in the biological differences between the sexes, you can see why this is the case where women are often victims of violent, criminal men. Does that idea support a patriarchal society? Only if you consider the average male population criminals, or that a justice system that so heavily penalizes men over women are suddenly inherently in favor of them. Neither is true, so on this matter, there is no institutional patriarchal unjust, not unless your definition of patriarchy differs from what would normally be considered such.

    This is hardly a forum for debate, but much of your points are out of context, and a blatant mischaracterization of his message. I’m not familiar with the Indian context, so I recuse myself from commenting on the situation there. But you go from a mischaracterization to falsehoods when you assert his “followers” being mostly male, when quite a number of times, his lectures are half women. And if they are men, does that make it inherently misogynist? Are men’s concerns then irrelevant? And a statistical majority of women these days do not consider themselves part of the third wave of feminism. Perhaps you can write about that.

  8. The writer’s point is valid in the context of eastern civilisation including India and it’s neighbors where we essentially are a patriarchy. But Jordan was referring to the West not being a tyrannical patriarchy. He absolutely hasn’t said anything about the eastern society. You should remember he is a western intellectual and not an eastern one and all his criticism is about Tyrannical Patriarchy and not Patriarchy in general.. As for Tharoor and Guha, I’d rather not listen to them.

  9. Girl, you gotta read more on this issue. make sure you read atleast 3 point of view of every topic. you yourself are going to the extreme side by making one subject ideal

Leave a Reply