Classic, straight-up misogyny

Sean Illing at Vox talks to feminist philosopher Kate Manne about what’s really so great about Jordan Peterson anyway?

Sean Illing

Peterson has this recurring interest in identifying social hierarchies, which resonates with people who think they’re in danger of losing their privileged position or are resentful about having lost it. This is something you really home in on in your review of his book.

Kate Manne

Yeah. I mean, it’s striking. There’s an interesting moment in the book where Peterson talks about resentment as a “revelatory” emotion that can mean one of two things. One, you feel it because you’re immature, in which case you just need to buck up. Two, you feel resentment because you really are being oppressed or taken advantage of somehow. Your resentment shows you that something needs to change or that you need to assert yourself in relation to other people.

But there is clearly a third possibility. People often feel resentful because they appear, based on historically entrenched social norms, to be getting a bad bargain, when what’s actually happening is that others are getting a somewhat fairer deal. When you’re accustomed to unjust privilege, equality feels like oppression, as the saying goes.

In that third case, some sort of regret- or dislike-based emotion may be reasonable, while resentment is not. If there’s some oversight at the picnic such that I get an extra brownie and someone else gets no brownie, I may feel passionate sorrow as I hand the extra brownie over for transfer, but I really have no business feeling resentment. I have a feeling humans in general aren’t very good at separating those two things.

Sean Illing

I know that Peterson received some criticism recently for endorsing, or appearing to endorse, “enforced monogamy.” To be fair, this is a very particular anthropological term that doesn’t imply that the government is literally forcing people into monogamous relationships, but instead refers to social policies that incentivize monogamy.

What does he actually say about this in the book?

Kate Manne

He said that subsequently, in a New York Times piece, I believe, in response to the point that school shooters are often sexually, romantically, and socially frustrated young men. This suggestion is classic, straight-up misogyny, according to my definition of it.

Peterson has since waffled about what he meant, but I’m mostly interested in how the proposal would naturally be understood by ordinary readers, which leaves little room for charitable interpretation or plausible deniability in this case.

Peterson is very close-mouthed about the prevalence of domestic violence, marital rape, and intimate partner homicide in the context of the idea of enforced monogamy. So if you’re trying to prevent male violence, enforcing heterosexual monogamy seems a remarkably poor way to go about it — as well as obviously infringing on women’s entitlement to orient themselves toward whatever and whomever they wish (other women, multiple partners, and their own projects and ambitions). Monogamous relationships are just one potentially valid option among many, all of which have risks and rewards, costs and benefits.

And given the current state of patriarchal views of women, they probably shouldn’t be enforced, even via social policies.

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