I’ve mentioned Jordan Peterson before — the guy who advocates “enforced monogamy” to deal with incels (he insists he only meant monogamy enforced by social pressure, which seems a dubious solution, even if that is what he meant) and that male dominance is the result of male superiority. NYT’s Bari Weiss thinks these trite sexist ideas are daring; I wonder if she’ll think the same about his recent declaration that women wearing makeup and high heels at work invite sexual harassment (sorry, don’t have a good link). And maybe they should stop wearing it to show they’re not interested in sex.
This is another old, sexist trope: women who dress too sexy should expect rape. And when it happens, they have no-one to blame but themselves. It’s as much a lie as Phyliss Schaffly’s claim that if a woman is known to be chaste, guys won’t hit on her — it’s only the sluts who get targeted (the latter was a-OK by the odious Schaffly). This involves a boatload of assumptions, such as harassment being purely about sex, and not about power, or control, or making a woman uncomfortable enough to quit. That it’s closer to a clumsy attempt to flirt rather than something like this. That how you dress or the makeup you wear implies consent or at least invitation (even if a woman is dressing attractive to invite attention, that doesn’t mean she has to accept it from anyone). And that women wouldn’t suffer penalties if they went to work with plain, un-made-up faces — because yes, bosses have fired women for not being attractive enough. In one of the first looks-related discrimination cases, a female lawyer was denied a partnership in favor of much less successful associates. Why? She didn’t wear makeup, didn’t look good, and didn’t defer enough to men. It’s like telling women “you won’t be harassed if you come to work in a burka” — even if that was true (I doubt it is) the reaction wouldn’t be favorable.
Now Cathy Young of the libertarian (and ironically named) Reason manages to up Weiss by recycling more tropes, starting with him being feminism’s fault: “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.” So feminists, by refusing to treat men fairly, drive them into Peterson’s arms.
Her examples? She links to what’s actually a very reasonable column by Irin Carmon pointing out that some men who position themselves as allies don’t walk the walk. No call for repentance or abasement, just stating the obvious — talk is cheap. Perhaps Young was hoping nobody would click through. She’s also playing on one of the oldest tropes, that feminists don’t want equality — visions of feminism as a female power-grab go back to the dawn of second-wave feminism and even earlier. And as Echidne points out, there’s no evidence guys following Peterson would be open to an offer of equal partnership. Hie message isn’t equality, it’s man on top, all the way.
Young also recycles another old chestnut: feminists said it was okay to use off-color language in front of women! Then they get upset because men use off-color language in front of women! The “stub your toe” test in an early sexual harassment case covers that one well: is the off-color language something you’d say if you got out of bed in the middle of your night and stubbed your toe? Using four-letter worlds for female genitalia, the judge decided, don’t pass the test.
Feminists did not create a market for Peterson’s preachings by being unreasonable or extreme. He’s not new, he’s part of the same backlash that’s been going since the 1980s. And that backlash isn’t against feminism being extreme. It’s against feminism existing.
And as No More Mr. Nice Blog asks, if being routinely insulted turns people into right-wing extremists, why aren’t liberals extremists?