“We’re in a vicious war about the structure of reality.” – Jordan Peterson
Some time ago, in an era before there was any such thing as the alt-right or fears about “cultural Bolshevism,” our three daughters went to a single-sex high school named after the Australian writer and poet Dorothea Mackellar, most notable as the author of My Country.
Born in 1885, Mackellar was a young woman of independent means, fluent in French, Spanish, German and Italian, who hosted luminaries and dignitaries in her handsome home at Lovett Bay. She dabbled in acting, enjoyed horse-riding on her country estate, and broke off two engagements when the blokes threatened to cramp her style as a writer and diletant.
So you can imagine that at a girl’s high school named after her, the memory of the formidable Dorothea Mackellar was invoked at every prize-giving night, graduation and school performance. In the late 1990s and 2000s, I lost count of the times I heard my daughters and their classmates being reminded that, like Ms. Mackellar, you girls can achieve whatever you set your minds to.
In fact, the school motto was “Girls Can Do Anything!” (I’m not sure if there’s an exclamation point in the motto, but there should be).
We thought it was great. But that was before people like Jordan Peterson started telling us this was all just “identity politics” and postmodern neo-Marxism.
Back then, in this simpler time, the message my daughters got loud and clear was that “girls are awesome”. And they got it not only from their school, but also from their parents (sorry, girls). And in a general sense, they got it from pop culture.
Around that time, all the television commercials started featuring strong, competent women and bumbling, ineffectual men. You know, those advertisements where the husband can’t cook/clean/buy insurance/etc, only to have his eye-rolling partners come to his rescue.
And filmmakers joined the chorus. In the 2000s my daughters were watching Bend It Like Beckham (girl becomes football champion), Save the Last Dance (girl gets into Juilliard), Legally Blonde (girls gets into Harvard), Mean Girls (girl defeats bullies), and Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (girls become women, travel, fall in love, etc).
Not to mention Destiny’s Child, the Powerpuff Girls, and Hermione Granger.
Our girls became women who believed they could do anything.
Little did we know this was all the work of an international cabal of Marxist academics who had figured out that traditional Marxist revolution wasn’t ever likely to succeed and who were plotting to destroy Western civilization by undermining its cultural values.
(psst. I know it’s a big leap from an international cabal of Marxists to Mary Kate and Ashley, but stay with me)
So my daughters graduated from Mackellar Girls’ High School and joined a generation of women working to reduce the pay gap, ensure paid maternity leave and affordable childcare, and equal opportunity in business, education, politics and the arts. They’ve seen the world changing. A balance between the genders could be in sight. And men feel threatened.
Well, Republican Senate candidate Courtland Sykes of Missouri certainly does. He recently said he hoped his daughters would not grow up to be “career obsessed banshees who forgo home life and children and the happiness of family to become nail-biting manophobic hell-bent feminist she-devils who shriek from the top of a thousand tall buildings they are think they could have leaped in a single bound — had men not been ‘suppressing them.’ It’s just nuts.”
Oh, it’s nuts alright.
My hell-bent feminist she-devil daughters are thriving, while on just about every indicator, young men are in trouble. They are 30% more likely to drop out of school, and are outperformed by girls at every level of education. They are 5 times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD and make up 2/3 of special education students.
These days, it seems everyone knows a young man who’s struggling with life, unmotivated at school or in his career, who doesn’t get along with others, has few meaningful friendships, is awkward with women, or lacks basic social skills. Maybe he’s been in trouble with the law or struggled with mental health issues. He could be lacking purposeful direction, or still living with his parents well into his 20s and even 30s.
Little wonder, I guess. Back in the day, while the neo-Marxists were feeding my girls TV heroes like Veronica Mars and Rory Gilmore, all the boys got was Joey Tribbiani and Kenny and Cartman.
This cultural landscape is terrifying for frightened boobs like Courtland Sykes. But it’s also the landscape that has thrown up the latest internet sensation – the urbane and unruffled Professor Jordan Peterson. In the era of Beyonce, Hillary and #MeToo where men feel emasculated and think the only way to respond to thriving women is to call them she-devils, Peterson adopts a subtler approach.
Writing for the National Review, Christian Chensvold called the University of Toronto professor “YouTube’s new father figure,” and described him as “firm but caring,” saying, “Peterson speaks the way I always wished my father had”. Aww.
Dr. Peterson’s online audience is 90% male, and he dispenses to them mytho-intellectual fatherly advice like “Pay attention”, “Sort out your past”, “Author your future”, “Take responsibility for something”, “Face your fears”, “Develop strength”.
It sounds good. Getting de-motivated men to clean their rooms, straighten up and fly right sounds terrific. And if all he was saying was, “Hey, look at your sisters! They’re outstripping you in every department. Here’s what you should do. Cheer them on. Congratulate them for their success, and then try all the harder to keep up with them,” then I’d be cool with him.
But he’s not.
He couches his fatherly advice within paranoid explanations of cultural Marxism, and a feminist agenda that’s “undermining the masculine power of the culture” and which will ultimately be the end of Western civilization (which is the postmodern neo-Marxist agenda, as we noted earlier). Subsequently, he tells men that they are helpless before “crazy women” and “harpies” because it’s not socially acceptable for men to rise up to their full strength in the presence of women these days. In other words, he’s telling frightened, struggling men that the deck is stacked against them, that the system is weighted in favor of women and the only way to restore the balance is to wage a “non-violent war” on this Marxist conspiracy to destroy your way of life.
He’s like Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting, telling his legion of male fans, “It’s not your fault, it’s not your fault, it’s not your fault.”
The career obsessed banshees are winning.
The nail-biting manophobic hell-bent feminist she-devils have you by the balls.
It’s time to fight back.
Is it too much to long for a generation of men who can find their inner strength, embrace responsibility, be kind and good and gentle, while also celebrating the advancement of women? It’s been a man’s world since time immemorial. So what if women are finding their voice and their place alongside men. So what if some women are resentful about the discrimination they’ve lived with all their lives. So what if some feminists are strident. So what if some of them are neo-Marxists!! Can’t “strong men” acknowledge the imbalance of the past, absorb some of the opprobrium, and cheer on women as their equals without the global conspiracy theories thrown in?
In saying all this, I don’t lump Dr Peterson in with the alt-right. They are playing the very identity politics to which he is so vehemently opposed. His is a more civilized, more high-minded philosophy of individualism. I’ve got a bunch of objections to individualism, but for now let me say my biggest fear is that in the end their goals are the same: putting feminism back in its box and returning us all to traditional gender roles, the kind of stereotypes the ever-charming Courtland Sykes describes this way:
“[My wife] knows that my obedience comes with a small price that she loves to pay anyway: I want to come home to a home cooked dinner at six every night, one that she fixes, and one that I expect one day to have my daughters learn to fix after they become traditional homemakers and family wives.”
Dorothea Mackellar would turn in her grave.