Well-educated, morally solid, intellectual speakers like Jordan Peterson are rare. Rarer still when one appeals so much to modern young men. Argue Peterson’s theological points and convictions, but don’t deny his outsized positive influence in my generation. Beloved or reviled, there seems to be little in between when it comes to the Canadian psychologist.
Peterson recently made waves by addressing the Christian churches, being suspended from Twitter for virally insulting a famed transgender actress, and being heavily featured on The Daily Wire, the news source quickly becoming the masthead for most far-right dialogue. Peterson is a recent addition to the right-wing stronghold and seems to be maximizing his base. He strong-arms his way through the cultural dialogue, unafraid to do so one radical left-wing argument at a time.
Around long enough for me to know him as a household name, some of Peterson’s YouTube videos have been online for more than a decade. I attempt to resist trends, fads, and celebrity cultures–you will never see me adapting the “Swifty” fan name or, even more relevant, jumping on any political train or bandwagon–not only on principle.
I have watched far too many of my peers and my elders slip and fall on that slope of self-adulation, and as they sink, they lose sight of where they started. An aloof admirer even of my heroes, I know as a sinner surrounded by other sinners, our flaws, although not immediately apparent, will make themselves known in time.
Yet I admit, the sheer magnetism of Peterson’s interlocution is lightning. Male colleagues, peers, and friends list Peterson among the most influential men in their lives. It is easy to see why: the moral code he espouses, his conservative principles, and the outstanding challenge to the listless or directionless male to “make something of himself” should do nothing but appeal.
When watching his videos, even I felt zealously inspired to set off on the straight and narrow. Peterson has found a way to speak to that mysterious, soulful side of every human being that recognizes there is something much, much more to life than the temporary.
Intrigued, I scoured the internet for thoughts on Peterson from women like me: conservative, Christian, and culturally in-tune … and came up completely empty. The only (and there were few) women addressing the cultural phenomenon and enigma that is Peterson, addressed him from a cautious psychological perspective, or from a blog of an enraged radical feminist. Bully for them.
I searched Twitter in vain for reflective pieces from female peers. However, in a deep dive, I found Peterson himself commented on the very problem I was encountering. He tweeted in 2017, “91% of those who view my videos are male. Why? Why so few women?” To which Twitter responded with an array of unhelpful, amusing, or plainly ridiculous answers. Once again, bully for Twitter, always managing to provide some sort of sad chuckle. But his question persisted.
Now, I would argue, “Yes, Dr. Peterson, there are few women in your audience. We simply don’t see ourselves reflected in your dialogue.” I believe this to be true not because Peterson is incorrect about women.
Peterson is actually correct; he has nailed down the complexity of femininity and speaks with great respect for women and their desires and values. He sees the two genders as separate but equal, different in ability and aptitude but never one lesser than the other.
But I would not go to Peterson to hear him speak about my sex, particularly as a young woman of precisely the caliber he tends to critique: ambitious, intellectual, career-oriented, under thirty. Why? Peterson wisely does not offer us answers to our struggles. He does not provide counsel in one direction or the other, because as he has explained, the decisions a woman must make in her life are much more complex and nuanced than that of her male counterpart. The reason Peterson does not attract the female audience is because he does not tell us much we do not already inherently know.
Now, I recognize my limited perspective. After all, it would take me weeks to watch all of Peterson’s online content. However, as a Christian woman, this is my perspective on someone who is now being titled as one of the “most influential public intellectuals in the Western World.” And I would include this, speaking to Peterson fans around the world: be cautious.
Like all intellectuals, Peterson is limited in knowledge and scope. He understands this well, and would tell us as much. He will not be able to address all of life’s nuances, and not even he completely understands the complexity of the Man; Adam, the first-created.
Throughout my life, I have learned from men who have reflected gentle and quiet responsibility, a meekness rarely observed. Peterson often focuses on encouraging the young man’s aggression, but within constraints, so that it does not consume. I say, that is well, but as much as we encourage our young men to be the protectors they are designed to be, so also must we encourage them to be tender, serious caregivers, like our Lord. We need them to do both.
We must encourage them to love the softer side of life, to value contentment in hearth and home. As Edgar A. Guest so eloquently wrote in “A Warm House and a Ruddy Fire, “A warm house and a ruddy fire|These the goals of all desire|These the dream of every man|Since God spoke and life began.”
As a Christian woman, I respect and admire my male counterparts for their innately different strengths and abilities. We are equal; we work jointly for the expansion of God’s Kingdom, complementing each other’s differences.
However, the young men who stand out in my life are not those who are the strongest, most ambitious, or the most “manly” in manner and ability, but rather those who have learned to balance their impulses and desires, and direct themselves toward not only morality and virtue, but in pursuit of beauty, truth, love, and goodness. That is the rarest type of man.
On the point of Truth: Jordan Peterson’s popularity should not blind us to any hints of untruth or narratives that sneak unchecked through the rhetoric. We should always question, and return to the Word of God for the purest counsel. Never should our faith in one individual grow so strong that we neglect our ultimate source of truth. In the end, Jordan Peterson is not the One with the final say.
This Christian woman will continue to listen, observe, and contribute to the feminine 9 percent of Peterson’s viewership, but always with a hint of the critic. I end with a message to my Christian brothers: be encouraged by the moral truths in Peterson’s words, but do not be swept away. Engage your mind first in the Scriptures and in the Church, and be not tempted to ignorantly follow where Christ does not call us. For His glory; let that be your ultimate aim: test everything; hold fast what is good (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
Comment by Boris Ogon on July 22, 2022 at 2:47 am
“Like all intellectuals, Peterson is limited in knowledge and scope.”
You ain’t just whistling Dixie.
Comment by Brian Evers on July 22, 2022 at 10:14 am
Even if Jordan only speaks to men, he is speaking to a demographic that needs it.
Too few men have direction, a reason to fly straight and right, and it’s a qualified critique that most of those who speak from the pulpit cater to the feminine side of Christianity and deemphasize the masculine.
When was the last time you heard a sermon on a hero of the bible? A manly exploit and the qualities of a well-led family? Even on father’s day Sunday, it’s less than a manly sermon you will see.
Comment by Jeff on July 23, 2022 at 1:57 am
“But I would not go to Peterson to hear him speak about my sex, particularly as a young woman of precisely the caliber he tends to critique: ambitious, intellectual, career-oriented…”
Wow! You’re really something, Ms. Showers. A legend in your own time! And at your age… how astonishing is that??!?
“Throughout my life, I have learned from men who have reflected gentle and quiet responsibility, a meekness rarely observed. Peterson often focuses on encouraging the young man’s aggression, but within constraints, so that it does not consume. I say, that is well, but as much as we encourage our young men to be the protectors they are designed to be, so also must we encourage them to be tender, serious caregivers, like our Lord.”
Why Ms. Showers, THANK YOU for setting the bar (“our Lord”) to something so attainable by we mere feeble, mortal MEN. To be of one mind and will with Christ is all you demand! I gotta tell you, I feel a little inadequate there. Just like you prefer your men, inadequate… right?
But how about YOU? I note that your screed is rather long on what MEN must do to meet your (not the LORD’s) standards, but rather lacking in taking any sort of cognition or (gasp!) RESPONSIBILITY of what you and your gender ought to do. Hint: Proverbs 31 Woman you ain’t, just yet.
After all, the WORD is rather explicit that each of the complimentary genders must SUBMIT themselves to the LORD in equal measure. Where in this piece is your recognition of your own role and responsibility, before *your* LORD?
I boldly predict that you will one day look back on this precocious, slightly arrogant writing, and laugh. And wince.
Nevertheless, I encourage you to persist. I enjoy your work.
Comment by Steve on July 24, 2022 at 8:10 am
I vote against the photo with the cowlick. I haven’t found any other image where he sports one. I saw a movie about the decline of Bill Haley where somebody suggested he had an unreasonable attachment to his cowlick. I thought Superman might have had a cowlick, but internet search suggests it might have been something called a spitcurl…yech.
Comment by Steve on July 24, 2022 at 8:11 am
I vote against the picture with the cowlick.
Comment by Mike on July 25, 2022 at 9:24 am
I must admit that I cringed as I read this lady’s commentary on Jordan Petersen. I understand that she, like many other women, is looking for men who display the right mixture of qualities, tough yet tender, the right combination of Theodore Roosevelt and Barack Obama.
I’m sorry to have to let her know, but Jordan Petersen is not out to promote that combination. As a male, he is desiring rather to get males to actually become men, rather than remain little boys in big boys bodies.
I have just reread Mark Tooley’s article on Petersen’s advice to the church, and as an older man who has been involved in church leadership all of my adult life, I agree with his advice. A male is not a man until he grows up, accepts responsibility, and proves himself worthy of the title of MAN. And churches must help in this quest for authentic manhood. Men must be the leaders in any church, and they must promote traditional male values of strength and leadership. These must come first, before the softer qualities that this lady desires.
Our family just recently buried my 94 year old father. He had been a logger, one of those men who grew up during the Depression and went to work at the age of 14. He was a tough guy, and i admit that he was not always an easy person to relate to. But, at his funeral, my younger sister displayed a photograph of him that I had never seen before, showing the toughness of his generation that enabled our country to win World War II and become the most powerful nation in history. He set a good example for his sons to live by and his daughters to marry by. That is the type of man that Jordan Petersen is promoting, and that he thinks churches should be doing a better job of encouraging.
Comment by Jun Valmores on July 26, 2022 at 12:29 am
Very perceptive piece Sage. I totally agree with your observation that we should be more nuanced in our admiration of public intellectuals like Peterson, whom I have been following since his breakout during protests against him in his Toronto campus. He is adored by my son. But I always remind him that the image we must strive for is that of Christ’s. We both pray that Peterson would not only inch closer to Christian truth so that his messages would be more biblically robust, but to drink from the rich deep well of Christian thought that is more prism colored that his current monochrome Jungian-inspired articulation of how to be man in a postmodern age.
Comment by David Mu on July 26, 2022 at 12:29 pm
The modern female by default will have ‘problems’ with a Jordan Peterson. The modern woman ought to look within for why she wanting to reduce the male to the level she Wants. This article is an truth of this need of the modern woman to gut everyman. By those scriptures – woman was made for the man, and not the other way.
Comment by Jens Schirner on July 30, 2022 at 12:30 pm
Dear Ms (!) Showers,
as you write, you haven´t seen and read a lot of JBP. If you went from Maps of Meaning to Beyond Order, and through the Biblical and other series, you would probably agree that Peterson adresses man and the world including woman.
Those who have flown over 12 rules and some contemporary material erroneously come to the impression that his work (which is in large part recovery of tradition, enriched with modern insight) concerns mainly (young) men.
Daily Wire is “most far-right”? That explains where you come from. That the values of judaeo-graeco-Christian tradition are most far-right can only be said by someone who is most far-left. I assume your evaluation stems from the fact that you know the half dozen protagonists of DW as little as JBP himself.
I have taken a lot of time to think through “order and structure vs chaos and creation”, the myths of mankind. And I do personally regret that JBP has dwelt more on some of the male than the female characteristics. Might it not be up to women to face their roles in chaos, creation, destruction? Might he himself not correctly feel that this can and should not be done by a man?
One remark you will instinctively consider male chauvinist, but then probably check against your knowledge of world history and the classics: Men not only built the pyramids and cathedrals, the houses and roads, but the works of philosophy, theology, literature, history were also created by them. The 10 greatest composers of world history are white men …
Even in modern literature and thinking, women have roles now but even all the great contemporary work is by men with few exceptions.
Again, JBP´s work explains why the tendency to deal with the concrete and close-by is rather female whereas men deal with the more distant and abstract, the greater and larger social and cultural constructs. It all makes sense when we see man and woman as biological and evolutionary as well as spiritual imagi dei, in our complementary roles like yin & yang.
I hope to not have offended anyone. But to dismiss JBP and DW so easily means to dismiss the core of our Western heritage – with all that follows from that, which we see in the destruction around us every day.