A Disappointed Supporter

There are few men I respect more than Dr. Jordan Peterson.  Anyone familiar with my writing knows that I have written many pieces relating his work to motherhood and femininity.  I have listened to and followed him regularly for years.  While I don’t agree with all his views and am aware of his flaws, I still find myself often amazed by the brilliance and depth of his wisdom, compassion, and intellect.  Through my website, I have tried to introduce more women to his insights.  I hope I have been successful and I hope I continue to be.  

However, I am disappointed in Dr. Peterson.  Two days ago he tweeted out an image of a model on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition – she was much heavier than most models featured there so this cover is controversial.  His tweet was simple “Sorry, not beautiful.  And no amount of Authoritarian tolerance is going to change that.”

Changing Standards

When I saw this tweet I wasn’t confused by his meaning – I knew immediately that he was getting a deeper philosophical point.  In conversations with Stephen BlackwoodRoger Scruton, and Bishop Barron he has delved into the philosophical idea of “beauty”. He has discussed the parts played by postmodernists and Marxists as they attempt to tear down all traditional and objective measurements – creating a world of pure relativism.  I agree with many of the points made by all these men and have written on these topics.  I believe that beauty is real, I believe there is objective truth, and I have seen how brutalist architecture and postmodern art have turned what was once a beautiful and glorious, artistic creation, into a narcissistic charade.

I also know that this woman, in posing for a magazine cover should perhaps expect such treatment. I would never want my daughter or anyone I love to pose for a magazine like this and I wish she hadn’t.  I know that likely she was chosen as part of a larger ideological push to redefine or leave undefined any human ideals.  

And yet. There in that image was my fellow woman, my sister. I might not agree with her choice to be on the cover, but she is precious nonetheless. His words burned. Even knowing his thoughts were deeper than his statement..still, as a woman, I expected better. 

Truth and Goodness

Some may say – well that’s just your feelings.  Look at the facts, look at how destructive all this culture-shifting has been!  To that, I say, As we seek truth should we cast aside our love and consideration for one another?  We certainly shouldn’t affirm what we don’t believe or accept, but he could have said nothing or phrased his critique in a less personal way. Should we be “stupidly” honest and lose hold of those few open-minded souls left, those who in seeking truth expect it to be accompanied by goodness?  What of Christian charity?  Truth untethered to goodness, with no concern for the individual, will not change hearts and minds.

Should we speak the truth in a pitiless way so it is rejected before being considered? JBP has taught me to always consider the alternative view, and to be humble enough to assume I am wrong. Often we hear the famous Ben Shaprio tagline “Facts don’t care about your feelings” and it rings true. Too often the concern over feelings have meant a trampling of truth. But for a man of great sensitivity like Jordan Peterson, he knows that feelings still matter. Positive reinforcement of good behavior is always more successful than harsh criticism.

The Beauty of A Soul

His statement – “Sorry, not beautiful”, while likely not actively chosen to insult this real woman, was it actually true? Is she, because she is overweight, really not beautiful? 

Peterson is a deep person – he sees things from many angles and states that he “is very careful with his words”. He knows that the “beauty of a person” cannot be lumped into the same category as the beauty of architecture, art, or music.   A person was not designed under postmodern philosophy or Marxist ideology – people have souls, and they are complex, and beautiful in many ways.  Imperfections of the face or body can be miraculously forgotten as the beauty of living souls come forth. But I also believe there is a more subjective preference for physical attractiveness than Jordan Peterson is admitting. The woman pictured surely had a beautiful face – is that to be discounted because she had larger thighs? Do we paint her with an ugly brush because she doesn’t meet every criterion of beauty?  

If we look at this woman and say – she is overweight, she can never be beautiful- we are exposing a materialist view of the world. This view sees us all as worthwhile only by our position in a hierarchy, and our ability to succeed by some evolutionary measurement. Those with excess weight are at the bottom of the beauty hierarchy. This is certainly one way to view the world, an increasingly common one.  The materialist view obscures every woman and man’s true worth and true beauty, it is sterile and unfeeling.  The materialist sees each person as a mechanism among mechanisms – more or less productive than others. 

Yet much of Jordan Peterson’s appeal is his ability to speak so beautifully and clearly about an alternative view, a more holistic, spiritual, and perhaps feminine view of the world. The view that sees the Divine worth of every soul, that says we all have value – despite our weaknesses and imperfections. As women, we should not be, and rarely are, ignorant of social standards and hierarchies.  We should seek out improvement in our physical lives. There are emotional and social benefits to seeking to improve ourselves, Jordan Peterson often advises us on how we can improve through small and consistent efforts.  Yet I believe, and Christianity teaches us, we should gain our worth from a higher plane that performace or outward beauty.  Transcendent truth acknowledges the beauty of our soul.

The Cross Women Bear

Women give birth to new life – we raise precious spirits and, if we are mothering properly, we don’t let their standing on a hierarchy alter our love and concern for them.  If our little girl has ears that stick out, or our son has a big nose – they are still beautiful.  This feminine perspective is what encourages us, imperfect beings, to progress. It should be integrated with the more masculine concern for competence and action.  An integrated world is not found on Twitter – so we should not be surprised by brutal criticism of a woman’s body unleashed there. There every post seems to be quickly defined as leftist or alt-right, ultra-feminist or misogynist. So we shouldn’t be surprised by a statement like – “Sorry, not beautiful”. I just didn’t want it to come from Dr. Peterson. 

Perhaps what I felt most disheartening about his tweet is it portrays Dr. Peterson as a cruel man, and he is not.  While Dr. Peterson has never claimed perfection and few but his most ardent supporters would make such a claim – we could always count on him to care.  He is brought to tears when speaking of the struggle of others.  He takes time with anyone that stops him on the street. His years of providing therapy, working with students, and struggling with his own depression have made him empathetic and kind-hearted.  But here was an image of a woman, a real person – and he opted for, “Sorry not beautiful.”

Women are not naive to the standards of beauty. We all know that thinner is generally more attractive. There is certainly a push to change these standards, because “ideals” are judgemental – and none of us want to be judged. Some of our pushing away from ideal standards of beauty may actually be beneficial to women – considering only a handful of women actually look like pinup models.  However, perhaps this cover is too far – it seeks to ignore the natural preference and attraction to those we view as “healthy”. The editors were likely leaning into the realm of domineering social engineering. The hypocrisy of Sports Illustrated is quite alarming. Their swimsuit edition has been objectifying women and setting up a false and unattainable standard of beauty for years, one plus-sized model will not correct that.  We should look to other sources as we seek out beauty.  

Women want to be beautiful. But rare is the woman that is not plagued with self-doubt about her “beauty”.  We never seem to feel good enough, pretty enough. This is a cross we must bear.  But crosses can be made lighter by the brotherly love of others, they are made heavier by their condemnation.  This is a cross Dr. Peterson could certainly make lighter through his empathy and wisdom.  Yesterday he made it heavier.  

Finally, I am saddened because now fewer women will trust Jordan Peterson. Calling a woman ugly to an audience of millions will have an effect.  Unfortunately, in one hasty statement he confirmed the lies his critics say of him – he is a misogynist, he has no compassion, and he is ideological.  But none of that is really true. He is so much better than that tweet. He is not some internet troll.  I wish we didn’t live in a world where people can take one tweet and turn it into a sign of your true character. It was a moment of haste and I believe he likely sees the error in it.

So why write this essay about a silly tweet? Because even in errors I think we can learn a lesson from Dr. Peterson. We can learn that even the wisest and compassionate among us may at times get caught up in their own intellectual web.  Even the best of us may forget the humanity of those we label our ideological adversaries.  Jordan Peterson is a good man and he is doing good work. He has flaws, he is impetuous, and perhaps not fully in tune with the feminine perspective – but he has much to teach.  I just hope that perhaps – as he has taught me so well – he will remember to “be precise in his speech” and perhaps look in the fog from which this tweet came – and bring that shadow into the light.

Ally

7 thoughts on “A Disappointed Supporter

  1. I think it’s time for women to hold themselves and each other accountable. This article didn’t do that. Jordan Peterson is aware of and participating spectacularly in the battle in our culture and doesn’t need your disappointment heaped on his shoulders as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jordan Peterson has few stronger supporters than me but he is not a god. He is fallible. He makes mistakes. IMO this tweet was a mistake. And this post in response by Ally was right on target. I agree with the person who commented that none of his best content has ever been on Twitter.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Very well done Ally. I only hope JBP sees it and finds the wisdom to take pause and be grateful for a deep supporters feedback.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. That was a very good essay about a cringey incident. I think JBP is likely right about the target audience of Sports Illustrated not caring for redefined “beauty standards.” Or maybe their target audience has already moved on (I just read about several print magazines ceasing publication) and this is a desperate attempt to be “relevant.”

    Ironically JBP probably just gave them the narrative / 5 seconds of fame they yearn for. He played the bad guy to their good guy (girl).

    Also the backlash against the backlash is coming….you know it is. It always does. Is this really where we want to put our attention?

    I think the best thing to come out of it is JBP quitting Twitter. It was never the high point of his content.

    Liked by 1 person

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