Misgendering and “Honesty”

Jordan Peterson, an academic, thinks he is a martyr because he insists on calling trans women “he”.

Most people are in love with their particular life drama. Their story is their identity. The ego runs their life. They have their whole sense of self invested in it. -Eckhart Tolle

It’s almost impossible to provide people with enough protection so that they feel safe to speak. OK, so we’ll address that directly. It is not safe to speak. It never will be. But the thing you’ve got to keep in mind is that it’s even less safe not to speak.

It’s a balance of risks — do you want to pay the price for being who you are and stating your mode of being in the world, or do you want to pay the price for being a bloody serf — one that’s enslaved him or herself. Well that’s a major price. Man that thing unfolds over decades and you’ll just be a miserable worm at the end of about 20 years of that.

No self-respect, no power, no ability to voice your opinions. Nothing left but resentment because everyone is against you because of course you’ve never stood up for yourself. Say what you think. Carefully pay attention to your words. It’s a price you want to pay if you are willing to believe that truth is the cornerstone of society. -Jordan Peterson

There is an “I”. It may not be nameable, so there are cataphatic and apophatic traditions in theology- saying what God is, or God is not. I am not just my story, my struggle, all the things I have done and not done, always restricted by what I have not done before.

I know I can speak Truth, when I say something I am completely certain of. I Know it. Saying such things is different from simply giving an opinion. Peterson says, say what you believe, however much you suffer for it, and one thing he “suffered” for was saying I don’t recognize another person’s right to determine what pronouns I use to address them. I think they’re connected to an underground apparatus of radical left political motivations. I think uttering those words makes me a tool of those motivations. And I’m going to try and be a tool of my own motivations as clearly as I can articulate them and not the mouthpiece of some murderous ideology.

He gets to say who I am, in his view. I don’t know whether he actually misgenders people, but he seems to think that if I say my name is Clare and my pronouns she/her/hers, that is something he deigns to grant out of his own generosity not something I claim as of right.

In between us is reality, and the question whether I am a man or not. I say I am a woman, and if he calls me a man he takes from me my right to say who I am and be who I am. He says that whether he accepts another’s view of reality is his choice, and I oppress him by demanding my right to define even myself.

Of course, he has a lot of fans who want to call me “he” and feel self-righteous about it. They want to be nasty to me, even if he simply wants to resist being forced to be nice.

He does not accept concepts of privilege or oppression. The idea that women were oppressed throughout history is an appalling theory.

Peterson and Brophy concluded that political correctness exists in two forms, which they call PC-Egalitarianism and PC-Authoritarianism. Simply put, PC-Egalitarians are classic liberals who advocate for more democratic governance and equality. PC-Authoritarians are, according to Brophy, “the ones now relabelled as social justice warriors.” Both share a high degree of compassion. Extreme compassion, they believe, can lead to difficulty assessing right from wrong. It also can mean the forgiveness of all failures and transgressions by people viewed as vulnerable. “Any personality trait to an extreme is pathological,” Brophy says.

According to Peterson, in Scandinavia there is an intense attempt to flatten out cultural differences between the sexes, and the biological personality differences are strongest there. For example, women are more agreeable. Gender is biological destiny, not social construct or performance.

If gender is biological destiny, and I map onto those feminine personality traits, then I am a woman, rather than a man more comfortable presenting as a woman. Or, I am a diseased male, failing to live up to my destiny.

The University of Toronto seems to try to wish it away. Sioban Nelson, the vice-provost of faculty and academic life, who seemed weary of the subject… argued that the university had no problem balancing its commitment to freedom of speech and its support for vulnerable groups or minority views. It was not an either-or situation, she said. Regarding Peterson specifically, she said, “The university has made it very, very clear, and has been quoted ad nauseam, that we do expect all members of our community, faculty or staff, to abide by the human rights code and to be respectful and supportive of each other.” I feel that misgendering is not supportive. Either he gets to define my gender, or I do.

He makes a virtue of being disagreeable. If you worry about hurting people’s feelings and disturbing the social structure, you’re not going to put your ideas forward. I disagree. There comes a moment when I, though I always seek to be agreeable, stick my head above the parapet and say

This is my truth.

This is the thing I will not back down on, though all society denies it. This is the thing I will assert though the Heavens fall. That is a matter of integrity, not agreeableness. A disagreeable person might think himself Innovative, when he was merely contrarian.

One thing about me that’s strange is that I will have impossibly difficult conversations with people. There are people who shy away from that. They let monsters grow under their rugs. Their marriages fall apart. They get detached from their children. They carry around resentments and unresolved conflicts. I’m not doing any of that. If there’s something to be discussed that’s difficult, we’re going to discuss that right down to the goddamned foundation. It is a good thing for me that when someone misgenders me I think he is a discourteous oaf, rather than that I am a pervert or whatever.

I found Jordan Peterson’s insistence on Truth here, and the account of the resulting stooshie here.

All comments welcome.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.