I’ve been struggling with this essay for more than a year. I’ve written more than 30 000 words on it, and I still feel its woefully incomplete. And way too long…hahaha….
The issue, for me, is that Jordan’s claim that male privilege is a myth is so thoroughly absurd that it’s actually difficult to address. Practically all of history, all of life experience growing up in this culture, and countless personal stories, indicate that Jordan is virtually delusional on this topic. (We’ll get back to this in the next essay.)
AND I shouldn’t be writing this essay in the first place! And Jordan shouldn’t be pretending to be an expert on topics like feminism, gender, etc., while ignoring the decades of scholarship on these topics. Instead, he dismisses this ocean of brilliant thought and insights as being meaningless because it is based on approaches to research and assumptions about epistemology that Jordan thinks are, well, wrong, so wrong that they amount to collective brainwashing as a result of a concerted attempt by “postmodern neomarxists” to take over the education system and corrupt the youth with Marxist ideas. Their “methodologies” are non-scientific, according to Jordan. So, he ignores all that scholarship, entire FIELDS OF STUDY that are relevant to these topics, and makes himself an authority, based on “science.”
(As an aside, this is astounding reasoning for a guy who bases no small part of his thinking on Jung, his own interpretation of Nietzsche, the Gulag Archipelago, and the Bible and other myths. And yes, to give him some credit, Jordan also reads “scientific” literature in psychology, neuroscience and other fields, and bases some of his reasoning on the more presumably “scientific” claims made by those fields.)
So, why shouldn’t I be writing this essay?
Well, more than any other part of Jordan’s work, this feels like a minefield (and that’s a bold claim, cuz there ain’t no shortage of “mines” littered throughout much of his other work, as I’ve been pointing out now for sbout two dozen essays).
AND, here I am, a white dude, with all the dimensions of what are currently considered to be privilege, on my side — I’m white, a dude, heterosexual, cis-gendered, able-bodied (well…more or less). I have a Ph.D., so I’m in the highly-educated class. I live in Toronto, so I’m an urbanite. I have generally made a good living, and am employed at a great (economically speaking) institution. I was raised in a Christian family, speak English as my first language. I’ve got no shortage of privilege for North American culture.
(And same with Jordan.)
So, who am I to wade into “the culture wars?” What DOES my perspective matter? Who cares what some white dude who fits into all those above-mentioned categories has to say about topics like Race, Class, Gender, etc.?
And feminism? Who the hell cares what I think about feminism? (I would hope virtually nobody, and same for Jordan.)
Well, it matters what Jordan thinks about feminism, because there are now millions of people who consider him a wise teacher, philosopher, and Guide to living a good life, as well as a religious and historical authority. His views on feminism are considered “true” by his fans, as are his views on lobsters (problematic), communism (blatantly ridiculous), addiction (problematic, at best), motivation to live a good life (problematic, possibly dangerous), etc…
So I’m going to proceed on the assumption that it does matter what we express about these topics. But in my opinion, this whole discussion basically shouldn’t be happening other than just two dudes airing their opinions at a party or something. There SHOULD be no public forum for a psychologist’s views on feminism, unless that happens to be something that psychologist is genuinely an expert in. But Jordan isn’t, and neither am I.
The Greta Thunberg Principle
Greta, to her great credit, consistently tells people NOT to listen to her, that she shouldn’t be the one on stage in front of the mic, and that journalists shouldn’t be taking their cues from her. “Listen to the scientists,” she says, over and over.
Jordan is not much of a scholar on feminism, or Marxism, or Post-modernism, or Gender Studies, or the Humanities, or History, or Sociology, or most of what he talks about (except for Psychology, maybe Neuroscience, and arguably Religion). (And neither am I!)
There are FAR more learned people, who have spent their 10000+ hours learning and becoming experts in these fields. Someone like Jordan promoting beliefs about gender, feminism, etc., is like someone with a high school education, or a Philosophy degree or an MBA, arguing against climate scientists who have been doing the actual research for decades. It’s ridiculous.
“Listen to the experts”. Or at least START there. Instead, what so often happens is that people listen to the contrarians or popular generalists, and then, because the contrarians or generalists inform them as to what THEY think the experts say, people form their opinions about topics based, essentially, on ‘hearsay’.
Not that there’s no role for generalists or you should never listen to them. Heck, I’m a generalist, and I think my educated opinions on stuff have SOME value. But seriously, if I had a theory about, say, communism and the history of 20th century politics, and it was flagrantly opposed to the decades of scholarship by someone like Noam Chomsky, then you should view my theory with at least some serious skepticism. Not that the Expert is always right or that “appeals to authority” are any guarantee of truth, but still. Expertise matters. I’d lay my money on Chomsky, over me, or Jordan, any day.
Similarly for sociological/economic claims concerning socialism and alternatives to capitalism. Instead of Jordan’s absolute (and unfounded) paranoia that socialism leads directly to the Gulag and its 100 million dead, how about checking out Richard Wolff, who is actually a leading scholar on those topics? (Incidentally, Dr. Wolff is diametrically opposed to most of Jordan’s reasoning that relates to his own field of study).
Similarly for feminism, philosophy, and yes, even neuroscience.
So, Jordan having such an impact on topics he knows relatively little about (relative to the experts, I mean), should never have happened. Critiques of Jordan’s thinking on these issues, such as the one I’m about to write, therefore also shouldn’t happen. This whole sham is sad, and instead of listening to media-driven personalities like Jordan talk about whatever he wants, we as a society should figure out how to do a hell of a lot better of a job getting good, nuanced and rigorous arguments and reasoning, plus good guidance for critical thinking, into the minds of people. We should curate our information much more carefully, than merely listening to whoever happens to be in the limelight at the moment.
Having said all this, I think Jordan is dead wrong when it comes to feminism, the Patriarchy, and the topic of white/male privilege, and in the next essay, I’ll tell you why.