From my perspective, denying the basic “feminist” (I would say historical) insight that women have historically been subjugated and oppressed, relative to men (and indeed, by men), is absurd. It’s as absurd as a Flat-Earther or Climate change denier position.
(Interestingly, Jordan was a climate change denier for quite a number of years, and we used to have conversations about this sometimes when we had adjacent offices at U of T. I was always confused, and amused, at the strength of his BELIEF in his own theories.)
(To be fair to him, he’s shifted his tone in recent years from climate change denial to denial-that-we-can-do-anything-effective-about-it. Which is, of course, the exact same shift that has happened in Jordan’s fanbase’s (making an assumption here) part of the political spectrum in general. But I digress….)
Jordan’s reasoning: Jordan’s denial of the existence of The Patriarchy goes basically like this:
Life is hard, especially before the past 100 years or so, when life was absolutely brutal. Men and women had few choices in life; poverty & lack of opportunity was the norm. So men and women HAD TO work together, struggle together like true teammates merely in order to survive and raise their family in a hostile and difficult world. Life is tough, Jordan constantly reminds us. Life is brutal. Life is a terrible existential burden. Life is suffering. And life before the recent economic advances of the last human lifetime or so, was even worse than anything most of us can imagine. So, the notion that men were out there ‘subjugating’ their women is just wrong. They were bloody well working as hard as they could, together, just to stay alive. So, there’s no Tyrannical Patriarchy.
Besides, what a terrible way to view history, he says! Do you really want to believe that all our forebears were these women-abusing terrible tyrannical men? Do you really want to limit your view of women to these passive victims of systemic violence? Is that really the image that best captures the ‘heroic pioneers’ (let’s ignore the colonial aspect of this for reasons of space) and others of our ancestors that you want to have? How dismal!
(Errr, Jordan, just gotta remind you here what your pal Ben Shapiro constantly reminds us of — facts don’t care about your feelings, buddy.)
The recent empowerment and “liberation” of women across the 20th century was not a result of activism, feminist thinking or ideals, or anything else that “the Left” usually puts forth as a driver of social change. No, it was mainly technologies — the Pill, the tampon, better sanitation practices, etc. Because you see, there was no “Patriarchy” holding women back; it was mere biological inconvenience most of the time, due to the inescapable fact that women are the ones who bear children, menstruate, and are responsible for much of the work of childcare, thereby benefiting the most from technological advances that make caring for children less of a horrendous slog.
Furthermore, Jordan believes that the differences in outcomes between men and women (e.g., women being paid less than men), largely boil down to PREFERENCES. He makes this argument for dozens upon dozens of hours online. Basically, there are two reasons for this.
One is that women tend to choose lower-paying careers. He usually talks about Engineering vs. Nursing, and says that men choose to be engineers more than women do, because engineering is more about Things than People, and men are, on average, more inclined towards Things. Nursing is the opposite, and therefore, women gravitate towards nursing. Now, because engineering is valued economically more than nursing, men get paid more. No “Patriarchy” there. Just free choice and free market valuation.
Second, the people who truly are superstars, the ones who rise through the ranks, who make it to the top of the heap, have to be not only extraordinarily capable, but extraordinarily committed. They HAVE TO put in the 80+ hour work weeks, because if they don’t, someone else will, and then that other person will be the one at the top. So, the highest levels of success (and therefore $$$$), go to the most ardent, practically pathological competitors.
So again, free choice comes in here. Women are more interested in people than things, and especially as they approach their 30s and certainly as they zoom through those 30s, women increasingly value children and family, and don’t exactly want to be spending 80+ hours a week at work. So, on average, women CHOOSE more moderate levels of achievement, in order to be moms and home-makers at least part of the time. Men, on the other hand, less inclined towards family relative to achievement, end up putting in the long hours, and they therefore become the Managers and CEOs and truly successful people.
In short, men make better career choices (economically speaking), and they work harder (not on average, necessarily). As a result, at the upper end of the achievement continuum, you’ll find it disproportionately comprised of men, NOT because of some “glass ceiling”, but because these are the rare people who truly work their butts off to attain excellence.
He sometimes “backs up” this argument with the observation (note: this is a subtle form of gas lighting) that women are amazingly strong. They have opinions, strong wills, stubbornness. Women are hardly pushovers. Therefore (Jordan concludes), it is RIDICULOUS to assert that these countless generations of women have merely capitulated to and been controlled by their husbands or other male figures in their lives. Surely women are stronger than that? After all, have YOU ever tried to tell a woman what to do? (Again, Jordan’s reasoning, and insinuation, not mine.)
So no Patriarchy. Just free choice and even-handed market forces at work. Nothing nefarious to see here, move along….
Whew. I am trying very hard not to reduce my response to a mere “WTF dude, that’s cray cray.” Because, to give Jordan credit, he does think pretty deeply about these things, so there’s a good chance this isn’t totally cray cray? Okay, fair enough.
Here’s what I can accept: Three main points:
⁃ 1) Life is hard, especially historically for the masses. Men and women both lived tough lives.
⁃ 2) Women are strong, and resist being told what to do or controlled.
⁃ 3) The biological reality of having and raising babies, plus the societal reality of the bulk of that work falling on women, plus the societal reality of women being raised to value people over things, family over career (on average, of course), puts significant barriers in the way of women achieving the highest ranks of success. Men don’t have to choose family vs. career, but unfortunately the practical reality is that many women do. So, this “choice”, both of career and of how much work to put in climbing the ladder to success (note: I am not claiming this is “free choice”, which I will address below), puts women at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to competing with men to get to the very top and achieve the positions of power.
BUT — and this is a “Big but”….you know, like an elephant-sized butt kind of but — these beliefs DO NOT LEAD to Jordan’s conclusions. The logical leap is so enormous it is stunning to me that he continues to make it.
⁃ 1) The fact that life was hard and men and women had to struggle to survive has ZERO RELEVANCE to whether or not the men and women had equal amounts of power over their own lives. It is not difficult to imagine peasants, struggling to survive, living tough lives and all that, and yet at home, the man is still “master” and the woman is still more or less the servant. Jordan’s premises do not lead in any conceivably logical way, to his conclusions.
⁃ 2) The fact that women are strong and don’t like to be controlled, doesn’t mean that they cannot be overwhelmed by broad-scale societal, legal, economic, religious and other forces which “put women in their place”, as the old saying went, taking away their agency and preventing them from having access to power. I’m sure individual women fought hard to make themselves heard. There are countless examples of such heroic women. Many of us can relate, with our own aunts and moms and grandmas. But again, the premise that women are strong and don’t like to be told what to do has ZERO RELEVANCE to whether or not they CAN be effectively controlled by societal forces.
To give an obvious, painful analogy, I would imagine Jordan believes that Black people and Native people are also strong and don’t like to be told what to do. But….um….slavery? Genocide of indigenous people? Are those things somehow “not real” because surely strong, stubborn people can’t be overwhelmed by societal forces? Jordan’s argument is not only ridiculous, it is offensively ridiculous. And I don’t say that as a snowflake who gets easily offended, but as a respectful person who is well aware of the depths of suffering that Black, Native, and Female folk have experienced as a result of, yes, “the Patriarchy”.
Interestingly for Jordan, who claims (incorrectly) to have membership in a Native tribe, if he wanted to see what society WOULD look like in the absence of the Patriarchy that he doesn’t believe in, then he should talk to the Native elders, and particularly the women, and gain some insight into how profoundly different Native North-American cultures are from the patriarchal, Bible-informed, European cultures he seems to be such a staunch fan of. In particular, how WERE those cultures before centuries of colonial violence, genocide and near-erasure?
Many Native cultures were, for thousands of years, matrilineal, with women having key roles to play in the power-dynamics of the tribe and women generally being regarded as the wisdom keepers. (It is of course complicated, because I’m lumping many different cultures together, so this is admittedly a very rough generalization. However, I stand by it as a general statement, in line with my best understanding of the Native scholarship and history that I’ve learned). When you contrast the way that decisions were made in Native tribes, how RELATIVELY flat their hierarchies were (relative to what Euro-cultures have given us, by far), the amount of self-determination enjoyed by women and girls growing up, etc., you would see a very different way of organizing society, and perhaps then “the Patriarchy” would become a little more visible in contrast.
Huh. How about that? No wonder when the “brave pioneers and explorers” showed up, they were welcomed with open arms. When they struggled to survive through the winter and suffered scurvy and such, they were helped by their Native brothers and sisters who understood we are all family under the Creator. No wonder the violence committed was overwhelmingly one-sided. And no, it wasn’t the so-called “savages” doing all the violence. It was the so-called “heroic explorers.” I assume you know the true story of Christopher Columbus by now, for example? If you don’t PLEASE go and read about it.
And no wonder that our current best models and practices for collective healing after trauma, for reconciliation within broken communities, for decentralized and self-determined collective governance, and for effective long-term “management” of “natural resources” (put in quotes because I do not believe in these terms, and certainly not with reference to Native cultures), ALL COME FROM NATIVE CULTURES. It turns out that a matrilineal culture is pretty damn good at figuring out how to cooperate. Europeans? Well…..ever heard of “colonialism?”
⁃ 3) The fact that women are biologically disadvantaged for the specific purpose of working insanely long hours to climb corporate ladders of success, AND the fact that women’s “Free” choice trends towards lower-paying and lower-status jobs doesn’t actually have zero relevance to “the Patriarchy.” It has tons of relevance, but COMPLETELY OPPOSITE to what Jordan concludes.
Women have internalized agreeableness, being less deserving of success, less smart, less capable, having less of a right to strive for their own personal goals. “Behind every great man is a great woman”, the old saying goes. Interesting how it’s only in the last handful of years that we started teaching people more about the Great Women of history, isn’t it? I mean, I grew up with the overwhelming impression that history was about white people, wars, and the male ruling class. That’s it. Everything else was just the shitty lives of peasants, and who wants to know anything about that?
Even today, women who are focused on careers are often criticized as being selfish, having something wrong with them, etc. There is “supposed to be” an innate inclination, a maternal instinct, that “naturally” inclines women towards becoming mommies and having children. Women who’d rather duke it out with men in the corporate arena? That just ain’t “natural”! There’s something wrong with those women. Didn’t their mommas raise them to know a woman’s place?
But the thing is, the various social norms out there, the socialization practices, the beliefs held by people about what is right and appropriate for women, etc., all the things that influence young girls to set their sights on the hearth whereas men shoot for the moon, ALL OF THESE THINGS ARE THE PATRIARCHY. Jordan is well aware of exactly what he believes doesn’t exist.
Just think of a small sample of the constraints suffered by women over the generations, and imagine how these affect not only the opportunities available to women, but also the internalized beliefs about themselves, that little girls would form as a result of seeing the world structured in such a way as to limit their achievement.
⁃ Employment protection for working moms. Child care. Maternity/parental leave. etc. If you set up the workplace such that parents are at a disadvantage, then those who do the most parenting, and who are impacted the most by the process of having children, will suffer the most in their career advancement. And who set up all those rules and practices and regulations? Who was in charge of the corporations of old, the halls of power in government, etc.? Hint: “Women” is not the correct answer.
⁃ Women and men played extremely different social roles in the past, and to a lesser but still obvious degree in the present (on average, of course). Women were simply not allowed into the clubs where business deals were made, the cigar smoking rooms where all the business talk happened. Men talk business in one room, women serve them, or if you’re wealthy enough that there’s a “servant class”, then women sit in the other room talking about family and community gossip. This was practically ubiquitous in the social world. Men go to one space and talk amongst themselves about politics and money and sports and “guy stuff”. Women stay with the children, and the food preparation, and talk about family and relationships and what’s going on in the community. So, who ends up creating business opportunities? Who ends up networking with the movers & shakers?
⁃ Women have LONG been prevented from gaining headway in the halls of power. For centuries, it’s been believed that women were too “irrational”, “emotional”, “soft”, “mercurial”. Or just plain stupid. They couldn’t be trusted with the reins of power because, well, “you know women…”. There are COUNTLESS stories from the past of women who wanted a shot at the top, but like poor old Aaron Burr (sir…), they weren’t even allowed “in the room where it happens”. No, they were in the kitchen, making tea and preparing biscuits to bring to the men.
⁃ Shame — One of the most horrendous legacies of Jordan’s highly regarded Bible and the framework of values it instilled in us, is the shaming of women’s bodies and sexuality. For centuries, women have suffered under the Madonna/Whore framework. They are either put on a pedestal (but they have to be virginal, asexual, “pure”, you know, like Moms. That is, sexless Moms. Yeah…), OR they are gross, disgusting, impure.
⁃ What’s it like growing up as a girl, and learning that your own developing body and its urges are….evil, scary, disgusting, “impure”. This seems to still be true today, particularly for people who buy into Jordan’s positions on the ideological spectrum, “roughly speaking.” For example, have you heard Ben Shapiro discuss WAP? It’s….just wow.
If you don’t believe it’s like this for girls, getting all body-shamed and stuff (seriously? have you ever talked to a girl?), then please, go talk to a mom about her experiences breastfeeding in public.
And menstruation? “AAAAAAAHHHH!!!” **man runs from room in horror**
And what about women who DO enjoy exploring their bodies and their sexuality? Do people accept that? Well, many people don’t accept it NOW. Can you imagine how well they accepted it 50, 100, 150 years ago?
Hmmm, I wonder if there’s any research out there on the long-term psychological and emotional, motivational and ‘success’ consequences for children who grow up being shamed about their own bodies and sexuality. Hmmm….anything? I wonder if the LGBTQ literature has anything to say about this? Jordan? Have you read any of that? Do you not see the relevance to the last 2000 years of girls growing up under the Biblically-inherited prejudice against female nakedness and sexuality?
The Indian Act
I don’t know of a single person, at least one who isn’t brutally racist, who would consider the “Indian Act” passed in Canada to have been a good idea, or to have had basically no significant impact on the generations of Native youth who have grown up under its framework. The Indian Act is a fundamentally dehumanizing piece of legislation, taking away virtually all rights within the broader society, and entrenching a view of Native people as “savages” who need to be “civilized.” I can’t imagine someone not understanding how damaging such treatment would be to children and their eventual emotional well-being, their ability to strive for success, etc.
Women’s rights across much of our history run a rough parallel to the Indian Act. Women weren’t full citizens. They couldn’t vote. Couldn’t own property. Couldn’t inherit property. Couldn’t (for the most part) consider a career for themselves, because “a woman’s place is in the home” and women who choose careers are, well, there’s “something wrong with them”. They are immoral. Even evil.
Add to this the sexual violence that women have suffered throughout history, most of all at home, at the hands of their oh-so-non-patriarchal husbands. But no, women “can’t be raped by their husbands”. Right? It’s their duty to submit. The good ol’ Bible even says so.
And how many women were slapped around? Humiliated when they voiced an opinion? Made fun of by their own husbands for being fat? Or ‘shrill’ when they get passionate about something? Heck, even powerful, professional women today can’t DARE get angry. If they do they come across as unhinged “harpies”. And what about the angry man? Well, maybe a little unhinged too, but powerful, impressive, maybe even A Leader.
Add to this the different amounts of freedom enjoyed by boys vs. girls growing up. The different amounts of autonomy, the encouragement to follow your dreams (vs. find a husband), the emphasis on competence and ability and success (vs. being pretty, docile, and agreeable).
Jordan himself acknowledges this many times, when he talks about how high in Agreeableness women are, and how that personality trait, in excess, holds them back from achieving their potential. He talks about how he has personally helped LOTS of women shake off their inherited-constraints from society so that they could step into their power. And sure, of course men struggle with low self-worth, self-confidence, etc.. But even Jordan recognizes that Agreeableness and its corollary, passivity instead of assertiveness, is a particular barrier for women, on average, compared to men.
And where does this Agreeableness come from? From the internalization of messages about what is appropriate for girls vs. boys to do, to dream about, to expect for themselves, to strive for. From role models out there in society for the boys vs. girls to pattern themselves after. From the institutional structures put in place to help boys vs. girls achieve greatness. And if you need convincing that the amount of resources society throws at helping boys excel vs. girls, then seriously, just stop reading this essay right now, because if you don’t see THAT, then I dunno man…..but my words can’t possibly reach you.
So, Jordan? All that stuff I just said? That’s THE PATRIARCHY.
Grandmas of the World Unite!
Or, just take a look at this personally. Let’s take a survey, of you, me, and the people we know. Let’s all think through the women, especially the older women, in our lives — our grandmas and aunties and such. Did these women, in general, have the same freedom to strive for their dreams as the grandpas and uncles? Did they have the same rights? Did they have the same ability to walk out the door whenever they want, to date who they want, to study what they want in school? Did they receive the same level of parental control and punishment and restrictions, growing up, as their brothers?
Or will they tell you, person after person after person, that a woman grows up in a man’s world, and it’s bloody hard to make yourself heard, to be an autonomous individual, to feel empowered, when every step of the way, right from your earliest memories, you are TRAINED to be “less than”, to step back and let The Man step forward?
My own Grandpa and Grandma illustrate this nicely. They were lovely people, married 59 years when Grandma died, and by all accounts they had a good life and happy marriage, surrounded by friends and family, active in the church, you know, ‘the whole nine yards’.
They were dairy farmers, until they sold the farm and retired. And both Grandpa and Grandma always talked about their farming years with joy and happiness. It was a good life. They made it into a good life together.
But WHY were they farmers? After all, Grandma grew up an urbanite. She wanted to live in the city (Hamilton, Ontario, specifically). She wanted to ride horses as a hobby. She wanted to have a job (which she did when they first met). In the 1920s-1930s as she was emerging into adulthood, she was a fairly progressively minded woman.
And then Grandpa took her out for lunch one day. They sat down at the table, and he proudly slapped the Deed for the farm “they” had just bought. “Grace, we’re gonna be farmers.”
Was he an asshole? No! He was actually a kind, mostly gentle and sincerely good-hearted, God-loving man. He always treated Grandma well. He always treated us kids well. He’s one of my role models in life. But, back around 1930, it never even occurred to him that Grandma should have a say in her own life. He wanted to be a farmer, so he bought a farm. And she suddenly and irrevocably became “a farmer’s wife.”
Of course, she COULD have left him. “Choice” right? But any women who grew up in more traditional times or places knows full well that a woman turning her back on a husband and striking out on her own, is in for a hard, probably miserable life. The economics of society just weren’t set up for single women not interested in being “the wife” of the bread-winning man. Even today, practically a full human lifetime after the mass inclusion of women in the work force around WWII, there is still a lot of pressure on girls to find a good man before they’re “too old” to be marriage material. Their #1 task in life is (so they are told) to find a successful, responsible man who will PROVIDE for them. That belief is by no means rare in today’s society, and this is a CENTURY after women won the right to be considered full legal citizens who could vote.
So, Grandma adapted. She became a farmer’s wife. At least she could have horses now! But….no. Grandpa wasn’t into horses. Didn’t see the sense of it. They were practical farmers, and he bought a herd of dairy cows. No horses. So, Grandma spent her adult life being a dairy farmer’s wife. Gee, just like she had always dreamed….
My point is simply, this was normal. This one-sided decision making is not an aberration, nor is it the result of some tyrannical male. No, this is everyday life, everyday people. It’s the internalization of “the Patriarchy” by BOTH OF THEM. Grandpa thought it was perfectly reasonable to buy a farm without consulting Grandma. And Grandma accepted that it was “her lot in life” to become a dairy farmer’s wife. I’m sure there are 100 million stories like this out there in North America alone.
So Jordan, go tell the old Grannies of the world that they grew up just as empowered as their brothers, and emerged into womanhood with just as much power as men. That they had just as much say over their lives as their husbands. That they weren’t shamed for their sexuality (relative to males), impeded from entering business and professional workspaces (relative to males), had the same types of economic opportunities (relative to males), suffered the same amounts of criticism and humiliation and violence in their homes (relative to males), etc.
And when you convince the world’s grannies and aunties that there is no Patriarchy, then ok, you win.
Now, let’s talk about Race. Actually no, let’s not. Because if you reject everything I just said about women, then this is a waste of time. And if you accept what I just said about women, then you bloody well know the story for Race too.