Jordan Peterson Clashes With Feminist Australian MP Over Female Representation in Government

“99.9 percent of bricklayers are men. Should we have quotas for women?”

During an appearance on Australia’s “ABC Q&A” program last week, public intellectual Jordan Peterson challenged a feminist Australian politician’s stance on representative quotas in government.

The clash began after Peterson fielded an audience member’s question about identity politics. Q&A host Tony Jones followed up by asking, “Are there particular groups that you’re more concerned about than others?”

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The Canadian clinical psychologist rejected Jones’ framing. “There isn’t a problem with groups. The problem is with assuming that the fundamental way you should categorize people is with their group identity,” Peterson said. “Obviously, we all belong to groups. The issue is whether or not the individual identity is primary and the group identity is secondary, or the group identity is primary and the individual identity is secondary.”

“If you’re a proponent – for example – of equality of outcome, of quotas, then you de facto accept the proposition that it’s the group identity that is primary. And there’s all sorts of dangers that are associated with that that far outweigh whatever good you’re likely to do,” he added to applause and cheers from the crowd.

Labor Party member Terri Butler, who supports the implementation of quotas to increase the number of female representatives in government, disagreed with Peterson’s take. “Or maybe you just think that representative democracy should be representative,” she said. “Maybe you just think women should be equally represented in the decision making fora of our nation. Maybe that’s just really about having proper equality in a body that’s meant to be representative.”


“Well, I do believe that women should – I don’t understand your question,” Peterson replied, to which Butler snarkily quipped, “Well, I guess you don’t. That’s pretty obvious.”

“Well, how about if you phrase it more clearly instead of just insulting me?” Peterson thundered before diving into an analogy about the lack of female representation in the bricklaying industry.

“99.9 percent of bricklayers are men. Should we have quotas for women?” he asked Butler. When Butler countered by asking what bricklaying has to do with representative democracy, Peterson elucidated his point.

“If there’s evidence of inequality and structural oppression because women aren’t precisely represented at 50 percent in all professions at all levels, then why don’t we have a conversation about having women represented in all professions at all levels?” he queried. “Why do we talk about this C-suite, for example? Why do we talk about politics and these positions of power? Why don’t we talk about it across the board?”

When Jones gave Butler an opportunity to respond, her attitude indicated skepticism about the seriousness of Peterson’s question. “His question to me? About bricklayers?” she said incredulously.

Peterson’s ascendant public profile and fiery debates with adherents of progressivism has led to his status as an ideological lightning rod. For many feminists and liberals, Peterson is a reactionary threat to societal progress, and a symbol of everything wrong with the patriarchy. Meanwhile, champions of the University of Toronto professor view him as a much needed dissident voice in the culture.

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