“It’s a nauseating doctrine.”
Speaking out against the American Psychological Association’s report deeming masculinity a mental health problem, clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson said it makes him “ashamed” to even be associated with the field.
“I am absolutely ashamed to call myself a psychologist in the aftermath of the APA publication,” he said in an interview published this weekend with the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. “I think the people who wrote that article are reprehensibly weak and deceitful. I think they justify their reprehensible weakness by an all-out assault on strength and competence. And they cloak that in virtue. It’s a nauseating doctrine.”
Peterson has been a consistent critic of the recently-published APA report, which set out “guidelines” for professional consultants to examine aspects of “traditional masculinity” — including stoicism and aggression — as pathologies that present a danger to both men themselves and society as a whole.
“They said it was guidelines for the psychological treatment of boys and men,” Peterson told Israeli cultural critic Gadi Taub. “That isn’t what it is. It’s a social justice treatise on how you better think, if you’re a psychologist, if you don’t want to be pursued. That’s exactly what it is.”
Taub, quoting psychology scholar David Gilmore, questioned Peterson on whether the social experience of manhood can sometimes rely too heavily on “suppression of emotions” and turn into a constant (and presumably unhealthy) “test of endurance.”
“You’re gonna be facing hard things, man, in your life,” Peterson said. “What’s wrong with the ability to endure? When things are really going badly — and they will — you have the ability to put one god-damn foot in front of the other… And that’s not just a cardinal element of masculinity, though it is in the symbolic sense, it’s a cardinal aspect of the development of a forthright character.”
He added that healthy endurance can be learned with a “sophisticated integration of emotions,” and even noted that he speaks as “an emotional man” himself.
“My proclivity to tears has been overwhelming all my life,” he noted parenthetically.
This proclivity, by the way, was put on display later in the interview, when Peterson spoke about his daughter, Mikhaila. She was the main reason Peterson was in Zurich at the time. Growing up fighting a platoon of diseases, she went to Switzerland to undergo a complex foot surgery. Welling up with tears, Peterson told Taub that he was always adamant not to let his daughter use her own suffering as “an excuse not to do something [she] should have done.”
“You can lose your body and you can lose your soul. And she lost her body, but she didn’t lose her soul. And part of the reason for that we tried to encourage her never to use her illness as an excuse,” he said
Pushing back against social justice dogma in North American academies played a major part in catapulting the Canadian professor (and his Jungian contemplations) to international fame. It also gained him a public reputation, among mainstream media and academics, as a misogynistic troglodyte. But the APA’s Guidelines hit even closer to home for Peterson. His recent bestseller “12 Rules for Life” tackles some of the same social maladies targeted by the APA, including male violence, waywardness, and depression. But rather than impugning manliness, Peterson wants to empower it.
According to Peterson, masculinity only becomes “toxic” when not honed properly. Men yearn for a sense of purpose, he argues, which can best be attained by learning how to take responsibility on their own lives. But by treating masculinity as categorically harmful, the APA replaces personal responsibility with a language of victimhood (in which men play both victims and victimizers).
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Peterson went further: Fatherlessness, he posited, is the “biggest risk factor for long-term delinquency, anti-social behavior, and violent criminality.” (An assertion that is generally borne out by Department of Health statistics on poverty, crime, and school drop-out rates.) How then, Peterson challenges, can the APA suggest that harmful male behavior is socialized by other men, if it’s in fact in “families with no fathers that everything falls apart?”
Peterson added that by playing with their fathers, boys get not only to exert their aggressive tendencies, but also to learn when and how to limit and “regulate” them.
“They don’t cover that in that damn [report],” Peterson said in the interview with Taub, which took place in Zurich last month. “That [report], it’s absolutely scandalous what they’ve done. It’s not even wrong. It’s anti-truth. It’s worse than wrong.”
(The report does briefly touch the importance of a present father figure, but mostly in encouraging parents “to engage more” with their boys.)
THE FULL INTERVIEW:
As for Taub, though he played devil’s advocate in the interview, he is far from a neutral spectator. Having fought against academic progressivism and post-modernism for nearly three decades, he is regarded in Israel as a provocateur in his own right.
Asked about his own opinion regarding the APA’s Guidelines, Taub said that it must be viewed in the broader evolution of academic “Feminism.”
“Since about the 1980s the dominant streak in Feminism has done away with the traditional female-equals-compassionate argument, Carol Gilligan style,” he told Pluralist, referencing one of the American foremothers of a feminist approach to psychology.
Instead, Taub said, “masculinity-is-violent-and-evil became vogue. The next logical step would be that masculinity would enter the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. Four decades or so after homosexuality was (finally) removed from there.”
“A culture that thinks masculinity is sick had better go to therapy,” he added sardonically.
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