Inside the Alt-Right's Violent Obsession with 'White Sharia War Brides'
According to Marilyn Mayo, senior research fellow at the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, starting around the 1960s, white supremacist groups in America argued that feminists organizing to upend traditional gender roles “were all Jews trying to create a different paradigm and weaken white men.” Alt-right supporters employ this same narrative today to explain hatred of trans women: A post from far-right rag Daily Stormer about a young trans girl, for instance, suggested, “Jews did this," and Discord (historically a preferred chat platform for the alt-right) logs point to a transmisogynistic obsession with genitalia.
But more pointed, contemporary calls on the far-right to “have white babies” are steeped in a newer mix of anti-blackness, anti-semitism, misogyny, and a eugenicist notion that the white race is and must remain pure in order to “repopulate.”
One month after my experience in Charlottesville, a Twitter account that appeared to be associated with Patriot Front propositioned me to “have his white babies.” Samuwell Haididi—who also appeared to be affiliated with Facebook accounts that belong to a man by the name of Cody Coombs—suggested I “might be fuckable” as long as I weren't Jewish.
As Donna Minkowitz, who writes and researches white nationalism for Political Research Associates explained in an interview, such advances are colored by the fact that many of the men recruited into modern white nationalist movements were radicalized online. She pointed in particular to the “Manosphere,” the network of message boards and blogs where men discuss masculinity and the sexual conquest of women—not always in ways that encourage or condone violence, but often so.
"I laugh at the death of normies": How incels are celebrating the Toronto mass killing
April 24, 2018 Rachel Janik
"That moment when this random dude killed more people than the supreme gentleman Elliot. I hope this guy wrote a manifesto because he could be our next new saint."
After Alek Minassian’s Toronto van rampage that left 10 dead and 15 injured Monday, speculation abounded about his motive. The 25-year-old suspect had not been on the radar of law enforcement, and authorities said the killings “were not national security related.”
Then a Facebook post emerged from what appeared to be Minassian’s account. Posted the day of the attack, it hints at an unsettling motive.
“Private (Recruit) Minassian Infantry 00010, wishing to speak to Sgt 4chan please,” it reads. “C23249161. The Incel Rebellion has already begun! We will overthrow all the Chads and Stacys! All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!”
At first glance, the language in the post invites a healthy dose of skepticism. Considering the enthusiasm with which internet trolls spin false narratives after a tragedy, this claim was met with caution. But recent reports suggest it is, in fact, authentic. Multiple news outlets say Facebook representatives have confirmed the veracity of the post, and Toronto Police in a press conference today indicated they also believe it is authentic.
And what the post suggests – that Minassian was part of the “incel” community – bears further explanation.
“Incels,” or “involuntary celibates,” are part of the online male supremacist ecosystem. The Southern Poverty Law Center added male supremacy to the ideologies tracked on the hate map this year, because of the way these groups consistently denigrate and dehumanize women, often including advocating physical and sexual violence against them. On the internet, the male supremacist ideology takes a few different forms. One of the newest forms is “incel.”
Incels grew out of the pick-up artist movement, which purports to offer men strategies to persuade, pressure, cajole or trick women into sleeping with them. When those strategies (or “game”) unsurprisingly proved unsuccessful for many men, they became deeply bitter. To an incel, sex is a basic human right for all men. So the women who deny them that right are committing a heinous — and punishable — crime.
Elliot Rodger provides the most chilling example of the most violent ends of this nihilistic, spiteful and self-centered ideology. He killed six people and injured 14 others in a mass shooting in California in 2014. He wrote a manifesto blaming women for his loneliness and the fact that he was still a virgin. “I'm the perfect guy and yet you throw yourselves at these obnoxious men instead of me, the supreme gentleman,” he wrote.
Incels see Rodger as their patron saint. They celebrate his tactics, his body count and, of course, his manifesto, and write wistfully of a violent uprising yet to come. They glorify Rodger’s attack using the shorthand, “going ER.” After last year’s horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas, incels on Reddit praised Paddock for killing “normies,” and hastened to claim him as one of their own in the absence of a clearer motive. Shortly after, the r/incel subreddit was banned from the platform.
With the revelation Minassian may be a Rodger admirer, the incel community is alight – some with indignation, but most with glee.
"That moment when this random dude killed more people than the supreme gentleman Elliot,” said user Crustaciouse on incels.me, where many flocked after the Reddit ban. “I hope this guy wrote a manifesto because he could be our next new saint."
Users cheered the fact that Minassian killed more people than Rodger. A person with the username Letting Go opined that the women of Toronto deserved what they got.
“As someone who visited Toronto at the beginning of the month, I can see how a man from that city could be driven to kill a bunch of people like that. The women up there are HORRIBLE -- even the ethnic women. It would brighten my day if the majority of the victims were young cunts like the ones that I encountered on my trip.”
Letting Go was jubilant when the identity of the first victim, a young woman, was revealed. “It’s a foid!” they said. “I have one celebratory beer for every victim that turns out to be a young woman between 18-35.”
“Foid” is short for “femoid,” a term popular with incels that combines “female” and “humanoid,” suggesting women are not fully human, just humanlike.
Some users were less wordy. User mikepence begged, “PLEASE BE TRUE PLEASE BE TRUE PLEASE BE TRUE.” KyloRen said simply, “Joyous day.”
BlkPillPres wrote, “ER doesn’t always have to be violent, it just needs to be strategic and punish normies in some way, they need to be in constant fear for EVERY ASPECT OF THEIR LIFE, killing normies from my perspective is kinda pointless but this is still good, I prefer acid attacks to mass killings though, wonder who is going to do a ‘mass acid attack.’”
When one user rained on the forum’s bloodthirsty parade, asking why posters were praising murder, user FeminismsCancer replied, “Are you serious? The murder of our enemies will of course be praised. It’s rational.”
Incels.me had another thread, this one less certain: “The Facebook post allegedly made by the Toronto Van Attacker is most likely fake.”
Here, users bemoaned the fact that this narrative of the attack would be used against them, some fearing that a newer incel subreddit, a slightly less vicious replacement called r/Braincels, would soon be banned. In an r/braincels Discord chat, Incel Executioner said, “We're about to be holocausted lads.”
A moderator of r/Braincels posted a disclaimer once speculation began heating up, stating the subreddit “does not support, encourage, or glorify any violence or physical harm, or those who commit such crimes.”
“It’s 100% fake news, i think we as a community have the rigth (sic) to sue the media,” said use Ub2w, whose signature reads “Eugenics = Utopia.”
Chadmarco added, “I want it to be true for the lulz.” And user Total Imbecile complained, “Im (sic) 99.9999% sure its fake, but you just have to love how everyone is so eager to bash ugly males, they dont (sic) even care that its fake at this point it seems, theyre (sic) out looking for whatever reason to shit on us.”
Details about Minassian and his involvement with incels are still emerging. He was charged Tuesday with 10 counts of first-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder, and he will return to court on May 10.
Meanwhile, the misogynists at incels.me continue their feverish discussion. User Crustaciouse began their own thread this afternoon, titled, “I laugh at the death of normies. They will die while we survive.”
“Us incels spend most of our time inside, there's no way we would ever be victims of an attack.
But normies must now live with fear for the rest of their lives, they can't go to school, the mall, or on a date without having to fear another incel attack,” they wrote. “And they should fear it, this is what happens when you leave us without any love or companionship.”
How Reddit Is Used to Indoctrinate Young Men Into Becoming Misogynists
Amid a global conversation about sexual assault, a group of men complaining about their "involuntary celibacy" have lost their central platform.
In the r/incels subreddit, young men wrote about how they couldn’t find women to have sex with. The subreddit, which had 40,000 users a week ago, was a casually misogynist forum that compared women to Nazis and so-called “Incels” to Jews, posited that rape is “just sex” and argued that we need to include “reverse rape”— not having sex with someone—in the #MeToo conversation.
But it wasn’t until last week that the sub was banned for violent content, shortly after a young man turned to the forum to talk about his roommate, who he called “suicide fuel.” The user said it was painful to see his roommate, a “better human being,” have a girlfriend and talk about his close-knit family. Other members jumped in to offer advice to this man about his attractive roommate, a so-called “Chad” in incel speak. They encouraged and instructed the poster to castrate his roommate.
'Involuntary Celibates' Want You to Think They're Victims. They're Anything But.[T]he incel subculture … takes the bitterness and sadness we sometimes feel when faced with sexual and romantic frustrations and turns this misery into a mode of being. …
Incels hate women, yes, but they hate themselves nearly as much, and the incel subculture not only encourages both kinds of hatred, but it teaches them that there is no way out. This is what makes the incel subculture so poisonous to everyone it touches. It has transformed young men dealing with depression — or simply the ordinary unhappiness of life — into a veritable underground army of angry, bitter misogynists who feel they have nothing to live for and have no hope of improving their lives in what they see as our “gynocentric” society.
If these young men aren’t stopped, there will be more horrors like what we saw this week in Toronto, if not worse. In the forums on incel hangout Incels.me, some are already hailing Minassian as a hero, and looking forward to the next wave of incel terror attacks.
Can the radicalization of ‘incels’ be stopped?
[I]f appeals to shared humanity are out, is there anything else we can do? We may not be able to win back those who have plunged too deeply into the incel rabbit hole, but we can take steps to limit their ability to recruit new members. Incels aren’t born; they’re made. Sure, most new incel recruits start out embittered and lonely. But they are radicalized by their incel peers on a relatively small number of message boards devoted to the incel ideology.
So we should take a page from the anti-fascist activists who’ve done so much to kick back against the so-called “alt-right” over the last year – not only by confronting the fascists in the streets but also working diligently behind the scenes to take away their platforms online.
Toxic Masculinity Is at the Heart of This Darkness
The two biggest massacres in the last 40 years of Canadian history have been explicitly linked to misogyny.
From left to right, Alek Minassian and Elliot Rodger.
Misogyny seems to be the source of the poison well this violence draws on. But all these toxic streams—white nationalism, fundamentalist religion, gun fetishism, whatever—do the same work: They link masculinity and power with anger and violence in a way that promises an illusion of mastery and control to men who feel they have none.
There are some illuminating comparisons you can make with the case of Alexandre Bissonnette, the Quebec City mosque shooter. His crime was overdetermined—court documents describe a young man losing himself to alcoholism who initially considered shooting up a mall—but nonetheless, a clear expression of the conspiratorial Islamophobia Bissonnette was quaffing from far-right Twitter.
I am not here to make the case that there is a new crisis in masculinity, or that we need to take special focus on redeeming our Millennial “lost boys”—the losers of a changing social hierarchy who posted once on 4chan as teenagers and turned into neo-Nazis as adults. It is more worthwhile to think about this as a problem of nihilism. The incel case is a good example.
The committed incel is one who believes that the sexual (and thus social) world is determined by rigid genetic and biological hierarchies. The common understanding is that incel anger stems grow out of their perception that they do not receive the sexual gratification they are entitled to by virtue of their place on the social pyramid, largely because feminism and the sexual revolution and multiculturalism and cultural Marxism and blah blah have encouraged women and minorities to usurp the natural order of things. (Elliot Rodger’s manifesto is primarily misogynist, but it also shows a preoccupation with the impropriety of race-mixing, something which aggrieved the mixed-race shooter to no end.)
This social corruption must be resisted and overturned (e.g. Men’s Rights Activists, other garden-variety sexists, etc.) or its gynocratic social-sexual system otherwise completely abandoned by self-actualized hermits (e.g. men going their own way). It goes without saying that this fixation on disruptive feminine chaos and the restoration of manly order is also the root of why so many sad men get aggressively into Jordan Peterson.
When a Mass Murderer Has a Cult Following
It’s been nearly four years since Rodger killed six (and then himself) in a rampage in Isla Vista, California — an act that he saw as an act of “retribution” against the women of the world, those “mean, cruel and heartless creatures” who had collectively rejected him, according to his lengthy manifesto, My Twisted World. But the cult of “Saint Elliot” — as his more fervent fans like to call him — is still going strong.
Elliot Rodgers, also known simply as ER by his admirers, has emerged as the patron saint of online misogynists. His likeness has inspired countless memes that straddle the line between lulzy irony and utter sincerity (one widely circulated picture depicts him as a literal saint, his face Photoshopped into a religious painting). ER’s admirers on 4chan and Reddit also celebrate “Saint Elliot Day” on May 23, the anniversary of his murder spree. Others write strange tribute songs to honor their murderous hero. There are Elliot Rodger T-shirts, and Elliot Rodger T-shirt unboxing videos.
The Time For ‘Incel’ Explainers Was Years Ago
A photo of Renuka Amarasingha, one of the 10 people killed in a van attack in Toronto last month. The man accused of the attack left behind a manifesto that declared the start of the “incel rebellion.”
In addition to glorifying mass killers, incels often try to claim them as their own. On Incels.me, they hailed the alleged Parkland shooter as “our savior St. Nikolas Cruz,” making much of the fact that the killings took place on Valentine’s Day, aka “this day of incel exclusion.” Recently, incels declared the accused Austin package bomber to be “Elliot Rodger 2.0” and a “Unabomber incel.”
Now, they’re celebrating Minassian as their newest “saint.” One prolific Incels.me commenter has posted a picture of a makeshift shrine he had constructed to honor the accused mass killer; another urged his fellow incels to “spread [Minassian’s] name, speak of his sacrifice for our cause.” Still others hoped the Toronto attack would usher in a new wave of attacks on “normies” that might include mass rapes and acid attacks alongside more traditional mass killings. “[N]ormies … need to be in constant fear for EVERY ASPECT OF THEIR LIFE,” declared one incel terrorism enthusiast.
In the “manosphere” ― as the world of online misogynists is sometimes called ― incels aren’t the only ones who have been talking terrorism. Many in the “Men’s Rights” movement, including some of its best-known names, canonized a fellow MRA named Thomas Ball who took his own life by lighting himself on fire outside a family court in Keene, New Hampshire, in hopes of inspiring other men to “start burning down police stations and courthouses,” as he put it in a rambling manifesto.
The “Men’s Rights” blog A Voice for Men ― recently and rightly designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center ― hosted Ball’s terrorist manifesto in the “activism” section of its website for years, censoring only the portion of the manifesto in which Ball gave specific advice on how best to construct Molotov cocktails. The blog quietly removed the manifesto after the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.
“Females want to be preyed upon.” It Came From the Unapproved Comments, Part 237867
Don’t be so PC. There’s nothing wrong with this. It’s good confidence training for young dudes or these InCel/PUA types. And it’s harmless fun for the rest of us.
The truth is, most women/girls get a little bit of a rush from it. It’s a controlled dose of fear/danger/excitement. Like a roller coaster. It’s similar to flirting. Males need to hunt. To be predators. And females, deep down, want to be preyed upon.
I do a version of this by walking very, very quietly as I come up behind a female startling her. Or when I hear the distinctive sound of high heels around a corner, I’ll time my pace so that as soon as she makes the turn I’ll be right there. The fact that I’m fairly tall and bearded with an imposing presence makes the impact more intense.
That moment when her heart skips a beat… when she inhales and momentarily freezes… It’s something primal for both of us. I’ve mastered how to look menacing without doing anything overtly improper. I won’t apologize or give her a smile or say something or give any of the non-verbal cues she’s looking for to signal everything’s OK. I’ll just stare and drag that moment out a bit too long.
Then I keep moving. Maybe next time, sweetheart. I know the female walks away with a little bit of a buzz just like I do.
“The Incel Rebellion”
Movement Misogyny Delivers Another Massacre
Rodger was hardly the first man in the United States or Canada to commit mass violence against women because of his sense of aggrieved entitlement. In 1989, 25-year-old Marc Lépine killed 14 female engineering students at École Polytechnique in Montreal (which had rejected his application), leaving a note declaring, “I have decided to send the feminists, who have always ruined my life, to their Maker.”7However, Rodger’s attack was distinguished by his known connections to male supremacist online forums. He frequented r/ForeverAlone, a subreddit forum for incels, and r/TheRedPill, a forum founded in 2012 at the intersection of the existing Men’s Rights Activist (MRA) and Pickup Artist (PUA) or “seduction” communities.8 MRAs claim that men are oppressed by feminist society, venturing into conspiratorial thinking. Pickup artists teach men “game”: tips and strategies for picking up women that include demeaning and “negging” them, and advocate techniques that frequently amount to rape.9While little studied before the shootings, in 2014, misogynist online Reddit forums ranged from 30,000 subscribers (r/ForeverAlone) to almost 200,000 (r/seduction); today, r/TheRedPill is one of the largest, with over 250,000 subscribers.
Rodger also posted regularly on PUAhate.com—a messaging board for failed pickup artists—which he credited with confirming “many of the theories I had about how wicked and degenerate women really are.”10 (After his attack, PUAhate was renamed Sluthate, a change viewed as seeking to avoid the spotlight Rodger put on the website; however, it also shifted focus from railing against PUA lessons to simply hating sexually active women.) His posts included a rallying cry to fellow incels: “If we can’t solve our problems we must DESTROY our problems…One day incels will realize their true strength and numbers, and will overthrow this oppressive feminist system.”11A similar revenge fantasy has been referred to on 4chan—an online forum that has become a major gathering place for the growing Alt Right umbrella of White and male supremacists—as the “beta uprising.”
Since 2011, a similar revenge fantasy has been referred to on 4chan—an online forum that has become a major gathering place for the growing Alt Right umbrella of White and male supremacists, and to which Minassian pretended to be reporting in his Facebook post—as the “beta uprising.”12 Some incels admiringly also use the phrases “going ER”—as in “going Elliot Rodger”—or “going Sodini” (the latter of which was coined after another aggrieved, sexually inactive man, George Sodini, opened fire in 2009 at a fitness class full of women, killing three and leaving a year’s worth of sporadic online journal entries describing his motivations13) Christopher Sean Harper-Mercer, a 26-year-old who killed nine people at Umpqua Community College in Oregon in 2015, referenced Rodger in what the Los Angeles Times described as “a script of his life to convince the public and media that the killings were the result of his mistreatment by others, and that he was merely seeking revenge.”
MGTOWs: We don’t hate women! Also MGTOWs: Learning to hate women is the best thing to happen to me!
How MGTOWs see themselves .NOTE: No one else sees them this way.
Returning to the topic of hating women – it is the best thing to have happened to me because, I think, that women are a disappointment regarding virtues. They’ve been sold as a panacea for all of men’s ills (she will civilize you, make you food, clean your house, give you a moral foundation, massage your sore muscles, listen to your problems, blah, blah, blah). The Woman TM wonder-drug is like heroine [sic] … pretty soon you’re spending all your time and money supporting a drug habit.
And, make no mistake, love is a drug. Love will blind and stupefy a man into taking a bad deal.
Think about the following; nature endowed men with a survival advantage for using their wits in a hunter-kind-of-way. …
The love-drug lowers a man’s IQ to that of the woman (or lower). All that beautiful women see are idiot men. When the men leave the women they become expert hunters and survivors who have brought nature herself into submission, and cracked the very atoms which constitute the [or “a”] fabric of our material existence. Men are smart, but not around women.
Hating women has reversed that weakness which was required to continue the species.
Hating women has made me a stronger person… because, let’s face it – there’s a lot to hate, and women make you weak. …
Women love powerful men, and fuck them readily… and if a man (unburdened by women) is free to excel due to his natural advantages and without his natural inhibitions … then he becomes the “alpha” male – women reactively lubricate their vaginas and accelerate ovulation toward the man who has become strong thereby, and their husbands become jealous. …
The freedom and strength is too great of a reward not to raise a middle finger toward those cucks and tell their whores to fuck off.
My life is too great to give up. And hate (toward such an ugly thing as woman/white-knights) can be the most healthy response a man can have.
Alex Jones and his co-hosts have a misogynistic obsession with lesbians
Alex Jones: “All they want is for us to submit to them”
CRISTINA LóPEZ G.
Anyone watching Infowars long enough would notice host Alex Jones’ remarkable obsession with a very specific subset of the global population: lesbians. Jones’ unhinged tirades about innumerable topics have rightfully made him a target for online mockery and the protagonist of numerous internet memes. But there’s something more sinister than funny in the way that Jones and some of his guest co-hosts depict, mock, and dissociate from lesbians to Infowars’ hundreds of thousands of viewers.
Jones’ guest co-hosts -- including Gavin McInnes, founder of the chauvinistic fraternal organization Proud Boys, Infowars contributor Owen Shroyer, and anti-feminist troll Milo Yiannopoulos -- mimic his hateful rhetoric. That treatment ranges from sexist, sophomoric mocking of lesbians for their supposed appearance to the dangerous perpetuation of the absurd idea that lesbians are depressed because they need a man or have turned to women after having a “bad experience with men in their life.”
Jones shows no qualms about trivializing traumatic issues like child abuse when he asserts that women become lesbians because “daddy beat her up.” He has also used violent imagery to describe romantic and sexual relationships between women, including saying, “If they can’t find a man to smack them around, well, they found them a girl going to do it real good, knock them upside their head.” Jones has even openly suggested he could be personally violent against lesbians too:ALEX JONES (HOST): We could take on 500 of you in physical combat, but see, that isn’t what matters -- they’ve got the media and they’ve got our good will and they’re gonna program us. All they want is for us to submit to them.
Beneath his rhetoric lie toxic elements of misogyny and male supremacy. Jones claims that lesbians “want all the women for themselves,” which both implies that men are entitled to women and that women are not autonomous beings with the capacity to make their own decisions about which individuals they choose as partners. He also claims lesbians “want to be the guy smacking the hot chick around,” reinforcing erroneous assumptions that lesbian relationships follow heterosexual gender roles while trivializing violence against women by saying “some women like it.”
Jones’ rhetoric could have the effect of poisoning his audiences’ perceptions of the queer female community, by directly pushing for the further marginalization of a minority that continues to fight for equality under the law.
Someone Please Tell the Times That Incels Are Terrorists
I first heard the term “incel” in 2014, when that community rose up to celebrate Elliot Rodger’s gruesome killings of nonwhite men and sorority women. (To this day, on incel message boards, Rodger is hailed as a figure to emulate, quite literally in the case of Minassian; to “go ER,” in incel speak, is to murder strangers who seem “normie” — or “normal.”) When I plunged headfirst into incel spaces for research purposes, I encountered a bewildering thicket of terminology. Like all jargon, it seeks to separate the in-group from outsiders; in this case, it exists to prop up and flesh out an elaborate worldview in which incels — primarily white young men who are virgins — are victims, subject to unimaginable oppressions by an array of outside forces, who unite online not only to commiserate, but to give vent to a venomous anger that lives just beneath their thin scrim of woe. Thus the world is divided into “Chads” (sexually successful men), “Beckys” (not conventionally attractive but sexually successful women), “Stacys” (conventionally attractive and sexually successful women), “femoids” (female humanoids, a dehumanizing term for women), “foids” (a foreshortened version of “femoids”), “manlets” (short men), and those who are “blackpilled,” i.e., those who subscribe to incel ideology. There are also elaborate categorizations of female attractiveness by ethnicity, and screeds against “Tyrone” and “Chang” — black and Asian versions of “Chad,” respectively. In other words: It’s kind of fucked up over there.
Homer and Hatred: On Jordan Peterson’s Mythology
By Adam Novy
Jordan Peterson is a Canadian psychologist, academic, and the author of two books. But the real heart of his work is a seemingly bottomless well of three-minute YouTube clips and the discourse this ouvre has sparked in alt-right breeding grounds like Reddit, 4Chan, 8Chan, Voat, Gab, and gaming sites like Twitch and Discord.
Peterson likes to present himself as a kind of shamanistic unifier in professor’s robes. His school of magic is Jungian analysis, a mode of psychotherapy that, broadly speaking, explores the deep ideas of the brain, and how they might be driven by ancient mythic archetypes. Every therapist scans a patient’s speech for truths the patient might not know, but for Peterson, such truths are rooted in a mutual unconscious that connects us like a psychic spider web, which began to form before the birth of Christ and has been adding to itself ever since. Our motivations may seem irresistible, yet ultimately unknowable to us, though Peterson can decipher them, of course.
A big thing Peterson talks about is the mythopoeic role of women in our psyches. Chaos, he explains, is, “the eternal feminine.” And, “The thing we do not understand is that chaos gave rise to culture. If the structure of culture is disrupted, unwittingly, chaos returns. We will do anything — anything — to defend ourselves against that return.” It’s a little unclear just whom he means by “we.”
For Peterson, the purpose of our politics and books and films and TV is to protect us from the feminine, which is a crazy and destabilizing energy. Certain culture is good for the brain and certain culture is bad, making you antisocial and destructive. Peterson loves both Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, stories in which men save sleeping women with a kiss, and hates Frozen, a film in which Prince Hans turns out to be the bad guy. Frozen has “no understanding whatsoever of the underlying archetypal dynamics,” he explained in Time this year. We must tell the same ancient story over and over, Peterson says, or we will all go insane.
It seems he feels the effect of feminine chaos everywhere. On Joe Rogan’s podcast, he says today’s world could be “what a female totalitarianism would look like.” He calls for a return to “mythology,” which will re-stabilize us in these times of great uncertainty. But for someone apparently obsessed with the power of myth, Peterson does not include a single collection of myths among the books he says are most important to him, a list of which appears on his web site. (For what it’s worth, here is the Peterson canon: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, 1984 and Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell, Crime and Punishment and Demons by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Beyond Good and Evil by Friederich Nietzsche, Ordinary Men by Christopher Browning, The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinski, The Rape of Nanking by Iris Chang, The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksander Solzhenitzyn, Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl, Modern Man in Search of a Soul by Carl Jung, Maps of Meaning by Jordan B. Peterson, A History of Religious Ideas by Mircea Eliade, Affective Neuroscience by Jaan Panskepp.)
People are always the same, he implies; women are always crazy and men are always trying to keep them in line. If we read myths through his quixotic Jungian lens, he says, we can learn to navigate the chaos — that is, the over-feminization — of our times. There is a larky whimsicality to this thought, an almost charming Da Vinci Code-style theory-of-everythingness, a yearning for magic answers.
By “mythology,” Peterson means the canon of western literature, especially the old stuff. Can mythology really be read through Peterson’s lens? Are women always chaos in, say, Homer? A decent place to find an answer to this question might be The Odyssey. I would begin with The Iliad, but there are not so many women in The Iliad, a book in which the vanity of men creates enough bedlam on its own.
The Odyssey turns out to be a bad tool for essentializing gender. Here are some facts about Penelope, Odysseus’s wife: She performs innumerable functions that are normally the providence of kings and achieves them without being “chaotic.” She smothers fights among her suitors, interrogates her visitors, and is compared to a lion, which is a metaphor, critic Helene Foley tells us, typically reserved for heroic men.
It’s not just women who are show diversity in the poem. The weapon Odysseus uses in his rampage at the end, the longbow nobody can string but him, has a double-life in the poem as a lyre, the musical instrument storytellers played in Homer’s time: “Odysseus strung the great bow. Then plucking it in his right hand he tested the bowstring and it gave him back an excellent sound like the voice of a swallow.” Nature, narrative, action, tools, and even intention are woven together, into one poetic substance. This multiplicity itself is a rebuke to Peterson’s essentializing vision, and puts a deeply non-Petersonian — one might say almost postmodern — irony in the marrow of the poem.
The Odyssey is a book of disguise and posturing and motion. Odysseus keeps changing his identity depending on the context. Penelope the queen acts like a king, the boy Telemachus acts like a man. Nothing is where it should be and the signifiers are floating on the never-ending sea. Once the suitors have been killed, Odysseus and Penelope must perform a series of artificial gestures before they can re-claim their bed together. Helene Foley speaks of how Odysseus must engage in a “long recourting” of his wife. He tells the bard to sing, so people will think they’re having a wedding, and will not know the suitors have been killed. It’s a pretty significant asterisk on Peterson’s notion of myth to say his system works on everything but Homer, but the dull way Peterson thinks about “meaning” makes him too impatient for exacting work of actual close reading.
Is there anything at all in the western canon that supports his big assertion that women are chaos and men are order? How about Macbeth? Yes, there are witches in Macbeth, who provoke at least two people — Macbeth and his wife — to do appalling things that might be referred to as “chaos.” The energy of the witches, the mist of treachery that suffuses all of Scotland in the play, might be attributed to those three evil women, if not to woman herself. Can we separate the energy of the witches from the evil they inspire in Lady Macbeth? This is probably in the eye of the beholder. My own reading of Lady Macbeth’s “Unsex Me Here” speech is that she hates herself the way the patriarchy wants her to, having internalized its message:
Come, you spirits
That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here,
And fill me from the crown to the toe top-full
Of direst cruelty! make thick my blood;
Stop up the access and passage to remorse,
That no compunctious visitings of nature
Shake my fell purpose, nor keep peace between
The effect and it! Come to my woman’s breasts,
And take my milk for gall, you murdering ministers,
Wherever in your sightless substances
You wait on nature’s mischief! Come, thick night,
And pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell,
That my keen knife see not the wound it makes,
Nor heaven peep through the blanket of the dark,
To cry ‘Hold, hold!’
(Macbeth Act 1 Scene 5)
Lady Macbeth is praying to evil forces that she hopes will purge her sympathy for Duncan, the king she’s about to kill, who is both a man and a symbol of order. Another thing she wants to stop is “visitings of nature,” which suggests that nature would make her sympathetic, and keep her from killing Duncan. This is bad news for Peterson, who argues that women are everything he fears about nature. “The woman is the gatekeeper to reproductive success,” he said. “And you can’t get any more like nature than that, in fact it’s the very definition of nature.”
Lady Macbeth explicitly voices a hate for her own female anatomy — “blood” and “women’s breasts” — that might be culturally learned, or might be unique to her, we do not know, though it certainly looks cultural, especially since she calls her breasts “women’s breasts,” which suggests that she feels separate from them, and alienated from the physical reality of her own femininity. This is not a girl enduring adolescent transformation, it’s a woman who’s estranged from her own body. She probably learned to think this over time. She asks to not be able to see what she’s going to do — “…pall thee in the dunnest smoke of hell / That my keen knife see not the wound it makes…” — so her “knife” won’t have to focus on its actions. Even objects are connected to her now; she’s like a Harraway-style cyborg. Sad and frightened now, she fears who she is trying to become.
Shakespeare sympathizes with Lady Macbeth; he hates the sin but loves the sinner, in the parlance of our time. And so, in the witchiest passage in all of Shakespeare — a man who, as much as any single person, is a cornerstone of western culture, the very edifice behind which Peterson wants to hide — I find it hard to associate women wholly with chaos. You don’t have to read Macbeth as I have. But you cannot change the way that Lady Macbeth explains herself as an aggregate of ingredients, which argues against the female essence Peterson describes.
If Peterson spent more time with literary texts instead of just throwing them into facile YouTube videos, he might know they do not act as bluntly as he wishes them to act. Literary texts are disco balls, spraying glittery bits of imagery and light in all directions. Peterson’s vision cannot resonate at the level of philosophy or literary criticism, where the rules are too demanding. Where Peterson excels is at the level of carnival-barker chicanery. He’s for people who want to hear that women are bad.
He says in in a video conversation with the podcast host Joe Rogan: “If the proper order of being is violated, then all hell will break loose… stay on the Goddamn path, because if you deviate… if you miss the mark, like the people of Sodom and Gomorrah did, and their sin was grievous, then you risk destruction.” His choice of Sodom and Gomorrah is a cliché of conservative thought. In this construction, the toxic radiance of liberals forces men to shoot up schools and plow their cars into peaceful demonstrations, because “chaos.”
But the past, as he conceives it, never actually existed; all the evidence proves him wrong. In Postmodernism and Consumer Society, Frederic Jameson says nostalgia isn’t a longing for an actual past, but for the media we experienced as children. An example: Star Wars, Jameson says, is not a fantasy of the future, but a longing by George Lucas for the Saturday morning serials of his childhood. This explains its sci-fi western flavor; it’s the future and the past, Buck Rodgers and The Searchers, rolled up into one. Peterson’s own longing, presented in his work as a desire for a mythopoeic unity, a mono-culture that could be dug up from the earth — Mother Earth — and resurrected like a sky-god re-installed in heaven, is in fact a memory of the culture of his youth. This is why his theories work much better when applied to 20th century offerings like Snow White than to Shakespeare or Homer. He has actually seen Snow White.
What this means is that Peterson is a product of the postmodernism he hates. His past is a sanitized and mediated fantasy lived through TV and the Internet — in other words, a simulacrum, that most postmodern of ideas — not a deep connection to a lost paternal plentitude, or the origins of western civilization. Every time he goes on Google, it shows him what he wants to see. He not only uses Youtube all the time, that is where he was created.
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