30th Sep 2019
Who is Jordan Peterson and how has he ended up part of every date, asks journalist Fiona Hyde
When it comes to the murky world of dating, how you and the other person view the world is crucial. Compatibility hinges on having things in common – not just political beliefs, but also styles of communication, shared interests, friends, core values.
Connection is the name of the game, and it usually happens if there’s easy access to common ground.
How we see the world, and what principles and politics we think should drive it, says a lot about us as individuals.
Dating is a strange beast this way – the perceived wisdom is not to discuss contentious topics like religion or politics at the dinner table, but on the flip side, if you’re trying to get to know a perfect stranger over a bite to eat, how else to get the measure of them?
We don’t really need to answer that because more and more men are making this decision for us, via one Jordan Peterson. While many of us have typically been content to chat about ice cream flavours or the worst character in Friends on a first date, many men are now steaming in with nuggets of wisdom directly taken from Dr Peterson.
So, who is he? If this is your first exposure to Peterson, I’ll first apologise for bringing you into all this. Jordan Peterson is a Canadian academic psychologist turned YouTube philosopher, who rose to prominence for his views on political correctness, identity politics, social justice and gender, particularly masculinity. His book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos was a runaway bestseller in the UK, US, Canada, Australia, Germany and France, making him, according to Dorian Lynskey, writing for the Guardian, the “public intellectual du jour”. He has also described as the “Pied Piper” of angry and disaffected men.
There’s no doubt that his proponents find his philosophies helpful, thought-provoking and illuminating. Detractors see him as reductive, sexist, anti-LGBT and a stealth conservative. In a way, the controversy around Peterson embodies the division in popular ideology that brought us to where we are in 2019, and for that reason it’s no surprise he provokes either such ardour or derision.
After experiences of my own experience with Peterson-isms, I put the question out on Twitter: “Has Jordan Peterson affected your romantic life?” The reaction was startling.
Many who contacted me spoke about the number of men on Bumble who list him as a dream dinner party guest, or on Tinder have #TeamPeterson listed in their bios. Three messaged to say they eventually put their anti- Peterson stance in their own bios as a type of screening process, due to the sheer number of men on apps who bring him up. One woman added: “And that only led to men matching with me to try and argue with me about Peterson.”
That’s perhaps the crux of the Peterson/dating issue: it’s not just a difference in opinion, but rather the attitude that demands a debate straight off the bat. There’s something wrong-headed about taking an instantly adversarial approach in an exchange that’s supposed to be, at its core, about getting along well.
Eimear found she had gotten beyond the app stage when Peterson reared his head in her romantic life. “We went for a drink after messaging for a few weeks and Peterson came up in conversation then. I’m not sure how, but I remember him (her date) saying something about how he’s great, and he’s misunderstood. Obviously I disagreed, but he kept calling Peterson a genius and saying he ‘has good intentions and is saying what everyone’s thinking’. Anyway, then he started giving me shi*t saying I wouldn’t get it ‘because of feminism’. So that completely put me off and I couldn’t get it out of my head for the entire night.”
“He did drop it after a while in fairness, but it seemed like he’d never heard anyone say a bad word about Peterson and just didn’t get it. He seemed like an argumentative person in general so I guess that didn’t help. In general, I would definitely steer clear of the Peterson Bros on Tinder, they’re just not worth the time or energy.”
There’s an argument it’s better to know and weed these would-be suitors out quickly. Isn’t it better to find out quickly, rather than hit it off then find out after a few weeks (or even months) there’s a political elephant in the room?
Arguably, however, that’s not really the problem if you’re a woman who faces a constant deluge of this stuff online or in bars and is starting to feel worn down by daily having to defend yourself from bolshy, politically- charged, or even upsetting openers from men you have no interest in. Men who, it seems, are simply spoiling for a row more than anything else.
Trying to connect
Rather than trying to connect, some pockets of Irish men out there are trying to argue their way through a date. It seems like a bad strategy, perhaps leaking into dating apps from other more traditionally argument-driven social media.
Simply put, point scoring about Jordan Peterson is rarely going to be the root of anything more satisfying for you than a few dirty faves on Twitter, not the foundation of a healthy relationship.
So this is a PSA: there are surely to God better ways to find out she’s not The One than badgering her about feminism, trans rights or repeatedly recommending Joe Rogan’s podcast. It might be time to figure it out, lads.
Read more: Modern dating and break-up tactics
Read more: Why dating needs to acknowledge rape culture
Read more: The Tinder trap
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