Reading Peterson 11 – Notes & Facts & Hypothesis

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12,…

There’s no shortage of notes in Jordan B Peterson’s book 12 Rules for Life but that doesn’t mean every assertion related to facts is referenced. Also, when references are used they aren’t always tightly associated with the argument. Take this for example from chapter 2:

“This is perhaps because the primary hierarchical structure of human society is masculine, as it is among most animals, including the chimpanzees who are our closest genetic and, arguably, behavioural match. It is because men are and throughout history have been the builders of towns and cities, the engineers, stonemasons, bricklayers, and lumberjacks, the operators of heavy machinery.” – Peterson, Jordan B.. 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos (p. 40). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

Now there is a lot wrong with that statement factually but the right reference here, if this was an academic essay, would be to a source discussing historical patterns of employment. Peterson instead links to some modern labour statistics here The tables do use the term ‘traditional occupations’ and ‘non-traditional’ based on proportions of women involves but this is ‘traditional’ in a very loose sense and includes “Meeting, convention, and event planners”. My point here isn’t that the table is wrong of even questioning gendered-roles in employment – just that a lot of references are weak in this fashion. It is vaguely related but not neatly tied to Peterson’s argument.

(This is quite long – so more after the fold)

Now in the copy I have, it is also just prior to this reference that the numbering has gone awry with the references. The list of figures given above is #37 which appears at the end of this chunk of text:

“Our categories are far older than our species. Our most basic category— as old, in some sense, as the sexual act itself— appears to be that of sex, male and female. We appear to have taken that primordial knowledge of structured, creative opposition and begun to interpret everything through its lens.”- Peterson, Jordan B.. 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos (p. 40). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

yet it is the next paragraph that (I think) it applies to. That’s not Peterson’s fault – looks like a copy-editing issue but it makes some of the referencing even harder to follow his argument.

Back to his argument…

A lot of the references that are not just references to a book’s he likes or people expressing related ideas are like the one above – connected to measured differences in gender outcomes. Perhaps by design, perhaps due to his writing style, perhaps due to sloppy thinking or perhaps due to a magical combination of all of those, Peterson fails to pose the competing hypothesis well and connect them to actual facts.

For his benefit I’ll do that:

Peterson is (sort of) arguing that prior to very recent times (he doesn’t give a time frame but let’s assume prior to the 1970s) gender roles and differences in outcomes for different genders have been primarily determined by biological differences that are innate and immutable. I have to say “sort of” because their aspects of what he writes that contradict that and if I were to state that as a hypothesis to him I don’t know if he’d agree or disagree. However, that really, really does seem to be the theme he keeps returning to. I’ll call this the gender-determinism hypothesis – and I’ll concede a non-zero probability that it might be a strawman (erm strawperson?).

In opposition to that is a different hypothesis. This would be that that prior to very recent times (again let’s assume prior to the 1970s) gender roles and differences in outcomes for different genders have been  determined by the interplay of biological differences and changing social structures – where the social structures have tended to favour men and that when technology (or other factors) have changed the nature of the relationship between biology and gender roles, those gender roles have often been slow to change because of preconceived notions of gender roles from the past. I’ll call this the sociological-hypothesis i.e. society and biology interact but they aren’t the same and change doesn’t happen all at once, and social change itself is regulated by social forces (including relative power of individuals and groups).

So an example of the second hypothesis: machinery has reduced the importance of physical strength in many aspects of society, enabling people with less overall physical on average to engage in such roles. However, some of those roles are still seen as gendered for historical reasons and change has been slow as a consequence.

Now look back at that table of numbers – which one of the two hypotheses does it support? If you say “maybe both” then you would be correct. The sociological hypothesis would imply that we’d see gendered employment roles – even for professions that have really only become recognised recently. The gender-determinism hypothesis would also imply that we’d see gendered employment roles.

Let’s add another hypothesis. I’ll call this one ‘straw-feminism’. It goes like this: biology is irrelevant, men are just shits and have conspired to control society, we are all the same and any differences in gender outcomes in society are due to a male plot against women. I don’t know anybody who really believes that and parts of it actually run in direct opposition to some branches of feminist thought. It’s very much a strawman argument but look at that set of figures again. Does it support the ‘straw-feminism’ argument? Yes! straw-feminism would ALSO imply that we’d such outcomes!

How come! Because people aren’t ignorant – each of these hypotheses is trying to EXPLAIN why we see different outcomes for different genders. Consequently, pointing to broad data that shows different outcomes for different genders doesn’t help us evaluate which one of these hypotheses is true.

This is a very subtle form of circular reasoning or begging-the-question. It is subtle because the specific data was not used to construct the hypothesis (so it isn’t literally already accounted for), so if you are already looking at things through the lens of the hypothesis it appears to confirm your belief. So stats like these reinforce the belief in the hypothesis you favour.

This why it is important to focus on what kind of evidence would distinguish the competing hypotheses and you can’t do that unless you’ve properly managed to articulate them. Peterson can’t do either of those things and I doubt he would want to if he could.

Here’s a non-Peterson example. A study was recently done of different earnings for Uber drivers that examined gender differences. The study found that women were earning less than men. There’s a relatively balanced look at it by Freakonomics here and poorly argued account at The Federalist here. The Federalist piece says that the study disproves ‘the pay discrimination myth’ which is like a special treasure for a student of the pathology of informal reasoning like myself. The study literally found a gender pay difference, therefore, it can only CONFIRM pay discrimination (depending on your definition of ‘discrimination’).

What the study does do (and why The Federalist sees it as disproving something) is eliminate a PARTICULAR hypothesis for why you might see pay differences between gender. In this case, the hypothesis that differences in pay must because of active and intentional malice – i.e. something close to the ‘straw-feminist’ hypothesis I mentioned above. What the study doesn’t do is disprove that systemic biases impact pay, it just removes (for one example) active managerial malice as an explanation.

We can see this in other references Peterson uses. For example, he discusses personality differences between men and women and cites studies that use the Big Five measures that confirm differences.

171 “Gender differences in personality across the ten aspects of the Big Five.” Frontiers in Psychology, 2, 178; Schmitt, D. P., Realo, A., Voracek, M., & Allik, J. (2008).

(I picked that one because it is easy to access  but it starts with a weird Bill Cosby quote that the authors must regret now – it’s from 2008)

This study looked at sub-factors of the Big Five and finds gender differences in personality that aren’t observable when looking at the Big Five at a higher level. It finds more differences and that some of those differences are also moderated by ethnicity. It also reports that some differences found in other studies are bigger in some modern Western nations than in some more traditional societies (a point Peterson comes back to also).

However, those differences are still small and the overlap is substantial:

“All of the mean differences we found (and all of the differences that have been found in the past – e.g., Feingold, 1994; Costa et al., 2001) are small to moderate. This means that the distributions of traits for men and women are largely overlapping. To illustrate this fact, in Figure 10we present the male and female distributions from our sample for the trait which showed the largest gender difference, Agreeableness. One can see that both men and women can be found across a similar range of Agreeableness scores, such that, despite the fact that women score higher than men on average, there are many men who are more agreeable than many women, and many women who are less agreeable than many men. Given that Agreeableness showed the largest gender difference in our study, all other traits for which we reported significant gender differences would show even greater overlap in men’s and women’s distributions.”


Even if we assume a strict biological account for these differences, we still can’t get to Peterson’s sharp archetypal division between humans. Imagine, for a moment (and I’m not claiming this is a serious hypothesis) that this difference in Agreeableness was 100% due to the hormone testosterone. It’s famously a ‘male’ hormone but important to the biology of all humans and we all have it – but where would that get us in terms of our two hypotheses for accounting for different gender outcomes? If anything, these small overlapping differences between males and females suggest that we should see small differences in gender outcomes in society.

Look back at that table of professions. The difference in gender proportions for some professions are huge – they are much bigger than the distribution differences in traits like agreeableness. They are bigger than the difference we see as far as height and weight go for gender. That doesn’t disprove Peterson’s hypothesis but it does make it harder to sustain but we knew that already.

Hey, but maybe I am straw-manning Peterson. Maybe he too accepts that its a complex interaction between social and biological forces. I mean, in some ways he MUST believe that – after he thinks your position in a perceived dominance hierarchy can impact levels of a hormone and those hormone levels impact you physically and emotionally AND that you can change your behaviour to impact ALL of those things…but then…why’s that not true for gender differences? All Peterson can do is hand wave at archetypes.

Again, whether by design or by incompetence, Peterson can’t address questions of social change only individual change. So when change is occurring he must attribute this to people trying to change society – even though, if that’s possible it necessarily undermines his own views about how society works.

Changing gender outcomes in higher education is something Peterson keeps coming back to. Of course, he now needs to park his previous claims that differences in outcomes by gender must be due to biology+meritocracy because now men don’t do so well. Again he cites figures but he fails to connect those figures to his argument meaningfully.

For example:

177. See, for example, Hango. D. (2015). “Gender differences in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and computer science (STEM) programs at university.”

(Peterson’s link didn’t work for me but this does – probably site changes since publication)

This study shows that maths proficiency is the major driver in choosing to study STEM courses at university and that women choose STEM courses less often than men. In addition that in high school, based on some measures, men were better at maths than women. Aha! If men are biologically a bit better than women at maths, then even if that overlap is big, then this would explain the difference! Biology wins! Woah, hold on there – NOTHING is that simple.

The study looked at mathematical ability AND perceived mathematical ability and looked at ways of controlling for those. Guess what? The gender imbalance was still there. The report when on to say:

As a result, if more men are found in STEM programs, it is not because they have better PISA scores than women. In fact, even when all measures of mathematical ability are combined in a model, gender differences remain significant. This suggests that the gender difference in the selection of a STEM program at university is due to other, unobserved, factors that go beyond academic achievement, parental interactions and influence, and immigration status. – Gender differences in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and computer science (STEM) programs at university
So it is not maths, it wasn’t even the student’s perception of their maths ability – and it was quite a stretch to see differences in maths coming down to just biology anyway. Peterson only put the reference in because it had some numbers on gender ratios on STEM courses – not because it has any bearing on his point.
It’s actually shortly after this complaint by Peterson:

“Girls can win by winning in their own hierarchy— by being good at what girls value, as girls. They can add to this victory by winning in the boys’ hierarchy. Boys, however, can only win by winning in the male hierarchy. They will lose status, among girls and boys, by being good at what girls value. It costs them in reputation among the boys, and in attractiveness among the girls. Girls aren’t attracted to boys who are their friends, even though they might like them, whatever that means. They are attracted to boys who win status contests with other boys. If you’re male, however, you just can’t hammer a female as hard as you would a male. Boys can’t (won’t) play truly competitive games with girls. It isn’t clear how they can win. As the game turns into a girls’ game, therefore, the boys leave. Are the universities— particularly the humanities— about to become a girls’ game? Is this what we want?” – Peterson, Jordan B.. 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos (pp. 298-299). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.

Yeah, whatever happened to that old meritocracy argument? I think Peterson is close to the truth here – it’s just that he can’t follow through to where that truth points and instead diverts into obnoxious cliches (in the real world women are attracted to friends**). Society is changing but changes in gender roles are assymetric because ‘male’ cultural attitudes haven’t changed as quickly as ‘female’ ones. But that’s not change Peterson likes and therefore that’s bad change rather than just ‘nature’.

Next time: The Conclusion!


**[ And possibly there is a social shift towards ‘friendship’ as a key element in heterosexual relationships:;jsessionid=570CB21DFEF894C20C19CD66607CAA39.f02t03

I say ‘heterosexual relationships not because such things aren’t important in non-heterosexual relationships but purely because Peterson is talking about heterosexual ones (as as we saw in Part 10 doesn’t talk about other kinds)]

34 thoughts on “Reading Peterson 11 – Notes & Facts & Hypothesis

  1. “This is perhaps because the primary hierarchical structure of human society is masculine, as it is among most animals, including the chimpanzees who are our closest genetic and, arguably, behavioural match.”
    Except he already told us that chimpanzee behavior is not a good role model for women, they’re more like lobsters.

    “Girls aren’t attracted to boys who are their friends, even though they might like them, whatever that means.”
    Oh come on, it’s not that hard to figure out.

    “They are attracted to boys who win status contests with other boys.’
    Some are. Some are not.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. That first excerpt seems really weird to me, because I can’t stop imagining burly, manly chimapanzee men working as lumberjacks and city-building.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. It is because men are and throughout history have been the builders of towns and cities, the engineers, stonemasons, bricklayers, and lumberjacks, the operators of heavy machinery.

    Oh, for frak’s sake. Throughout most of human history, women were not ALLOWED to enter many of those fields: first as a matter of law, and then as the laws began to be struck down, as a matter of virulent harassment directed at women who tried to enter these professions, harassment that was designed to drive them away. It’s a little better now, but ask any group of women working in what was (or still is) a male dominated profession, and you will hear horror stories.

    Again, read Delusions of Gender. I’d love to see a debate between Cordelia Fine and this idiot.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. “men are and throughout history have been the builders of towns and cities, the engineers, stonemasons, bricklayers, and lumberjacks, the operators of heavy machinery.”

    The issue with all these charming men who like to argue that women didn’t work in manual labor (not counting making the cookfires and stirring up some oatmeal say,) until the late 20th century is that it is completely historically wrong. Men bought women (girls) from other families (a form of slavery eventually called marriage,) specifically for their labor (and to produce children who would then be labor whatever their gender.) In ancient times, the medieval period, the Renaissance, the industrial ages — all through recorded history — women worked right along side men, including when they were pregnant. They worked in mines, fishing, made bricks and laid them, cut stone, plowing fields, tended and harvested orchards, selling wares, worked on trade caravans, in military operations, digging wells and hauling water, as coopers, chandlers, bakers, weavers, blacksmiths, etc. They mined and panned for salt and gold, made nets and built boats, worked in tanneries, dyers, canneries and laundries, wove baskets and made ceramics, did salvage, worked in lumber camps, ran lighthouses, hunted for fur trading and worked for the big trading companies. They were doctors before there was an official profession of doctors and even after there were official “medical doctors,” they continued to do medicine with and without doctors — and were required to do so by society. (They also eventually worked their way into the official position of medical doctor in the 1800’s.) They worked in thread and fabric mills — men, women, children of all genders — and participated in labor strikes and revolts. They helped build cities, cathedrals, arenas, the capital of the U.S., worked on the stained glass and glazing of windows in those buildings, helped dredge rivers, load and unload cargo, and run ferries. They worked in steel and chemical factories in the modern age. Everybody in a company town worked for the company. They picked crops in the Great Depression along with their children, etc. They invented important scientific advancements and inventions — particularly in technology. Women were the initial computers and when we started having massive computer systems, it was the women who first managed and coded them, as we know.

    We have records, illustrations, paintings, photos, non-fiction and fiction accounts during the time periods of all these time periods — millions of sources that all of this happen. And the “men do everything and build stuff” crowd just keeps asserting it never happened. It’s the same with the white supremacists who keep trying to assert that there were no POC in Europe, despite the fact that half of Europe is majority brown skinned, that Asian tribes kept invading and taking over European countries including the Roman Empire which itself extended way past Europe, that the Middle East not only initially populated and periodically ran parts of Europe but continually had people settle there, that the same went for Africans including several black Caesars of Rome, and so forth. There is picture evidence, record evidence, historical accounts — it’s not hidden history, but they run around terrorizing medieval historians, particularly non-white historians, because the factual evidence bursts their fairy tale.

    Peterson can make what assertions he wants and reference what he likes, but historically, he’s an idiot. Unfortunately, the media will let him say things like above, or that quote in an interview where he asserts that men and women have only worked together for four decades, without challenging that the assertions are easily disproven lies. And you have so many white men willing to pretend their mothers never worked or that the women around them didn’t work, that factory workforces didn’t exist, that men did not expect their women labor slaves to lift a dainty finger to farm the cabbages, milk the cows and make brick and stones for buildings. The men did it all themselves apparently, never mind that historically men were often absent — off working elsewhere and often not coming home, or drafted in armies or going in search of trade, leaving the women to do the farmwork, run the fishing boats, sell the produce, weave the cloth and build and repair the buildings — assuming that is that the women didn’t also have to go traveling in search of work, trade, serving in armies, which they often did, especially when wars, blights and catastrophes destroyed crops or there was more money in work in the cities.

    Whenever someone wants to assert a dominance hierarchy (feudalism), they always say the folks they want to be seen as inferior and lower on the hierarchy are “lazy” and illogical while ruthlessly exploiting them for their labor in service to their supposedly rightful rulers. It’s a shell game, used to create slavery, serfdom, indenture, chattel ownership of family members. And the self-appointed rulers live in desperate fear of revolt, smashing down signs of rebellion and change with violent force and shaming rhetoric, and asserting to others that the “inferior” group must be continually watched and repressed because if they are given the opportunity, they’ll smash the “superior” people into little pieces.

    If women are inferior, if it’s innate, then we can’t beat him, can we? He doesn’t have to assert that a supposed dominance hierarchy exists. But women are temptresses who lead men to their downfalls, he asserts, and create chaos that will mean no buildings are built, and seek to “rule” — like seahorses and preying mantis — and so he must warn white men to be on their guard against us always, to remember how awesome they are with straight spines, supposedly beneficent noblesse oblige, and positive visualization of their superiority. I’m sure that he can find many references for that, as it’s been a common theme whenever someone wants to rally (and profit from that rally,) groups in fear against the threat of their victims loosening their oppression. Except for his use of lobsters, Peterson seems to be a very average member of the breed. Even being a prof doesn’t make him unusual. (Though that he is a therapist is terrifying.)

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      1. Yes, like the movies Norma Rae, Silkwood, His Girl Friday, Adam’s Rib, The Pajama Game, Germinal (as well as the original novel,) Made in Dagenham, Grapes of Wrath, Places in the Heart, etc.

        Movies or real life, it doesn’t really matter to them. You can assert countless facts and they’ll just shrug them off. The important thing is the mythic narrative, and the threat of enforcing it, and when it changes despite those threats, they get scared and start talking about lobsters desperately.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. There are exceptions, to be sure.

          Still, I think movies are where they get their notion of American history as us being this big idealistic melting pot where there were maybe a few bad apples (the crooked Indian agent, the bigot who sees the error of his ways), but people mostly got along, and everyone knew their place, and the minorities were happy, and the natives weren’t bulldozed. The vast majority of movies provided a sanitized version of our history that the Right still clings to and wants to return to, and which never existed outside of Hollywood (and, of course, New York and wherever else movies, radio, and TV shows issued from).

          Otto Bettmann’s book, The Good Old Days: They Were Terrible!, provides a documented antidote to the rosy view of history in terms most anyone could understand. In some ways, those days weren’t even that great for the gilded set (e.g., powdered horse manure dust in the wind that no window could keep out), but that’s not part of the mythic narrative.

          Liked by 3 people

      2. Women have historically worked *less* in *paying* *hard* labour fields. Women have historically been more likely to keep house* while men went outside the home to work. The overlap looks very similar to that agreeableness graph, where it’s obvious to everyone that there’s a larger percentage of overlap than non-overlap, and the average person is squarely in the combined territory.

        I fail to understand how this so often translates from “less” to “not at all”, from “more likely to” to “only ever did”. and on the masculine side from “paid work” to “all work”.

        But even people who look at a graph like that and claim to see what it says then proceed to treat it as if there was no overlap (James Damore, noteably, did exactly that in his infamous google memo. Made much of the huge overlapping section and how the genders aren’t that different, then treated women in his field within the same essay as wild and crazy outliers.)

        * Which people seem to envision as somehow involving mostly bouncing a baby on one knee while lightly stirring a pot, not as extensive and continuous farm labour PLUS child-rearing PLUS cleaning. There’s an entire OTHER rant about this kind of degradation of the labour women do at home and indoors as “not work”, not backbreaking, etc. Just because I use a vacuum and dishwasher and washer-dryer set and get my water from a tap doesn’t make this historically the experience of women doing floor-cleaning, dish-cleaning, laundry and bringing in water to the house.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Your emphasis on *paying* is on the nose, and probably has a lot to do with it. No paycheck? It’s invisible and imperceptible, and therefore seen as irrelevant. Even the folk tales of husband and wife exchanging jobs for a day, illuminating as they are, are quickly dismissed, and the status quo returns like water filling in behind a dropped stone.

          It’s interesting to see the stages between ‘bashing clothes on a flat rock by the river’ and the clothes processor June Lockhart used in “Lost in Space.” There were so many labor-saving devices that still look like a hell of a lot of hard work to me. No wonder everyone who could sent their clothes out for immigrants to wash.

          Liked by 2 people

      3. “Women have historically worked *less* in *paying* *hard* labour fields.” — Only really in the 20th century and mainly in the last half of that, which was partly a matter of the increased shift from an industrial/manual labor/agricultural society to an office/tech society in which women were kept to support staff (because those were the low money positions,) and then wormed their way up against discrimination. Basically, if there was good money to be made from a manual labor job — or an office/tech job — the men would kick the women out, as they did in computers/electronic games, medical for awhile, fishing, oil industry, etc. They didn’t want the competition and they didn’t want women making enough money to be independent, even if they were single, since that meant the single women and mothers weren’t controlled.

        Every time women got a leg up in the work world because it was seen as a low paying, low status job (nursing, teaching,) or because the men were less available at the time, (women working even more in factories, dockyards and building trades than they had before because men were at war in World War II or World War I,) that would improve women’s position in societies. There would then be a backlash where they would insist that women were suddenly too inferior to do those jobs that they had been doing, and which also many of them still did at lower pay. Because the women were seen as a competition threat and because them working at good paying jobs would change their legal and economic status. It was only in the 1960’s and 1970’s that women were able in Western countries to fully remove laws that made them the legal property of their fathers and husbands, and their children fully owned by the man in divorce situations. But people constantly forget that in the 20th century, millions of women worked in factories, lumbar yards, textile mills, canneries, shipyards, etc., as well as the farms and ranches and as servants, housekeepers and nannies. Their participation was simply ignored and the myth that it was men’s work was used to give men the higher pay and promotions, continue their dominance while exploiting female labor.

        For most of the centuries of recorded human history before the modern age, men and women worked the same jobs and children of all genders were put to work as soon as possible. Industrialization turned this into a massive work force. But women were again legally owned by men, so most of their labor was paid to men and men kept all titles, etc. In the ancient times when laborers were mainly slaves, the women slaves worked the same jobs as the guys, including down in the mines again. In medieval times, when the laborers were mainly serfs, same thing — everyone worked hard labor to pay their tithes to the nobles, or if you were in the cities, to the city officials and landlords, of if you were a nun, all the farming and craft work of your nunnery went to the church. That leads to the claim that even though we have records that entire towns built say a cathedral that somehow it was only the guys. And while middle class and working class women freely started businesses, particularly in the middle ages, they were often working for the men who legally owned them as “chattel”, their husbands or fathers, even if the women started the businesses — not just the farms and market stalls, but shops, artisan cotes, smithies, grain mills, doing accounting books, etc. So yes, it was hard labor and it earned money and we have records of it, but the women often weren’t technically “paid.” The men were paid for the women’s labor.

        And when women were perceived as getting to be too competitive, the men would put laws in place to block their opportunities, which is why in the 1700’s and 1800’s, we had laws that banned women from owning property and businesses that those “nasty” SJW activists worked to get overturned in the 1800’s. But until they did, women would just use husbands or male kin as a front. Take Betsy Ross — she may or may not have been involved in making the first U.S. flag, but we do know that she made flags for the Pennsylvania navy and was paid for it. And she and one of her husbands opened an upholstery business. It is highly unlikely that this business was seen as being “owned” by Betsy, even though she ran it and made the pieces. And then of course there were the slaves in the British Empire and then in the U.S. — the women slaves not only did manual labor in the fields, but they were put to work in mills, factories, digging ditches, laying brick, whatever it was their owners needed them to do. And then there’s crime — smuggling, thievery, fraud, piracy, black market fencing, etc. — women have been doing that throughout history as well, often the best way for them to get money.

        Women not working at paying or slave labor is rare in history. It has only been possible during certain time periods and then only for a slim number of women in higher economic social classes of middle class and above. But even then, it’s deceptive. The wealthy women of ancient times, for instance, did not lounge around — they ran orchards and oil and wine presses, did medical care, etc. but of course they didn’t necessarily “own” their wealth — they were usually considered owned property themselves. And the women in the 1950’s did the same thing. If they were able to “stay home” in the U.S. say, they usually did sewing, cooking, laundry, craftwork, accounting work, etc. for cash under the table to help out the family or let rooms as boarding houses or sold eggs from chickens, or again, regularly helped out in their husband’s businesses. All of which children like Peterson then pretty much ignored because it was just what moms did.

        But most women had to work, often hard manual labor jobs — because they were also kept out of education and white collar opportunities in favor of men — and today they still have to work most of the time, especially in countries like the U.S. that like to grind up their populaces in a meat grinder. Peterson’s world does not exist, nor has ever existed anywhere in the world.

        Liked by 4 people

      4. Computing, now the province of insecure boys like Damore manly men, was a low-status woman’s job in the early years. The boys only came in when it started to get easier to do and more money was in play. Obviously these guys didn’t bother to see “Hidden Figures” — computing was so low-status that they had black women do it!

        Even in the “glorious” days of feudalism, when the master of the castle was away fighting other manly men, his wife was at home defending the castle and keeping the whole shebang running as a functional economic unit. Making sure there was food, making sure the serfs of both genders were out there slaving in the fields, etc. etc. Often while pregnant.

        As a kid, I went on a field trip to a reconstructed sod house out on the prairie. They didn’t pretty it up or pull any punches. Every girl in the class was horrified at how primitive the conditions were and how hard it would have been to live that way. And we fully understood why so many of them went completely ’round the bend. All that heavy labor, in a house with no windows, terrible weather year-round, incessant wind, isolation.

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        1. Indeed! I’ve never met my brother-in-law’s parents, but there’s a picture of them on page 15 of this PDF about the ‘ENIAC girls.’ Though they are the stuff of legend to my way of thinking, I’ve been assured that I’m not missing anything by not knowing them. So it goes.

          I used to go to voc-tech (now they call the place Front Range Community College) to almost learn electronics, and we got some parts donated that were probably part of something not wholly dissimilar from those early mainframes, though it’s possible this one didn’t have to be soldered and unsoldered to program. My boss in the stockroom (another student) and I decided right away what to do with the boxes of panel fronts and electronic sub-assemblies: We put them out and told everybody that they could take what they wanted, and we’d toss the rest. My teacher there scurried to save the useless junk, however, and gave us the task of unsoldering the parts, testing and sorting them, and keeping them in the stockroom forever or until the universe collapsed in on itself.

          We snipped the resistors (the assemblies consisted of a vacuum tube with some resistors soldered in between the socket and another set of pins), which left them with leads about a quarter of an inch long, and sorted them into boxes where they may still be, 40 years later. We tested the tubes—tubes that will never in this universe be useful for anything apart from the now-defunct room-size computer [or maybe missile launching system] that they came out of—and learned that when you rotate the heater voltage dial all the way up to 120, the tube briefly becomes a light bulb, and then becomes junk. “This one’s bad,” we would say whenever that happened.

          (I mention missile launch systems because it looks like the sort of panels I saw when we went out to New Raymer with the electronics class to an ordinary-looking brick rancher with a big chain-link fence and guards, out on the prairie, and after a while went down on an elevator platform to an actual missile launch site, deep in the ground.)

          It is indeed shocking to contemplate how rough life was for ancestors of ours not all that long ago. My Texas grandfather dug out a stone one-room cabin for his wife and himself, and when Dad was born, he was raised partly in something like that, partly in a small town, and partly in a tent in Oregon. And I think the generation before them really had it hard.

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          1. What’s really annoying are the people who get nostalgic for when life was hard and people had Real Character And Fortitude (something John Stuart Mill complained about in his own era). William Bennett, for example, gets nostalgic for the grit of the Donner Party and wonders why we no longer have that kind of character. The possibility society is better off we don’t have to eat each other while struggling through a hellish snowstorm doesn’t occur to him.

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            1. There’s an element in there of the initiation effect, where if you have to suffer to join some organization, you’re twice as loyal. What’s weird, though, is that the people who feel that way are the ones who never had to suffer at all, but just heard about it from someone else. Vicarious initiation effect?

              I signed on with nostalgia early, and still suffer some of the effects. (Though not, fortunately, incontinent nostalgia as described by Oliver Sacks.) In recenter times, I’ve come to see that none of the earlier times I’d variously sighed for would have been all that pleasant to be in. Bettmann’s book was a big help in that regard! For some years now I’ve been saying, “Who the gods would make mad, they first make nostalgic.”* My current view is that it can be fun to read about the stuff, and enjoy the artifacts and books and movies and radio shows, without falling for the notion that it would be better to live there/then.

              Dad once told me, seriously, that he believed the American Way of Life had ended around 1917. Conveniently, this was eight years before he was born, so I expect this was the voice of Grand-dad talking. Now, there’s a guy worthy of a whole column here, but let’s not, please.

              *See also: “What the gods would throw out, they first put in the attic.”

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            2. I like your saying.
              I think nostalgia for things like the Donner Party is a kind of Kids Today Are Wimps moral scolding. It comes from the same place as various pundits who celebrated 9/11 because it would force Kids Today to get off their couches, put down the videogame controls and Become Heroes. America would have to achieve things again (achievement in this context never means having a healthy economy or being secure from terrorist attacks). Hooray! And yes, it’s always people who are rich, secure and have no intention of putting their own bodies on the front line. As George Orwell put it, the people who say this stuff never fight; they also see no need to suffer hardship to build their own character.

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      5. My mom always said if it had been up to her to settle the West, the US would have ended at the Mississippi, b/c she wouldn’t have ventured beyond St. Louis. Indeed, her mom was living in a comfortable home at the same time the sod house women were going nuts. She chaperoned all the field trips and was horrified at the “soddy”.

        @Kip: I just learned there’s a sod house in Wheat Ridge that was occupied till 1972! Don’t think it’s the one I went to, though — I remember it being partly a dugout. There was also a one-room school reconstruction. You probably studied the same things in grade school if you were in FC at that age.

        @fraser: We learned about the Donner Party in school (in a solidly Republican district) as a cautionary tale. They were shown to be dumbasses for setting off that late in the year without enough supplies and taking an untested route. Bad planning did them in. Probably led by manly-men who Knew Best and didn’t need no “experts”. Mrs. Donner disapproved of the bad route.


        1. See also: Alferd Packer, and his confident advice and how all that worked out for them. (The Pioneer Museum in Fort Collins used to have a cane that Packer had made while serving his sentence. He eventually got out of prison, an old man, due to a public campaign by Polly Pry and the Denver Post, as seen in Gene Fowler’s immortal Timber Line.)

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      6. @Kip: I used to eat semi-regularly at the Alferd Packer Grill at CU — my older brother graduated and professored there.

        Moral of the stories: Manly Men forging boldly out into trackless wilderness end up dead. And et.


    1. Just recently I read a fascinating book by a social scientist at Northwestern named Robert Gordon, “The Rise and Fall of American Growth”. (Precis: The unique surge in American economic productivity between 1870 and 1970 – and especially, between 1920 and 1970 – was the consequence of the connection of working Americans to a modern utility and transportation grid. Everything since then pales in comparison.) One of the things he points out (of course he’s hardly the first) was how much literally back-breaking labor those stay-at-home wives and mothers did, every single day. One gallon of water weighs about 9 pounds (4 kilos). Prior to indoor plumbing, every single gallon used for cooking, cleaning, and bathing had to be hauled in from outside – and then the wastewater hauled out again. To say nothing of how incredibly arduous tasks like washing clothes were before the advent of automated washers and dryers.

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    2. “And the “men do everything and build stuff” crowd just keeps asserting it never happened……There is picture evidence, record evidence, historical accounts — it’s not hidden history”

      Of all the codology and magical thinking, this is what absolutely makes one tear ones hair out. Facts mean nothing anymore, we can construct our own reality. JP is the the philosopher for the fake news era. Telling people that their lives are meaningless but wait, maybe not really because he happens to have discovered the only way to get some weight bearing meaning into your life through psychic memes.

      Wonderful post Kat.


  5. He didn’t get any action from the girls in high school, did he? And everything he learned in statistics class went out of his head the minute the final exam was over.

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  6. Possibly the place for this:

    aidanmoher DOT com/blog/featured-article/2013/05/we-have-always-fought-challenging-the-women-cattle-and-slaves-narrative-by-kameron-hurley/

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  7. Great stuff in comments above about the prevalence of women’s physical work through history, followed by that odd blip in the third quarter of the 20th Century, at least for white women and men above the lowest status level. I think one factor might be demobilization after WWII, not just as “the men come home and take their old jobs back” because a lot of those jobs didn’t exist before the war. Rather, as a way the PTB dealt with the problem of re-socializing trained killers.

    After World War I, all the combatants saw fascistic paramilitary veterans’ organizations form, very much including the United States. (The early American Legion was explicitly so, and likened itself to Mussolini’s fascisti.) The countries that coped best with the issue were the ones like Britain and France (not as well) that could make these young men someone else’s problem by sending them off to the colonial service to take their impulses out on brown people. The thing is, it is and has always been hard to take the usual inhibitions against violence off huge numbers of young men, put them in organized groups of death-dealers, and then put all the inhibitions back on again afterward.

    It’s at the very least convenient that right as the war was ending there was a new model of manhood – “the breadwinner” – available to replace the “member of a pack of killers” model. And just as with Britain and France after World War I, that success came at the expense of those with less power: colonized peoples in one case, white women in the next. Because Kyriarchy! I do know the US War Department gave considerable thought to the social-psychological imperatives of their demobilization strategy, but I’m not familiar with any scholarship on the gender dynamics of it.

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  8. “Boys can’t (won’t) play truly competitive games with girls. It isn’t clear how they can win. As the game turns into a girls’ game, therefore, the boys leave. Are the universities— particularly the humanities— about to become a girls’ game? Is this what we want?”

    What does this mean though? University is not a fight club. Is the expectation that girls should step aside or hold back because they are upsetting the male dominance hierarchy in the college courses? Or is the implication that the course material itself is changing to benefit girls? I presume that is why he stresses humanities because it would be difficult to argue that chemistry 101 has been feminised.

    The mere presence of women is suggested to be a disrupter. As women constitute half the human race I can’t see why the “humanities” need to be protected from infection. Talking about women in the world, how they lived, what they experienced, how they perceived life is perfectly valid. JP may lament women’s studies courses but also seems resistant to incorporating womens histories/perspective/interpretations into the canon. Maintaining the status quo is an agenda itself and not a neutral position.


    1. Of course all this leaves aside the fact that hundreds of thousands of students are attending school and college together all over the “western world” without chaos ensuing.

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