Review: 12 Rules for Life

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Rule 1 had me in tears. It was about children growing up in less-than-perfect circumstances to become adults unable to deal effectively with bullying. Already I was moved. The writing was clear, the wisdom humbling. I found myself wishing I could go up to 6 stars.

But sadly, the gentle repetition evident in the first few rules soon became overbearing. I’m not sure whether Peterson doubts my ability to understand him the first few times or whether he’s unable to choose the best way of explaining himself, but the effect was the same – I struggled to listen.

Peterson uses sexist language such as ‘the leading man in your own drama’ and we ‘make little avatars of ourselves [then] act like he does in the real world’ and ‘a good therapist will tell you what he thinks’ and the most dramatic of all ‘the role [women] played raising children and working on the farms was still instrumental in raising boys and freeing up men – a very few men – so that humanity could propagate itself and strive forward.’

As for being assured of Freud’s genius ‘because people still hate him’ does that mean that Einstein wasn’t a genius? Or that Hitler was? Or Esther Lederberg wasn’t but George W Bush was?

Rule 7 devolved into a 40-page theology lesson, with an almost complete lack of neuropsychology.

Rule 9 made rape sound like a consenting act between rapist and victim.

Rule 10 advises me to tell a story precisely so a person can identify ‘wheat from chaff’ and arrive at a conclusion for themselves, although Peterson only summarizes this with a vague example. He gives valid advice such as ‘if the conversation is boring, you probably aren’t [listening]’ but without examples on how to enact that listening.

But Rule 11 is downright dangerous. It makes a direct association between anti-patriarchal views and the death of millions of people in the former Soviet Union, China, Vietnam, and Cambodia. Let me say that again in Peterson’s clear and unequivocal words: ‘feminist, anti-racist, and queer theories…are heavily influenced by the Marxist humanists… Marxism was put into practice…the result? Tens of millions of people died. Hundreds of millions more were subject to oppression.’

For page after page Peterson details how hard it is to be a boy in this ‘postmodern’ world, promoting the gender stereotype of women = family, emotions, and home, while men = education, toughness, work, and career.

Ironically, after denouncing those who force facts to fit a viewpoint, Peterson forces the facts of gender-related job statistics to fit his own view. After warning of the dangers of distilling the details he vastly oversimplifies social equality issues.

The rest of Rule 11 is a lecture on the greatness of a patriarchal society, how liberating it is, and holds up two males who are advocates for tampon-use as proof.

If Peterson followed his own rules about ‘pitching [the facts] precisely to the level of the audience’s comprehension’ then I, as a female scientist, am not meant to be his audience. This book is a collection of essays, someone’s challengeable opinions – it is not a handbook for life.

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