I regret to inform you that Jordan Peterson is at it again. In case you didn’t receive the memo, the notorious right-wing internet celeb and academic is now the arbiter of women’s beauty.
That’s right – apparently, Peterson gets to declare who isn’t beautiful. Objectively, of course, because his academic credentials in clinical psychology allow him to pronounce on anything and everything without prejudice. He’s just telling it like it is. He giving us the facts. Educating us with his superior intellectual skills and incisive intelligence from him.
Or else, he’s just another bloke judging women and trying to police their bodies.
Yesterday, apropos of absolutely nothing, Peterson quote tweeted an image of Yumi Nu’s Sports Illustrated Cover. Nu, the first plus-size model to feature on the cover of fashion Japan, is one of four women on this year’s Sports Illustrated’s famed Swimsuit edition. She features alongside Grammy Award–winning singer Ciara, model and author Maye Musk, and pop culture icon Kim Kardashian. It was Nu’s appearance of her, however, that seemed to irk Peterson the most.
“Sorry. Not beautiful,” he said. “And no amount of authoritarian tolerance is going to change that.” Well, that told us.
And yet, Peterson seems to believe that his own authority to comment on women’s appearances should be tolerated. Not one for brevity where his own opinions of him are concerned, Peterson pressed home his point with him with two further tweets.
First, I have attempted to dismiss any disagreement by informing us of “the facts”. According to Peterson, Nu’s Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover “is a conscious progressive attempt to manipulate & retool the notion of beauty, reliant on the idiot philosophy that such preferences are learned & properly changed by those who know better… but don’t let the facts stop you.”
In the tweet, he links to a couple of research articles: one from 1998 that discusses how newborns prefer “attractive faces” and another from 2009 titled “Physical attractiveness and reproductive success in humans: Evidence from the late 20th century United States.”
Clearly, Peterson thinks these articles are slam dunk, mic-drop evidence that blow apart any criticism of his social media pronouncements. He refers to these articles as “facts” as if academic research is certain and stable – as if it doesn’t develop over time – and isn’t jus as prone to shifts and trends as… well… perceptions of beauty.
Respondents to his tweet noticed that the articles seem to have little to do with Nu’s cover image, but while they weren’t quite the definitive evidence Peterson suggested, they do expose his lack of self-awareness. He dismisses Nu’s inclusion on the YES swimsuit cover as a patronizing wokeist attempt to change beauty standards. But Peterson clearly sees himself as one of those who “know better.”
Peterson, a professor emeritus at the University of Toronto, uses his academic credentials to lend a patina of validity and reliability to even his most dubious views. “Rage away, panderers,” Peterson replies to those daring to dissent with his assessment of Nu’s cover image. “And tell me you believe that such images are not conscious and cynical manipulation by the oh-so virtuous politically correct.”
But Peterson is a master of manipulation himself. He dismisses the opinions of those who disagree as less intelligent, less educated, less informed. He uses “woke” and “politically correct” as derogatory terms to shame anyone who sees the beauty in Nu’s YES swimsuit cover image.
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For Peterson, though, there seems to be no diversity in beauty, which is, quite frankly, bizarre. Like most cultural concepts, beauty is socially and temporarily located. What’s considered attractive changes over time and across countries and cultures. There’s no single unchanging, universal beauty ideal.
This must be news to Peterson who seems to think that his own preferences should be the prevalent standard… evidence of an over-inflated ego and a misogynistic agenda? Surely not!
Peterson’s tweets are telling. His assumption that it’s his jurisdiction to declare who is and isn’t beautiful betrays his sense of his own elevated status – a status that apparently carries the authority to police the concept of women’s “beauty” to pronounce judgment on women’s bodies.
Don’t fall for Peterson’s stick. His tweets about Nu aren’t evidence of a brave and agile thinker, they’re just the usual boring old body fascism dressed up in an academic’s robes. Sorry, Jordan, that’s definitely not beautiful.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.