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Why did no one try to protest Jordan Peterson at the U of C?

The final keynote at a forum at the University of Calgary last week ended on a chilling note.

“Men cannot oppose pathological women because chivalry demands that they keep their most potent weapons sheathed […. ] sort out your sisters, because no one else can.”

So ended a diatribe by Jordan Peterson — the University of Toronto professor who recently stirred controversy by refusing to address non-binary and transgender individuals by their preferred pronouns — at an event held by the Generation Screwed activist group at the U of C on March 25.

And what was Peterson’s reward for this unhinged speech lamenting the rise of feminism and blaming women for not taking responsibility for the “shrieking harpies” that oppose Peterson’s bigotry? A standing ovation from the crowd.

In addition, Peterson repeatedly used hostile and inflammatory language, making remarks attacking affirmative action and suggesting that equity measures are “genocidal.”

But Peterson’s reception at the U of C was a far cry from what the psychology professor garnered at other speaking arrangements on campuses across Canada. At Hamilton’s McMaster University, protesters drowned out Peterson for the entirety of his appearance. And at the University of Toronto, an event featuring Peterson alongside Rebel Media provocateur Ezra Levant was shut down following protests, including a pulled fire alarm.

When someone proliferating hateful and discriminatory views comes to our campus, some level of protest or debate is important in order to challenge those views.

On Saturday, the U of C had none. That sends the message that this rhetoric is acceptable on our campus.

Peterson spends a lot of time talking about the death of freedom of speech on Canadian campuses. But let’s be clear — someone who requests to be called by a non-binary pronoun is not infringing on anyone’s freedom of speech. Claiming otherwise is nothing more than thinly-veiled transphobia. Giving opportunities to those that have been systemically disadvantaged does not infringe upon the rights of anyone with as much privilege as Peterson. To suggest otherwise is ignorant.

Jason Kenney, the newly minted leader of the Alberta Progressive Conservatives, spoke at the event before Peterson. Though his talk about “restoring the Alberta advantage” had little to do with Peterson’s message, it’s alarming to see a politician in campaign-mode include themselves on a bill with a speaker whose entire message is an attack on tolerance.

Peterson’s keynote displayed a contentious and dangerous ideology. The fact that no one batted an eye is concerning. In the lack of protest and lack of media coverage of the event, the message was sent that these ideas are a typical part of political discourse in Alberta, the same as any old speech on fiscal conservatism like those given by other speakers at the forum.   

The fact that Peterson was able to bring his hateful rhetoric to the U of C and have it met only with adoration is unacceptable. We must do more to challenge hateful perspectives when they come to campus.

Jason Herring, Gauntlet Editorial Board

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