Questioning Gendered Concepts #1: CHAOS

The other day I was reading a review of Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life and came across this gem.

“The maintenance of order is at the core of Peterson’s world view. Order is truth. It is singular and masculine. Chaos is “the eternal feminine”, a misty Jungian formulation that puts the author in the invidious position of promoting a how-to manual on suppressing the feminine principle.”*

This was the best thing I’d read all day so I just had to start this series here.

In Western literature, women are traditionally represented watery and mysterious, so I suppose it would be natural for us to also embody Chaos. After all, our genitals in particular are known for doing all sorts of crazy things, from bleeding at random times, to causing mental problems, and, of course, just wandering all over our bodies all willy-nilly. Not like male genitals which definitely stay in one place and don’t get stuck where they don’t belong.

On a more serious note, there is definitely precedent for this sort of thinking. Perhaps the most famous example of this is in Yin/Yang. Often misappropriated as a sign for duality, the concept of yin/yang describes the inherent embodiment of both aspects within any given thing (thank you wikipedia). Put simply, Yin represents negative/passive/female forces, and Yang represents the positive/active/male forces.** The idea that feminine equals passive, and masculine active, can also be found in a lot of early Christian theology.

Like in physics, there are many myths which describe the presence of chaos at the beginning of time and it is all that will be there at the end. After all, entropy is inevitable. The particular myth which comes to mind is that of the Norse Ragnarök, where the Jotunn fight the Æsir at the end of the world. Traditionally, the Jotunn stand for nature, femininity and disorder, and the Æsir for civilisation  masculinity and order. What is most relevant here, is that the Jotunn – the natural and feminine – effectively win, and after the fall of the masculine, the feminine is reinstated.

The problem Peterson has is that he is unable to accept the truth of the idea he is so desperately trying to get across.  As Hari Kunzru notes, Peterson does write about yin/yang and “straddling dualities” but argues that “if chaos is indeed the “possibility, growth and adventure” towards which [Peterson] occasionally remembers to genuflect, it’s clear that he is mainly preoccupied with keeping it at bay.”* There is no true order without balance, and yet Peterson insists that his western notion of “civilisation” is what makes “order”. In short, he chooses to reject his own argument in order to hold up his broken concept of masculinity.

While this, of course, extremely sexist, there is something empowering about being thought of as a force of chaos.  Destruction is just as important in this world as creation – it is how we learn and how we grow. It is feared, and – in this current political climate particularly – I am happy to become fearsome to weak men.


Banner image is The Beginning of Chaos by Zhong Biao and was sourced from Pintrest via Google

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