my stomach hurts//why does it keep coming back to Jordan Peterson

“The confusing thing that we must learn as white ladies is that our contributions lie not in the heroism (heroinism?) of the helper’s cape, but in our ability to shovel away the snow where there will certainly be both carcasses and daffodils. We must go through it. There is so much snow to shovel that it is not an individual task, but one we must go through together. The shame, the pain, the misery, the excuses, the mental illness, the greener grass, the fear of vulnerability will seek to divide us and threaten our success (it already has). But my critical realism is ultimately optimistic. It has to be.” – Mistress Syndrome

This post was heavy, thought-provoking, and beautifully written (“What an incredibly horrible and profoundly delicious fate.”). In light of my latest one-on-one with Amanda I’ve been thinking about ways that I make myself small and, as a result, give up some of my power, my voice. It sounds easy to say I will stop doing that. It’s not. I’ve been making myself smaller my whole life, less noticeable, less obtrusive, less jarring, less responsible for how people will react to me if I am less reactable. I am the imposter of the imposter syndrome. This has always felt like a me problem, something that is true and unchangeable and will continue to be so, and ultimately only harms me. It’s not just about you, Amanda told me. It’s lonely being a white lady doing this type of work. We need more people doing this work like you. I hate that I even wrote that here, because it feels like bragging, but it’s the general message of what she said to me.

I have tried to come to terms with my identity as a gatekeeper of many things, and for whatever reason it’s easier for me to do that if I think about myself in terms of roles I play rather than me, wholly, a person, being a gatekeeper. Having power. I can be Taia the Yoga Gatekeeper. I can be Taia the Gatekeeper of the Written Word and Its Arbitrary Rules. I have trouble with Taia, Heroine. Taia, Anti-Racist Activist. I don’t want to claim titles that feel like they have nothing to do with me, like I’m reaching for something I don’t own. My stomach hurts.

Jordan Peterson is a preening, philosophizing misogynist, but his argument about speech and liberation is lodged in my brain and won’t leave. Cognitive dissonance: even understanding the problematic, transphobic, asshole of a source of this wisdom, I can’t ignore its truth.

  • “Another way of looking at it… is that you’re in a network, you’re a node in a network… You’re one person away from a million people and two people away from a billion people… Don’t underestimate the power of your speech… The logos is the sacred element of Western culture… It means your capacity for speech is divine.”
  • “Here you are, suffering away, you might as well be at the same time. At least then there’s something to you.”
  • “It is not safe to speak and it never will be. But the thing you got to keep in mind is that it’s even less safe not to speak. It’s a balance of risks.”
  • “The truth is what redeems the world from Hell, and that’s the truth. We saw plenty of hell over the past hundred years and we haven’t learned a bloody thing from it.”

I wanted to tie this all together more neatly, but I think I’ll leave it here. I’m linking a few songs I was listening to while writing/thinking over this post. “My stomach hurts” is a line from Diet Cig’s “Tummy Ache,” linked below.

Tummy Ache – Diet Cig

Last Words of a Shooting Star – Mitski

Gaslighter – The Worriers

 

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