Although Peterson can sound like a chauvinistic crank when he seems to suggest that women incite sexual harassment by wearing makeup to the office, his larger points — that evolving norms are generating confusion and mixed signals, and that women play a role in sexualizing work environments — are far from absurd.
Consider: We have rejected traditional sexist proprieties that forbade coarse language in front of “the ladies,” yet a man can now be fired for telling a crude joke that offends a female co-worker. Calling women “the weaker sex” would be considered shockingly retrograde, yet ambivalent sexual encounters are easily recast as violations of women, with men presumed entirely responsible for ensuring consent. Workplace romances abound, yet flirting could be one step away from someone’s idea of sexual harassment.
In this bewildering environment, Peterson offers a code of personal responsibility and self-discipline. Although his message appeals to both genders, the core of his fan base and the focus of his world-saving fervor are young men. Indeed, one of Peterson’s central themes is that men in the modern Western world are in crisis.