I read a review of the advice book by that professor who has been working so hard to prove that a white male Canadian academic can be a player in the misogynist olympics. The lines the reviewer quoted from his book were enough to tell me his ideas weren’t worth my time, even if I hadn’t known about his defense of so-called “incels,” his endorsement of enforced monogamy (I first wrote enforced misogyny, which is probably true, too), and his silly opposition to using people’s preferred pronouns.
According to the reviewer, Kate Manne, rule number one in Jordan Peterson’s advice book is “Stand up straight with your shoulders back.”
Anybody with any physical training will tell you that’s nonsense. That’s considered the classic military posture; we say those words and can immediately visualize rows of soldiers standing stiffly at attention. Every so often one of them passes out.
My many years in the martial arts, complemented by some training in Alexander technique and Qigong, have given me a foundation in how our bodies work. It’s something I know with my body, not just by reading about it or hearing someone say “stand up straight.” We are physical beings and how we deal physically with the world affects who we are.
The combination of stand up straight and shoulders back makes you rigid and stiff. It also puts an unnatural arch in your back. To actually move from that position, you have to shift out of it, which is inefficient. Since he doesn’t appear to have been in the military, I would guess Peterson is one of those men who heard this in tough guy movies and, because he knows nothing about his body, thought it was valid.
I assume his goal is to keep people from slumping, which isn’t a good position, either. The thing is, slumping isn’t remedied by standing rigidly. The best way to stand is neither stiff and rigid with the shoulders back nor slumped over. It’s standing upright but relaxed, with your shoulders down (not pushed forward or back), and visualizing that you are extending through the top of your head and along your arms and legs. By extending I mean relaxing starting from your center (just below your belly button) and letting your energy and breath move toward all your extremities.
It’s easier to show you this than to describe it, but the end result is a relaxed upright position from which you can move in any direction. Tai Chi standing meditation is a great way to learn it, and gives you the skill to work on it by yourself.
The reason this tells me I don’t want to waste time on Peterson’s book is not just that he’s wrong about something that is basic to movement, but also that what he’s saying is the canned advice that’s been given to men for a very long time. That is, despite the fact that he’s supposed to be a great thinker, he gives people advice on how to stand when he hasn’t spent anytime studying how they should stand and he repeats bad advice on the subject.
That indicates to me that his work is superficial, based on some rules of male behavior that have been passed down without thought for many years. I see no reason to listen to advice from someone who is just regurgitating the same old nonsense.
By the way, according to philosophy professor Bryan W. Van Norden, arguing in The New York Times that free speech doesn’t mean people who don’t know what they’re talking about are entitled to a venue, Peterson apparently thinks men have no respect for women because they can’t physically fight them. That makes me assume that Peterson doesn’t think women can fight.
He’s wrong about that, too. But what would you expect from somebody who doesn’t know how to stand?