Thursday, May 30, 2013

An open letter to Kelly Stewart, producer for Reverend Jesse Lee Peterson

Yesterday, as the hits on my CNN article soared, I received an email entitled "National Radio Interview Request" from the producer for the Jesse Lee Peterson show.

1. I mis-read the email. I admit it, this article has reached a level of audience that dwarfs my most-read essays in the past, and I was feeling pretty excited. I read, "National Public Radio Interview request," inserting the public where it didn't belong.

2. I said yes, even though my friends were urging me not to, but I had never heard of Peterson. I don't watch Fox News, and really, who has the time to keep up with all the hatemongers out there. It's a good business, spreading hate, but who has the time to keep track of all the players. Then I started listening to clips of him talking about gender issues. There's the sermon where he reveals that women (later amended to liberal women), are destroying society by being whores, and that they never should have been given the vote. Well, ok, that's offensive. But then I listened to him interviewing lots of smart, activist, women. He lets them have their say, I give him that, but it's not because I disagree with him or because he's so offensive that I withdrew from the interview. It's the way he argues. Peterson's style is to simply assert first principles and then extrapolate from them. These principles include: Women should be in the home. Men should be in charge of their women. And so forth. In a discussion where these are the unambiguous principles, there is no room for discussion, as I operate from principles of equality and freedom.

3. I'm honestly not ready to go on a show like this. I did a radio interview yesterday with a friendly interviewer, and while it went fine, I knew I wasn't skilled at that kind of format yet. I'll get there, hopefully, with more opportunities. But I am fundamentally a writer, not a debater. I give a good lecture and enjoy a lively Q&A, but not in the context where I'm living in a radically different moral universe than my interlocutor. I need time to think, deliberate, draft, and revise. Peterson isn't the big leagues of hate, that's more Hannity or Rush, but he's definitely a pro, and I'm still a radio rookie. I'll get there, and you know what, Peterson needs foils like me. I'll let you know.

4. Had I gone on the interview, here's a question I would have asked him. Why doesn't he fire you? We spoke on the phone and you are clearly a bright, professional, woman. According to his theory, you should be in the home, with the kids, without the vote, serving your man. Is he just a hypocrite, saying shocking things in order to get more air time? Or does he really believe it? If he believes it, he should fire you. But here's a better question - why do you work for him?

5. I write this blog, in part, to provide historical context for contemporary phenomena. I have to say, although Peterson blames most contemporary problems in society to the rise of liberal women, there is nothing new in his beliefs. I was recently re-reading Christine de Pizan, a 14th-century single-mom (widow) and writer, who was confronting so much of the same type of language as Peterson uses now. Usually, patriarchy is invisible, pernicious, creeping into our minds and shaping our perceptions in ways that we cannot recognize.  But while Peterson may be a modern-day Matheolus (you can look it up), I have to tell you - no one reads Matheolus today; and we all read Christine and those who were inspired by her.

6. But hey, supporting a man spitting into the wind of history earns you a good living, I guess.

7 comments:

Man Who Makes Pronouncements About Literature said...

Hi David, I just received an email from Kelly Stewart that was identical to the one you received. My initial reaction was the same as yours--and then I researched Peterson and discovered all the things that you found out. I thought, I should write an open letter to this radio host, but then I found your piece. You've said everything that I would have said. Thanks for writing this.

Michael Noll said...

Sorry for the second comment. Some weird ID came up when I hit "publish." My real name is below.

David Perry said...

Hah. And yet, he gets plenty of guests.

David Perry said...

No worries. Were you asked to be on in response to a particular piece?

Michael Noll said...

I was. It's about parenting and appeared at The Good Men Project: http://goodmenproject.com/families/macku-when-being-a-parent-makes-you-a-bad-person/

David Perry said...

That's a great essay. I read one of your others before, but not that one.

Our daughter had colic. Our son, with Down syndrome and 2 and a half at the time, cried (and still cries) when other people cry. That whole year is still kind of blurry.

Michael Noll said...

Thanks, David. I don't doubt that your memory of that year is blurry. My wife and I joke that we have parental PTSD and only now, when our kids are 4 and 2, are we coming out of it.