Earlier this week, men’s rights activist Jordan Peterson appeared to cry on the Piers Morgan Show when asked about Olivia Wilde’s previous comments claiming the incel-like villain of her movie Don’t Worry Darling was based on Peterson. On Thursday evening, for whatever reason, Megyn Kelly entered the chat, weighing in on the controversy on her podcast, The Megyn Kelly Show.
Speaking about disgruntled, often violent and abusive men known as “incels,” Kelly said, “They get featured in an Olivia Wilde movie as some sort of demon, so screw her!” Then, like Peterson, who dedicated his Tuesday interview with Morgan to a soliloquy about how awful life is for oft-rejected men, Kelly proceeded to rattle off a list of bullet points about how hard it is to be a man in America right now. Importantly, she noted high suicide rates among men in the U.S., who often “have no known history of mental health problems, because they don’t talk about them.”
Of course, it’s a mistake to suggest any of this, or the perceived erosion of men’s rights, is the result of feminist overreach, which is the very crux of Peterson’s preaching. According to Kelly, Peterson is wrongly maligned for speaking to young men who are, I daresay, down bad, and Wilde is wrong for criticizing him and his followers: “When they do talk about them, and like Jordan Peterson, listen to Jordan Peterson, subscribe to Jordan Peterson or anybody else speaking about these issues, they get attacked.”
It should go without saying that men aren’t oppressed for being men. If anything, men are being hindered by the capitalistic, hypermasculine, patriarchal standards for which conservatives and so-called men’s rights activists like Peterson are constantly, passionately advocating. It sure seems to me that men would have less “economic anxiety” if they weren’t subject to ceaseless, sexist pressures to be their family’s sole breadwinner and to resist displaying any kind of emotion or empathy, ever. But those pressures are created by men like Peterson who want women trapped in the home, barefoot and pregnant, like it’s 1959.
In any case, after coming to the defense of Peterson and his followers, Kelly then declared herself a superior feminist to Wilde. As one of the women at Fox News who accused the network of protecting sexual harassers like Roger Ailes, Kelly said she was “at the inception of the MeToo movement.”
“I think I can say what those of us who were there at the beginning—and by the way Olivia Wilde, you are not one of them, OK, you were not there,” Kelly said. She continued; “[MeToo] was never meant to bastardize men writ large. That’s what people like her are doing. And it’s having a serious negative effect.”
Kelly has, for years, tried to brand herself as a “conservative feminist,” especially after then-candidate Donald Trump accused her of menstruating at a Republican presidential debate in 2015 when she asked him a difficult question. Of course, Kelly’s actions and stances are fundamentally incompatible with feminism, lest you think the movement encompasses all the shitty things women individual women choose to do, rather than being a principled ideology rooted in pro-women values. Kelly has defended Blackface, ranted that Jesus is white, and gleefully supported the overturning of Roe v. Wade. Whatever your opinions of the celebrity feminism of women like Olivia Wilde, Kelly’s “feminism” is hardly a better alternative.
In Don’t Worry Darling, Wilde wrote the antagonist, Frank (Chris Pine)—the leader of an incel-like cult in which (spoiler alert!) modern women are unknowingly trapped by their husbands as 1950s housewives—based on Peterson. “We based that character on this insane man, Jordan Peterson, who is this pseudo-intellectual hero to the incel community,” she said in Interview magazine this month. Wilde added, “Jordan Peterson is someone that legitimizes certain aspects of [incels’] movement because he’s a former professor, he’s an author, he wears a suit, so they feel like this is a real philosophy that should be taken seriously.”
On Wednesday morning’s episode of the Piers Morgan Show, Morgan asked Peterson for his reaction to Wilde’s comments: “This insane man, this pseudo-intellectual hero to the incel community, ‘incel’ being these weirdo loner men who are despicable in many ways—is that you? Are you the intellectual hero to these people?” he said.
“Sure, why not,” Peterson replied. “People have been after me for a long time, because I have been speaking to young men, what a terrible thing to do.” At that moment, he appeared to start crying, before continuing, referring to men, “I thought the marginalized were supposed to have a voice?” Later in the interview, he claims men who are characterized as incels are rightfully upset because “they don’t know how to make themselves attractive to women” (lol). “All these men who are alienated, it’s like, they’re lonesome and they don’t know what to do and everyone piles abuse on them,” he said.
Incels shouldn’t be treated as a sympathetic demographic. These men, who weaponize their inflated senses of entitlement to harass and abuse women, have always been dangerous and are only becoming more radical and violent online, per a recent study. Considering they’re fueled by the idea that women having rights amounts to men’s oppression, it doesn’t help when people with platforms, like Kelly and Peterson, get on their soapboxes and openly weep about how supposedly “marginalized” cis, straight, white men are.
Through all the drama Don’t Worry Darling has stirred up, primarily over rumors about Wilde and her stars Florence Pugh and Harry Styles, I never would have predicted that Peterson—and now Kelly!—would be brought into the fold, too.