Thursday, March 20, 2008

Misogyny Wears a Skirt

Let's jump into the fray that Dr. Laura Schlessinger kicked off on Monday when she said she holds women partially responsible for their husbands' infidelity. She was not completely wrong in all of her comments on the Today Show. Here's what she got right:
  • Wives and husbands share equal responsibility for keeping their marriages happy and healthy.
  • Conversely, wives and husbands share responsibility when their marriages experience troubled times. It's rarely one person's fault when a marriage falters or fails.
  • Mental and emotional illness in one partner changes the balance of responsibility for marital trouble.

But Dr. Laura was completely wrong when she said "frequently when there is infidelity in marriage, both spouses share the blame" and also when she said if the wife is not being supportive enough, "then she's contributing to his wrong choice." I would like to know, Dr. Laura, what is "supportive enough," exactly? How do you measure it? If he's tempted, does that automatically indicate that her level of support is insufficient?

And also, at what point does the wife assume this partial blame? Is she picking up the phone and dialing the escort service? Is she driving him to the Mayflower Hotel? Is she turning down the covers and putting a mint on the pillow?

Yes, a wife shares responsibility for keeping a marriage happy and healthy. But she does not share responsibility for the specific choices that her husband makes if the marriage is not happy and healthy. It's on him alone if he chooses to call a hooker instead of a marriage counselor, or if he chooses to let his innocent office flirtation turn into something not so innocent.

In the context of the Eliot Spitzer brouhaha, Dr. Laura also said, "I hold women responsible for tossing out perfectly good men by not treating them with the love and kindness and respect and attention they need." First of all, who died and left Dr. Laura in charge, with the authority to hold anyone responsible for anything, except her own obnoxious self?

And second, "tossing out perfectly good men"? Seriously? Sometimes misogyny wears a skirt.

This statement reeks of double standard, even in the context of the whole Today Show conversation, which included one or two grudging allusions to a husband's responsibility. The Schlessinger Theorem equates a wife's giving an undefined but insufficient amount of love, kindness, respect and attention to her husband with a wife "tossing out" her husband.

Essentially, she's providing philandering husbands everywhere with a ready-made excuse: my wife drove me to it.

Dr. L is also insulting men by suggesting that they have such a tenuous hold on their character, maturity, and emotional security that if they don't get enough compliments from their wives they will automatically fall prey to the temptation of adultery.

I guess misogyny's fraternal twin, misanthropy, wears a matching skirt.


Boy George said...

Great post (as usual). But I've got to wonder: WHY is Dr. L still around?

One thing I need to point out, though: I think you mean "misandry" instead of "misanthropy" at the end?

E. Peevie said...

I know, I know--I wonder the same thing. Is she providing a service? Entertainment, maybe?

But she's no different from Dr. Phil and the other on-air therapists, I guess--they all pretend to practice therapy, when the public-ness negates the process. Not to mention all the advice-giving, which I think is counter-intuitive to the true, therapeutic process of counseling.

Not that I know jack about any of this, but some of my best friends are therapists!

And hmmm--misandry. I never even knew there was such a word. You're probably right, my little personification of WordPerfect! I'll definitely look into it. Good catch.

And thanks for the compliment. Could you please nominate me for a Best of Blogs (BoB) award?

E. Peevie