Thursday, January 08, 2004

Rara Avis, Part III (Laura Schlessinger)

I really have to make the effort to blog about somebody sane and fairly nice. But not yet! Today I want to talk about our Dr. Laura Schlessinger, the beloved radio prophet and advice giver to the right-wing female hordes as to how to keep their husbands happy, their closets clean and the gays and lesbians firmly locked away in the same closets. She's not really a curious bird, though it does boggle the mind how a doctorate in physiology makes her qualified to give psychological advice. Maybe 'physiology' sounds enough like 'psychiatry'?

She sees herself fully qualified by the fact that she has committed all the female sins she now preaches against: she divorced her first husband, engaged in premarital sex and actively sought a professional career. She still has a professional career, though, which she uses to rant against other women with professional careers.

Your average conservative talk-show star, perhaps, but there are deeper levels to Laura. For one, she's an interesting example of a female woman-hater. This is a fascinating thing to be, especially when there appears to be no lack of simultaneous self-adoration. How does she do it? And why? It probably has something to do with her unsatisfactory relationship with her mother. Still, it's bit of a stretch to seek vengeance on the whole female half of the species just because she didn't like her mother.

As evidence of her misogyny, I present Dr. Laura's new book, titled The Care and Feeding of Husbands. In it she gives women the keys to the secrets of a happy marriage. These have already been handed out in Marabel Morgan's Total Woman (1975), but just to summarize, this is what the Publishers Weekly review says about Laura's book:

...this controversial marriage and family therapist claims that every woman can achieve a deeply satisfying marriage if she adheres to certain fundamentals men require. Preparing dinner, caring for the children without complaint, greeting her husband with a kiss and engaging in sexual intimacy instead of "tearing down a husband's necessary sense of strength and importance" can result in the harmonious marriage women crave.

Dr. Laura also suggests that wives should not withhold sex. As one reader review so aptly noted:

I've read several criticisms of Dr Laura's position that it is a wife needs to meet her husband's sexual needs even when she's not in the mood. Dr Laura compares it to how irresponsible it would be for a husband to not go to work just because he's too tired or doesn't feel like it.

So now we know. Sex is wives' work!

And what do women get for following all this sage advice? Is there going to be a book titled The Care and Feeding of the Wife which men can leaf through to find the secret formula for women's happiness in marriage? No! See what happened when she was asked this very same question in an interview:

Are you going to write the book for men on the proper care and feeding of wives?

Nope. Men are born of women and between girlfriends and then a wife; men spend their entire lives in the tutelage of women. What women accept or reject is largely the guiding force for what men will and won't do. When they are treated with the Three A's, they naturally, and in gratitude and affection, give their women the attention, regard, respect, support and love they want.

The three A's referred to in this quote are affection, approval and appreciation. Nothing wrong in arguing that these are important characteristics of happy marriages. But what is odd is that women must learn to show their affection, approval and appreciation by such concrete acts as cooking, childcare and sex, while men just seem to 'know' how to show their affection, approval and appreciation. But only after women learn their lesson.

I don't buy this, and neither does Dr. Laura, really. She writes this book for women because men wouldn't buy such books. So it's all about money, as one might expect. The book won't work, and in a few years she can write another money-maker for the submarket of unhappy conservative wives. Nice work if you can get it.

Though The Care and Feeding of Husbands is a treatise based on woman-hating, there is something more to it; a tinge of contempt towards men, starting with the title which reminds me of a how-to-book in animal care. Dr. Laura may tell women how to be properly submissive, but she is telling this in the disguise of female power:

Women seem not to understand, or underestimate, the profound power they have over their husbands. Men are very emotionally dependent upon women from the day they are born to the day they expire. This book teaches women to use this power benevolently – which will definitely result in them being happier with life and love. (From the book.)

This whiff of misandry is strengthened when one learns that men are very simple creatures:

All through the book you say "men are simple" ... isn't that an insult?

Not at all! In fact, most all of the many hundreds of responses I received from men in preparing this book confirmed just that: "Men are only interested in two things: If I'm not horny, make me a sandwich," and "As a man, I can tell you our needs are simple. We want to be fed, we want our kids mothered, and we want lovin'."

Though not comparable in intensity to her misogynistic messages, I'd go as far as to say that Dr. Laura doesn't much care for men, either. In fact, it seems that Dr. Laura finds everybody quite lacking, with the possible exception of herself.

And what does she try to achieve with this book, other than the obvious increases in her stock market investments? I suspect that she seeks male approval, the comforting lap of daddy when mommy doesn't understand. Will she get it? I doubt it very much. Here's one man's comments on the book's author:

And for all her talk about the joys of domesticity and motherhood, she is principally identifiable as a psychologist, author, and talk-show hostess. How much time did she actually spent (sic) raising her family?

Besides, she's a black-belt in karate, and athletically-inclined females have terminal penis-envy. They are not bastions of pro-male sentiment.

Poor Laura, perhaps. Though not at all compared to the troubled callers in her shows and the worried readers of her books. It is they that deserve our real compassion and pity.