Sunday, September 19, 2004

Dr. Laura, 13th Century Counselor

Until today, I'd never really read World O'Crap, probably because the title sounded so cynical (that's a joke), but after reading this post, I think I'm going to read it often. It's about Laura Schlessinger's new book, Woman Power. Of the book's topic, Elizabeth Farrah of WorldNetDaily, the world's second most prominent purveyor of nonsense (after Tech Central Station), has this to say:

Do you think terrorists have threatened our way of life? They are but a mere puff of wind beside the forces of darkness that have compromised our marriages.

Leading Mrs. Farrah to make this bold statement about the book itself:

You have too many unread titles in stacks or on a list? Nothing you have – save your Bible – is more important a read.

Never has an endorsement so intended to make me read a book so inspired me not to read it!

What does the book say that makes it so important? In short, women should pay more (positive) attention to their husbands. As Dr. Laura herself puts it:

This goes along with part of my thesis, that men are simple—not simpletons—but simple in their needs—i.e., not complex. They need appreciation, approval, and affection from their woman; and when they get that, they will, as I’ve said many times on my radio program, swim through shark-infested water to bring us lemonade.

Women wield more power in man-woman relationships. Men are born of women, raised by women, and come to women for their bonding and mating. Throughout their whole lives, women are central to men’s emotional well-being. I don’t think we can come up with one story about a man committing suicide over the breakup with a golf buddy.

What should women do, then, to make their men happy, and thereby make their marriages work?

Just a look of the eye, the tone of a voice, the touch of a hand.
Simple. A few minutes each day . . . tops.

Yes, it's just that simple! World O' Crap summarizes Dr. Laura's point brilliantly, with the following:

So, ladies, look at him with admiration, talk to him like you do the dog, and then give him a handjob. Quick, easy, and then he'll bring you that lemonade.


For my own part, I've always been amazed at people like Dr. Laura (and the majority of religious conservatives in this country) who hold the view that there is a formula (presumably a linear one, with all of the variables restricted to numbers under 5, so that they're easy to add and subtract) for making men happy, and another for making women happy, and if you simply follow the correct formula (depending on the gender of your significant other), everything will work out just fine. Each time I read an expression of this view, I have an almost overwhelming desire to spend a few hours explaining Central Limit Theorem to the person expressing it. Just explaining the concept of variation might do the trick. You see, while men and women are to some extent products of their biological makeup, when it comes to personalities and what they can and need to give and take in relationships, they are quite complex (certainly they are complex in the mathematical sense that is relevant to CLT). They are the products of many independent and not-so independent variables, many of which pare pretty random. Sure, as with most things, your best guess is the mean (though it's quite clear that the Dr. Laura's of the world have no idea what the actual mean is), but you will quickly find that no one's personality is the mean personality, and will have to figure out how each individual deviates from that mean if you want to relate to that person successfully.

What will the practical results of the sort of advice that Dr. Laura and her ilk give to so many couples be? Well, if the divorce rates for evangelical Christians (which are higher than any other religious group in America, save the Jewish, and including atheists and agnostics), who are the people who are fed this crap the most, and who take it most to heart, are any indication, the results won't be the ones Dr. Laura seems to be hoping for. More often than not, approaching someone using an abstract formula spells disaster for the relationship. Speaking from personal experience, I can say that the words, "I know what men want," while they might sound good at first, are the worst a woman can say to a man at the start of a relationship. The thing is, I'm not "men," I'm a "man," and my idiosyncrasies don't fit into any generalized formula very easily. I also know from personal experience that more often than not, the same is true in the reverse. God help the woman whose significant other tells her that he or she knows what women want. Unless that woman is Dr. Laura, and her significant other has read her book.

No comments: