Dr Laura: Ch 5

The conventional wisdom in favor of living-in before marriage is that it allows the couple to get to know each other, make a better marital choice, and lay a more solid conjugal foundation than men and women who marry cold turkey.

Could this thinking be wrong?

No. End of chapter.

(This chapter is about “Stupid Cohabitation”, which she calls “the ultimate female self-delusion.”)

A US survey of 13,000 adults found that couples who lived together before marriage were one-third more likely to separate or divorce within a decade. A Canadian national survey of 5,300 women found that those who cohabitated were 54 percent more likely to divorce within 15 years. And a Swedish study of 4,300 women found cohabitation linked with an 80 percent greater risk of divorce.

Here’s the thing though: in 1994, cohabitation before marriage was a fairly new practice in those countries: between 1964 and 2014, the rate rose 900 percent to a figure of about 7-in-ten women. Which means, like all new practices, it skews toward young people. And the younger you are when you get married, the more likely you are to divorce. Studies that take this into account show that age is a stronger predictor than cohabitation:

The research shows that at 23—the age when many people graduate from college, settle into adult life and begin becoming financially independent—the correlation with divorce dramatically drops off.

Kuperberg found that individuals who committed to cohabitation or marriage at the age of 18 saw a 60 percent rate of divorce. Whereas individuals who waited until 23 to commit saw a divorce rate that hovered more around 30 percent.

That said, she can’t have known that at the time:

These trends are troubling to some because nearly a dozen studies from the 1970s into the early 2000s showed that men and women who lived together before marriage were far more likely to divorce than couples who moved directly from dating to marriage. In fact, on average, researchers found that couples who cohabited before marriage had a 33 percent higher chance of divorcing than couples who moved in together after the wedding ceremony.

So you can’t blame her for believing the figures. What you can blame her for is jumping right from correlation to causation, to assuming that cohabitation causes divorce and then looking for reasons to support her claims.

Why [do you keep cohabitating despite the statistics]? Desperation. Fear of not having somebody — of not having a life if a man doesn’t want you.

In our dialogues you always come to admit it. How about saving yourself the stress of finding out the hard way?


[Choosing someone] should be out of a desire to share [your]self, [your] life’s experience. And that’s why, in the long run, I don’t think personal maturity is benefited by these living-in arrangements

Clearly the fact that some people choose to cohabitate out of fear (????) means that nobody can ever do it. This is why we can’t have nice things: desperation. She asserts that all women move in with men because they’re hoping to get married but don’t trust the man to make that happen unless they move in. Which is… honestly a really weird reason to move in together? Who does that? Without a transcript, it’s hard to see the real picture here.

I will point out that this case study is nineteen and came from a bad home life. Of course she’s not ready to get married yet! She’s, what, a year out of a bad situation? I don’t think many adults a year out of a bad marriage are ready to get married again, and that’s not counting her age. Plus, cohabitating can be a boon toward getting out of a bad situation and staying out, since you split expenses.

Listen, the phrase is “happily ever after”. All of us girls grew up with that promise. So when you’re an unhappy young girl, what better remedy than living-in with a man?

I literally can’t even follow this logic. It’s such a reductive, condescending way to judge people’s life choices.

Then she says cohabitation comes often from a place of denial, quoting one caller:

“I feel he does love me, but he holds back” is her explanation for the live-in boyfriend’s desire to sex-sap with other couples.

I’m pretty sure he’s just into swinging, but okay? I hope he found someone who likes to swing to spend his days with instead. I hope she found someone who doesn’t to spend time with, too. I hope these callers ended up happy despite the judgemental, bigoted advice they got.

Moving in with a  man when you don’t know how he feels is to try and make him feel something toward you. THat’s demeaning and stupid. It is about you auditioning.

She uses as evidence of this a caller whose boyfriend keeps saying he doesn’t feel ready to get married. And you know what? young people who have only been together a year might not be ready to get married! That’s okay!

Dr Laura’s advice? If he’s content to live together and she’s not content, she should move out so that he’s discontent and therefore will make changes such as marrying her. She suggests that he offered to go to therapy with her, and Dr Laura’s reply was cold and dismissive:

Dr Laura: That’s nice too. But right now I’m not interested in him. I’m concerned about you. Diana, leave. eave because living with him is making you feel bad about yourself. That’s why you shouldn’t be there. It is damaging to you.

Note that Diana didn’t say she was unhappy with the living arrangements — she just wants to get married, and he isn’t ready yet.

(Toxic monogamy is this: you want something and your partner can’t provide it yet so you throw out the baby with the bathwater and leave him forever, endlessly searching for the one person who will fit all your desires perfectly, until you get lucky or decide to settle for less).

Later she literally equates living together with prostitution:

Women have to know of their alternatives to selling themselves. And they have to be able to use their courage and creativity in ways that make them choosers, not beggars.

I feel like the alternative to “selling themselves” is a lesbian duplex, but okay.

I pointed out to Yolanda that when you move in with a man without a commitment, he already knows one crucial thing: He doesn’t have to do much to get you. Then he fools around, and you stay, and he learns something more:: He doesn’t have to do much to keep you either.

In other words: it’s her fault he cheated, because she was “easy”.

“Commitments don’t stop people from being abusive, unloving, unfaithful, or just plain annoying. Commitments don’t even stop people from dumping each other. So– big deal.”

Well, the statistics prove that commitment is a big deal

But they don’t — they don’t say what she thinks they say, and the fact that she interpreted them as cut-and-dried proof is on her even if the real cause wasn’t widely publicised yet.

Having sex-too-son, moving in without commitment or life plans in concert, are the behaviors of basically immature, let-me-feel-good-right-now-because-I-want-it-therefore-it-is kind of people.

What’s wrong with feeling good right now? Does every relationship have to be forever? Is there point to dating without marriage as a goal? I clearly feel there is. Dr Laura doesn’t even bother touching on these items; she just writes them all off as immature and moves on.

Susan called me to discuss her boyfriend’s immature and manipulative behavior, which she was determined to change!

Dr Laura: You live with him?

Susan: Yes.

Dr Laura: You got sexual too soon. You moved in too soon.

Dr Laura sees what she wants to see.

Grown-ups should know that they don’t get the goodies legitimately unless they have earned them.

We’re done here. I’m pulling the plug on this chapter if all she has to offer are ad-hominems and assumptions.

Posted in Deconstructions, Dr Laura | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Dr Laura: Ch 4

I know I’ve been gone a while. Here’s why: I open the book to my bookmark and see the chapter’s subtitle “Oooh, aah, we’re breathing hard… it must mean love”.

Then I close the book.

The sheer scorn and lack of empathy dripping from the page is painful. She just lives and breathes misogyny at every turn. How did people read this and think, oh yes, this woman was enlightened, she’s a hard-hitting no-nonsense woman who really has her head on straight? I guess the same way they voted for Trump. This was happening in 1994 when this book was published. People have always been suckered by bigotry posing as no-nonsense facts.

Chapter four is about “Stupid Passion”


“We will sell no wine before its time.” Would that more women would display the same attitude toward sex!


And please don’t accuse me of being a throwback to the double-standard days without considering the increasing numbers of unwanted pregnancies, abortions, venereal diseases, and broken hearts since the sexual revolution told us: “Hey, baby, you have the same right to fun ‘n’ games as men do.”

First of all, you’re a bigot.

Secondly, you’re not even accurate:

Unintended pregnancy rates decreased in all world regions

“Abortion has been on a nearly steady decline since the rate peaked in 1980,”

In general, data on reported STDs in the USA showed steady increases during the 1960s, with a levelling off or decline of most of the bacterial STDs but continual increases in viral STDs and genital chlamydial infections during the 1970s and 1980s. National reports of gonorrhoea and syphilis began declining at different times and at different rates in all industrialised countries during the late 1980s and 1990s

I don’t think the government tracks broken hearts, but overall, all those trends slope downwards decade after decade. There may have been an upswing in the 60s and 70s, but the more education you get out there, the rates all drop consistently. Certainly by 1994 the tide was turning.

The first case study: someone who fell in love, had sex, and found out the man didn’t see her the same way. The answer to that is a frank conversation, not a moratorium on sex.

I am not saying women should do a virgin-till-death act to make a man see them as pure, good, or a prize to be won. […] However, a man who is heavily indoctrinated in a fundamentalist mentality would require a mate in kind — perhaps a better pan than the sexual chaos we have now.

Hot take: a man who is heavily indoctrinated in a fundamentalist mentality is garbage and you deserve better. These men do not want you to have pleasure, or control over your own body, or fundamental rights. These men want you to sit down, shut up, and simper at them. You’d think this is the kind of hard truth Dr Laura claims to be willing to give her clients — and yet, all she can offer is the same tired opinion that you should give men what they want, because heaven forbid you have standards.

Let’s face it, it’s perfectly possible to have a complete discussion with a man who seems to be on the same wavelength only to find out he is a liar, that he is someone playing a game with others.

So the alternative is to never talk to people, but instead give them what they want without question?

Finally, I’m much more concerned with you playing games with yourselves — expecting pleasure while you’re actually setting yourselves up for pain.

This is the fundie trope again: women can’t have equitable relationships or real pleasure, and therefore when men behave badly it’s all the women’s fault.

Her next case study is a woman who slept with a married man. That’s an easy target — except watch carefully what happens here:

The “mistake” turned out to be getting sexully invovled with a very close friend’s husband. […] Although it had only happened once some five weeks earlier, it plagued her. When I asked Tiffany why she’d done it in the first place, she initially claimed she didn’t know, and then. . .

(notice the language here: “claimed”. Because women always lie about their motivations.)

And I don’t know exactly why… except… I thought that I needed to help him, in a way… because his wife.. my friend… had just died two weeks before and now I… I feel like I betrayed her…

The wife is dead. There’s no cheating happening here! Just two people, grieving, and coping with that grief, maybe in an unhealthy way (though it’s hard to be sure behind the Dr Laura filter).

Dr Laura: You didn’t do this to her. You obviously have done something to hurt yourself. Do you like this man? Did you have warmies for him when she was alive?

(WARMIES. What the fuck.)

Tiffany: I don’t think so… Well… yes and no… yes….

Dr Laura: So you already coveted him in your heart. And now there was the opportunity

This is again puritan sexual ethics: having sexual feelings for someone is “coveting”, and makes her 100% responsible for what they both did together later.

She suggests calling the man and telling him that she feels used. Tiffany says that both parties pulled back, but Dr Laura buffalos past her, saying “But he pulled back first?” until she agrees. She also insists Tiffany say no until she’s sure he’s gotten past his wife’s death — not saying a word about how Tiffany should deal with her own grief. That just doesn’t come up. At all.

Dr Laura is a shitty psychologist.

Only after making it clear that things are the women’s fault does she talk about how couples should talk things over, how it’s more intimate to talk about sex than to do it.

The rest of the chapter is just… bland. She talks about how sexual intimacy can hide deeper self-esteem issues, how jumping into bed with someone can be a patch over poor self-esteem, how you won’t find a lasting relationship until you figure out if you’re compatible in non-sexual ways, how the right age to start having sex is the age at which you can maturely handle the consequences (which is different for everyone). This is the “clean your room” part of the Jordan Peterson message: the boring, vanilla advice sandwiched between layers of misogyny and victim-blaming.

Posted in Deconstructions, Dr Laura | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Unconditional Love?

It’s Mother’s day.

(If you’re new here, that’s a content note. This story doesn’t end well. My mother’s day stories never do.)

Image result for a mother's love

Text: “A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity, it dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path. — Agatha Christie”

Here’s what a mother’s love looks like to me.


Continue reading

Posted in Musings, My Story | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Imported from Storify: The Alt Nat US Park Service Twitter and Why You Should Follow Them

Alt US Nat Park Service: Resisting Trump

Alt US Nat Park Service: Resisting Trump

So this alternate account account apparently has existed for a while:

  1. @WingsScotland Oi, fellow plebian. What say you, honourable rev, on the elecshun result?
  2. But after Trump put out a gag order instructing people not to talk about climate change anymore, things got interesting:
  3. “The pre-industrial concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was 280 parts per million (ppm). As of December 2016, 404.93 ppm.”
  4. Mr Trump, you may have taken us down officially. But with scientific evidence & the Internet our message will get out.
  5. Respect goes out to our brothers and sisters at the @BadlandsNPS. When they silence you, we will speak for you.
  6. Today, the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is higher than at any time in the last 650,000 years. #climate
  7. We’re back! Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal. @kate_sheppard
  8. This shit is really dystopian, ya’ll:
  9. Think about what happened for employees at #BadlandsNationalPark to actually DELETE factual tweets on climate change.
  10. Somewhere a call came down the line demanding the account editor remove the tweets. Someone pulled rank and cited President Trump’s orders
  11. @markfollman We’re now online through an unofficial account being moderated by colleagues.
  12. This came about in part because the Badlands National Park Account had to remove its tweets:
  13. Is the deletion of the tweets on the Badlands National Park account a violation of federal records retention laws?
  14. “We can’t sit idly by. Climate change is likely to threaten our national security—we must act now.” @BarackObama 45th US President
  15. “Climate change is happening now. Denial is dangerous.” .@BarackObama 45th US President
  16. these tweets have been deleted. but @BadlandsNPS had 7,000 followers yesterday, and now has 73K followers. so this had an impact.  https://twitter.com/palafo/status/823999538197385216 
  17. So AltNatParkSer, being a private citizen’s account that just so happens to be run by park service employees but is in no way a government account, speaks the truth that Trump is trying to suppress:
  18. Global sea level rose about 17 centimeters in the last century. The rate in the last decade is nearly double that of the last century.
  19. Most of the warming occurred in the past 35 years, with 15 of the 16 warmest years on record occurring since 2001 #climate #Badlands
  20. The year 2015 was the first time the global average temperatures were 1 degree Celsius or more above the 1880-1899 average #Climate
  21. The 2000s saw a solar output decline resulting in an unusually deep solar minimum in 2007-2009, but surface temps continued to increase.
  22. Oceans have absorbed much of the increased heat, with top 700m of ocean showing warming of 0.302 degrees Fahrenheit since 1969 #climate
  23. 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends are extremely likely due to human activities.
  24. The number of record high temp events in the US has been increasing, & number of record low temp events has been decreasing, since 1950.
  25. Glaciers are retreating almost everywhere around the world — including in the Alps, Himalayas, Andes, Rockies, Alaska and Africa. https://t.co/V2ec7TBzAP

    Glaciers are retreating almost everywhere around the world — including in the Alps, Himalayas, Andes, Rockies, Alaska and Africa. pic.twitter.com/V2ec7TBzAP
  26. This is the National Park Service’s Cultural Resources Climate Change Strategy. Pls download before it is removed.
  27. As well as commenting on politics from the inside:
  28. Tonight Trump gagged National Park Services & signed executive order to restart Dakota Access & Keystone XL pipelines. #climate
  29. Showing sympathy for US citizens:
  30. Somewhere a US student is desperately trying to find the government’s stance on climate change for a Spring paper due tomorrow. #ThanksTrump
  31. Students, lay down your kegs you have papers to write & climate change is happening, despite what Trump claims.  http://climate.nasa.gov/ 
  32. And for Badlands NPS:
  33. Shoutout to the anonymous crews at .@BadIandsNPS continuing the great work of the original before Trump’s (tiny) hand came down.
  34. The Badlands were created over eons through the gradual erosion of sediment. The erosion of U.S. democracy, however, will be far more rapid.
  35. Before reiterating their message:
  36. Hello, we are the Alternative National Park Service Twitter Account activated in time of war and censorship to ensure fact-based education.  https://twitter.com/ASimilarKite/status/824052267636559872 
  37. Thank you all for your support. We ask that you call your member of congress & demand the censorship be lifted.  http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/ 
  38. Why you should call — not email — your legislators (from November 2016)
  39. We don’t want any trouble. We just want to keep peer-reviewed “factually accurate” climate science flowing out of US institutions.
  40. Did no one tell President Trump about the Streisand Effect?
    You silence our colleagues officially, and we will scream when we get home.
  41. Perhaps its fate that today you will once again type for our freedom, not from tyranny or persecution — but from climate change.
  42. We’re fighting for our right to live, to exist.

    To have peer-reviewed science be published by our institutions.
    #climate #ResistTrump

  43. They’re smart, and they’re funny as hell; a perfect combination for these dark times:
  44. And should we win the day, the 24th Jan will no longer be known as an American day, but as the day when the world declared in one voice
  45. "We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight! We're going to live on! We'll fight climate change denial" https://t.co/HWNhAKmaBz

    “We will not go quietly into the night!

    We will not vanish without a fight!

    We’re going to live on!

    We’ll fight climate change denial” pic.twitter.com/HWNhAKmaBz

  46. What do we want?
    Peer-reviewed Science
    When do we want it?
    Yesterday, please!
  47. Can’t wait for President Trump to call us FAKE NEWS.

    You can take our official twitter, but you’ll never take our free time!

  48. Here they described why they’re resisting:
  49. Here’s the DL on the National Park Service. Most of us are in the job for one reason. We LOVE our outdoors. It IS the greatest.
  50. We take immense pride in keeping the parks clean and safe for all Americans and tourists from around the world.
  51. Park ranygers come from all walks of life. Some of us escaped the city & others never left the mountains. But we have one yuuuge common goal
  52. Our job is to preserve the natural & cultural resources & values of the National Park System for enjoyment, education, and inspiration.
  53. No matter our politics: Dems, Reps, Indy, Martian, we all want the best for our parks & that starts with understanding the Earth
  54. To understand what’s best for our parks, we need to have access to US science data on climate & the environment. We must not be silenced.
  55. US election was tough for park rangers, but Dems & Reps united over common fear of CFCs from President Trump’s excessive use of hairspray
  56. The National Parks, forest and wilderness reserves in our country are our greatest natural assets. We’re scared for the future. #Keystone
  57. Want some real fact to go with your alt-president? US national parks posted tweets about climate change that were later deleted.
  58. The National Park Service shut its own Twitter operation briefly on Friday after an apparent clampdown.
  59. The park service had retweeted photos about turnout at President Donald Trump’s inauguration.
  60. But the accounts were reactivated the next day after an apology for “mistaken” retweets.
  61. Since then the park service tweets have been about park news and scenery. South Dakota park then posted tweets about climate science data.
  62. President Trump has called climate change a hoax & the White House deleted the climate change policies on its website on inauguration day.
  63. A media blackout has also been introduced over our colleagues at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
  64. Fun fact: The White House is surrounded by NPS land, and during Occupy they supported the protesters despite the mayor’s objection.
  65. There’$ a rea$on WHY Pre$ident Trump want$ u$ $ilenced on #Climate $cience. Don’t let US institutions be cen$ored
  66. They’ve been understandably vague about who they are exactly, but this is what they have said in response to detractors:
  67. Hi @JettGoldsmith This accnt being run by several active NPS rangers and friends.
  68. Paid? We’d share NASA’s findings for free! Education for all! You get a climate link and you get a climate link!
     http://climate.nasa.gov/evidence/   https://twitter.com/Julie_Weathers/status/824059713897766912 
  69. @EricM_Katz We’ve agreed to DM only. No email addresses or names/locations.
  70. @AlexanderLerche We never said cabin…. Could be a tent and a very long cable!
  71. It’s getting late here in DC. We have family to go spend time with. We’ll be back. #Resist #Science #EPAgag
  72. And finally, they did offer some advice about what you can do to thank them:
  73. Find a fellow ranger and offer them a beer on their downtime. They’ll really appreciate a cold one.  https://twitter.com/aepton/status/824092640647876609 


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Dr Laura: Ch 3

I find it fascinating that Dr Laura’s central thesis is that women mess up their lives by acting like their lives all about men, and yet all ten things they do to “mess up their lives” are things they do in relationships with men. That kind of implies that Dr Laura also thinks their lives are about men, and therefore, that they are right to acknowledge that their relationships are the single most important things in their lives. Chapter 3 is about “stupid devotion.”

We begin with another of those odd sections where Dr Laura seems to be quite feminist indeed. She says some pretty wise things in this introduction, like “Their definition of love is — with a lot of confirmation from popular culture — way off the mark and has become synonymous with attachment”. She point out the toxic way in which Ariel in The Little Mermaid is encouraged to give up family, friends, home, and even her own body for the love of a stranger she finds attractive, or how Belle dreams of seeing the world and getting out of her province and immediately abandons that dream to settle down with the Beast. She writes, quite well said in my opinion, “I would have been happier had she been a part of his successful spiritual transformation, patted him on the head, and gave him her forwarding address at the university”.

But here’s the thing: she doesn’t engage with these fictional stories as stories. She doesn’t seem to care why they were written that way, what the effect is on young girls, what the creators were intending to say, or how we could build a better fairy tale. She engages with the women in these stories as though they were real women with agency of their own — and she blames them for the failings, as though they were just too stupid to understand what to do. It’s this victim blaming mentality that steers her away from feminism and into misogyny.

The first case study in this section is a woman named Lisa. She doesn’t want to marry her boyfriend because he’s a drug addict, but she still loves him. Dr Laura advises her to get out of the relationship immediately. She admits that the last time she tried to break up with him, he hurt her physically, and that if she doesn’t take his phone calls or answer the door, he’ll come over and break it down to get in to her. Dr Laura sees this as a sign that Lisa is weak-willed; she calls her “a wimpy, overcompassionate, frightened female” when she refuses to call the police on her boyfriend. (Clearly this has nothing to do with the number of young men who get shot when there’s a mental health or addiction crisis going on and the police are called.)

She goes on to blame men’s problems on women. She suggests that the man is behaving in this abusive, stalkerish way because he’s getting signals that Lisa doesn’t really mean it when she tells him to piss off, then concludes with this garbage:

Although Lisa can clearly see this man is a major problem, she continues to have feeling for him. So what’s really at issue? […]I can’t tell you precisely what combination of nature and nurture is at work here ,but women do seem able (and all too willing) to search really hard or redeeming qualities in their men. With such a mind-set, they are ripe to be overly tolerant of grossly negative qualities in exchange for what may be only moments of happiness or peace.

She then rails for multiple pages about how women say “But I love him” as a reason to excuse bad behavior. What do you expect them to say? When your stupid heart wants something, it’s not going to turn on a dime; it’s going to keep wanting that thing even as your rational mind tells it no and sends it to bed without supper. That’s part of what the grieving process is for: resetting that desire, learning to let go of what might have been and focus on what is. All that work often begins when you break it off with someone. It’s not the work of an hour.

I’m going to interrupt this writeup for a brief PSA. If you are in a situation like Lisa’s, where you find yourself unable or unwilling to break it off with someone who treats you badly, physically threatens or harms you, and makes it clear that breakup is unacceptable, there’s hope. You can find people at the National Domestic Abuse Hotline who are trained and able to help you figure out how to break things off without having a police standoff at your apartment door. Then the grieving process can begin and you can get on the road to healing. If you can’t decide if your relationship is bad enough, feel free to drop a comment here, I’m always willing to help people talk through their choices.

Dr Laura then puzzles her way through a discussion of physical double standards. She mentions that women are willing to overlook all kind of “unattractive” features in a man, but men are quick to pass on a woman if she’s not conventionally beautiful. Number one, that’s not universally true; this reeks of being pulled from pop culture rather than from real life, as it’s a common sitcom trope but not necessarily indicative of everyone’s lived reality. Her evidence even includes beer commercials!

Number two, even if we assume this is a widespread problem, she doesn’t dig any deeper into why that is or what can be done about it. Instead, she blames women for not being picky enough! As though physical beauty is, in fact, the be-all end-all of relationships, and women therefore need to become more bigoted and only settle for the most attractive mates.

Why are you settling? Why are you not more selective? Why are you not more critical?

Why are you calling it love?

Because you haven’t come to believe in yourself!

There’s a world of difference, in my view, between “settling” for a man who treats you badly or abuses you, and “settling” for a man who treats you well but is going bald. Maybe it’s just me, but that’s a pretty disgusting thing to equate here.

Dr Laura is abrasive, rude, and often downright cruel. But in this chapter at least, she grapples with some real problems. I mean, this isn’t necessarily an incorrect sentiment:

I feel certain that what many women call love, under so many obviously ugly, hurtful, and sometimes downright dangerous situations, is more about passion and promise and fantasies and desperate dependencies and fears about taking on alternatives.

Real love is a long marination of qualities having to do with respect, admiration, appreciation, character, affection, cooperation, honor, and sacrifice.

But verbally abusing women until they stand up to their verbally abusive boyfriends just seems counterproductive, doesn’t it?

She pinpoints that the problem is low self-esteem, but then counters that women often use low self-esteem as an excuse for inaction, rather than something that they should be working to change. My counter to that is that people will use anything as a reason not to change if they’re not ready or not willing to do so yet. You can’t shy away from terminology just because people will use it to deceive themselves. Isn’t this book supposed to be the real deal, raw and unfiltered, and not concerned with hurting feelings?

But as I keep saying, she has some good advice here:

Courage is not the lack of fear, it is fear plus action.

She lays out here that if you push yourself to make change, when your life improves, you’ll have more self-esteem: because you took control and made change happen, therefore, you are a person who can make good things happen. This is a far healthier basis for self-worth than what other people see in you.

Our next case study is, shockingly, a lesbian: Linda, who was involved with another woman. The other woman decided she wasn’t in love anymore and wanted to break up. Linda was finding it hard to let go, which Dr Laura claimed (and doesn’t give me enough data to judge for myself) was because she was afraid to lose herself, the sense of significance and worth she got from being in a relationship. We get another dose of misogyny here:

I observed that such behavior is typically female. Men don’t feel they have to be attached to a woman in order to exist. They feel they have to be doing something: racing a car faster, inventing something, climbing a mountain, running a company — doing something in the world. That’s how they find an identity.

This is because the patriarchy says that men get their identity and worth from the things they do, while women get their identity and worth from their owner. A girl with a rich father is better than one with a poor father; a girl who can afford to spend daddy’s money on expensive beauty regimes and plastic surgery is able to make herself more attractive to a potential husband, and landing a rich, successful husband is the way in which a woman shows she is valuable. Denying the effects of patriarchy and laying all the blame on the head of the woman is like denying the effects of our income inequality and blaming poor people for being poor, or denying systemic racism and blaming black people for not “trying hard enough”.

Dr Laura then describes women as “Volunteer hostages” and “romantic martyrs”. I’m just going to skip ahead a bit; she has a tendency to repeat the same central point over and over in progressively more shocking ways, as though worried it won’t sink in if she only says it once.

Toward the end of this chapter we get more traditional advice, though it’s dressed up in the sensationalist package. You have to love yourself before you can love someone else, Dr Laura basically implies. You can’t change a man, so if he has a deal-breaking flaw, give him up. You should use your head to overrule your heart: if the situation is dangerous, don’t listen to your feelings, protect yourself. Love (the feeling) is not enough.

I’ve been struggling with the definition of love for a while. There is an emotion, a gushy, sentimental attachment to a person, that is often described as “love”. But there is also the sense of devotion and faith, of choosing to be with someone and do what you can to make their life that much better. Of putting their needs over your own wants, of choosing to stand by them when things are difficult. There’s also the sense of unwavering acceptance, the idea that you know them thoroughly inside and out, and the curiosity and desire to see where their life is going and who they are becoming from minute to minute. All these things are called “love”, and they’re not always a package deal. What do you do when you have sentimental feelings toward someone but you can’t accept who they really are and you don’t want to be part of where their life is headed? You try to change them, or you tell yourself they’re better than you think they are (denial), or you leave them. Of the three options, only one is really healthy.

Post-script: Sorry this took so long, I’ve been having a mental health crisis and needed to be away from the internet for a bit. This book is a lot shorter than Bitten so I anticipate no trouble finishing it, but it may take longer than I expected. 

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This is just to say…

Still planning on finishing Dr Laura. Just having a rough time with my health lately. Stay tuned.

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Dr Laura: Ch 2

Either chapter two is a lot better than chapter one, or I’m acclimating to the water quickly. There’s even some advice in here that’s decent. Chapter 2 is about “Stupid courtship”.

On of the harder things I’ve been learning about recently is resiliency, the quality of being able to bounce back from hard times. People who are resilient cannot have their center of strength located outside themselves; you can lean on friends and family when you have problems, but only until the problem is the friends or family dying or leaving you or just not being around. During those times, you have to be able to trust that you can get through it, that you’ve been through hard times before and will be able to get through this one. That all is not lost.

Dr Laura seems to be approaching this concept in one of her sections of chapter 2:

How do we get through rough times? By believing in ourselves enough and occupying ourselves enough, developing ourselves enough, so that we can tolerate the discomfort between now and our next triumph. As I’ve said, there really is no gain without pain — emotionally as well as aerobically. Why not ride the loneliness through and come out a stronger person as the result of it?

Likewise, she almost touches on why we don’t teach women to be resilient as girls:

None of us, thank heaven, is Cinderella — who happens to be the greatest example ever of a women waiting for some man to come along and fix it for her. IT’s sad that we women grow up believing in these fairy tales

Notice, however, how she stops short of highlighting a systemic problem, preferring to blame women for having been taken in by the society and culture around them rather than the culture for sending the wrong messages to girls.

Her point, during this chapter, is that the second thing women do to mess up their lives is get attached to the wrong guy, preferring to be with a man who treats them badly than to be alone. It has massive overlap with the previous chapter:

Men are here to share our lives, not to be our lives

including the overgeneralization of one or two incidents to every woman ever that is basically going to be a theme for this book:

Kristin was lucky that she’d had to confront the issue of dependence on males at twenty-two instead of forty-seven

One of the things I wanted to do with this particular series is to share stories of my own life, to contrast with the messages Dr Laura is spreading about everyone with ovaries. But on this topic, I really don’t have a lot to say. I’ve been with my husband since I was about 17, and I honestly don’t count high school dating as indicative of my values since I was still going through hormonal changes and learning who I was. I think it’s unfair to judge an adult by who they were in high school. But then, when you’re using stories of people who got engaged at 19 as part of your thesis on why all women are awful, maybe I’m setting the bar too high.

My first boyfriend was a dream come true. I’d been worried, as I’d never dated in middle school, that I was unloveable. I was fat, after all, and I was loud and boisterous and violent; what if men never found me attractive? When he asked me out, I was on cloud nine. It didn’t matter then if I liked him back, though he was quite attractive thankfully. I was just so pleased that someone wanted to be with me.

He invited me over to his place after school while his parents were away, and we shared our first kiss on his couch while watching The Matrix. A few minutes later, while I was still riding the high from having kissed someone, he gave me my first French kiss, and I got the impression he’d be okay with more if I was. It was awkward leaving after the film; he had the whole trilogy, but I convinced him it’d be better to do three dates rather than a marathon, and I had to get home, and so on. After that, whenever we were together, he was eager to get his tongue in my mouth.

I broke up with him when I realized I was finding excuses not to go hang out with him rather than eagerly looking forward to our dates.

Now, I’m gender-nonconforming to say the least. I’ve never been a girly-girl, and maybe that’s why I’m not the kind of garbage person that calls into Dr Laura’s show. Or maybe, just maybe, you can’t base generalizations about whole genders based on people who call in to an advice show where the host is known to berate them for making bad choices:

If you’re inclined to discount my point of view as full of assumptions, as a personal agenda or bias, I understand. After all, it’s unsettling to consider the possibility that most female thrusting toward men and relationships is not because women are making sensible choices. Rather, it’s a case of women being driven to attach to men for identity, affirmation, approval, purpose, safety, and security — values that can really only come from within ourselves. When the inevitable disappointment happens, such women complain bitterly that their men have failed them because they don’t’ sustain them just the way they want.

According to her, it’s nearly impossible for a girl of 15 to break it off with a boy because she decides she’s unhappy. Rather, I should have done everything in my power to force him to stay. Instead of being an early fumble toward understanding what I want in a relationship, she’d say my desire to be with a guy, any guy, was indicative of a deep pathological need to receive validation from an outside source. As it happens, I did need external validation… because everywhere I looked, I found people willing to tear down my appearance, but few indications that it was okay to be the weight I was. I developed an eating disorder within a few years.

At times, Dr Laura here treats women’s desire for relationships like an addiction. She offers advice I’ve seen elsewhere, on self-harm recovery websites: make a list of things you can do to find validation other than picking up the phone and calling a boy, and then when you’re tempted to drunk-text your ex about why you should get back together, instead do one of those things.

But at other times, her misogyny is only outdone by her hatred of feminism. She has a section entitled “men can feel like objects too” where she clearly is relating individual stories of men being used as a living teddy bear to the cultural phenomenon of women’s bodies being used to sell products as though they were equal. While I’m sure it feels shitty to be treated like a teddy bear, the sheer scale differences alone should be enough to consider them different subjects altogether… unless you, like Dr Laura, believe all women act like the case studies she digs up from her radio show.

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