Dr. Laura Reminds Us Who’s the Boss

You may already know we’re not the biggest fan of Dr. Laura, but she just keeps coming back to piss us off.

The Sexist covered her most recent video chat, addressing a question by a listener about stay-at-home dads. Her response? That being the family’s breadwinner could lead these women to extreme emasculation (sounds like a good band name) of their men:

[W]hen the moms are working, and the dads are at home, the moms, the women, the wives, tend to change their feelings somewhat about their husbands. They tend not to see them as the heroes. The warrior. The man. The caretaker. The provider. The protector. And those feelings are really very significant. And I have found over the years that there often is more marital strife when the roles are reserved. Whether you’re a feminist or not, whether you like it or not, them’s just the facts.

Apparently she didn’t get the memo that this isn’t 1950 and we’re not in a Disney movie. But the doctor makes sure to say it’s a-okay if you want to be a working mother, as long as you still know your place:

Now: it often works very well. And when it works very well–OK, when it works very well it’s good for the kids, when it doesn’t work very well, it’s not good for the kids. The point is not, are the rolls reversed and is that good for the children? The point is, are the parents RHHHHGGG about it? Is dad being treated with less respect? Is mom coming home sort of bitter that she’s not with the kids, and feeling like since she earns the money, she’s the boss? If there is this kind of negativity and dissention, that hurts the kids.

Mom can’t be having, you know, too much respect or anything! Amanda says, “In other words, are you still treating mom like a woman (with less respect), and dad like a man (the boss)? You’re good to go.” Indeed. If anyone needs advice, it’s Dr. Laura — on what year it is.
Approximate transcript after the jump.


I’m Dr, Laura, welcome to our YouTube channel, and we got a letter here from Karen: If a mom works and the dad stays home with the children, does this have any psychological effect on the kids with respect to their relationships later in life? You talk a lot about stay-at-home moms but I don’t recall you talking much about what happens when the roles are reversed. Is it better for boys if the dad stays home or does it matter? This is one which gets very sensitive, because in general–that means there are exceptions everywhere, OK–when the moms are working, and the dads are at home, the moms, the women, the wives, tend to change their feelings somewhat about their husbands. They tend not to see them as the heroes. The warrior. The man. The caretaker. The provider. The protector. And those feelings are really very significant. And I have found over the years that there often is more marital strife when the roles are reserved. Whether you’re a feminist or not, whether you like it or not, them’s just the facts. Now: it often works very well. And when it works very well–OK, when it works very well it’s good for the kids, when it doesn’t work very well, it’s not good for the kids. The point is not, are the rolls reversed and is that good for the children? The point is, are the parents RHHHHGGG about it? Is dad being treated with less respect? Is mom coming home sort of bitter that she’s not with the kids, and feeling like since she earns the money, she’s the boss? If there is this kind of negativity and dissention, that hurts the kids. But the families where there is role reversal, it doesn’t seem to matter for the future for the kids, the boys could see this and still decide you want to be the person who goes out to work. So the real issue is how do mom and dad treat each other. Do they show each other love, patience, compassion and schmooziness, or not – that’s what makes a difference for the kids, not who’s bringing home the bacon – or who’s frying it, whatever that is.

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25 Comments

  1. ShareseL
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    lol @ Apparently she didn’t get the memo that this isn’t 1950 and we’re not in a Disney movie. Also, side note- did anyone else notice that in all her other videos that came up on the menu bar she was also wearing pink? Weird.

  2. Kathleen Hagerty
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    Wow! She’s straight out of the Donna Reed show!
    I don’t know Dr. Laura in much depth, but just based on this little video, I’d be willing to cut her some slack. She probably sees a lot of couples who aren’t very comfortable with the wives working and husbands staying home. I can see how a lot of people would have problems with that, since it forces them to rethink their ideas on gender roles within the family. The ending kind of cinched it for me: really, it doesn’t matter who’s making the money, as long as the parents treat each other with respect and love, it will be a good atmosphere for the kids. I agree with that. I don’t think that she’s saying that fathers should get more respect than the mothers. I think she’s just saying that they should be treated equally well by each other.

  3. Becca Stareyes
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    Heck, even if you assume breaking gender roles in a (heterosexual) relationship* causes stress on the relationship, why assume that breaking gender roles is a bad thing? Why not assume that teaching kids that ‘in order to be a good man/woman, you need to do X, Y and Z, and never W’ is a bad thing, because it tries to force every romantic relationship into the same hole, and that the stress when things don’t fit is a symptom of this problem?

    * And won’t someone please think of the same-sex relationships, the polyamorous relationships and the intersex and genderqueer people and probably others I’m forgetting? Not every romantic relationship slots into the ‘two people, one male, one female’ hole anyway, let alone tacking on roles for the male and female parties.

  4. geek_girl
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    Ok my first thought is the ridiculousness highlighted in the original post and I primarily agree…
    Playing devil’s advocate a tiny bit – Doc Laura may have unintentionally made a point.
    Caveat: sticking with heteronorm stuff again since that’s what I know, but same below could apply to other “nontraditional”(hah!) relationships.
    How many men are good enough feminists to deal with the reversed gender roll? How many couples can deal with the scorn, the giggles, the jokes from friends told over and over, the breaking of gender rolls every day?
    Hell yes this would be hard for a family. While a woman gets told “oh it’s a shame that you haven’t got your husband to fall back on” a man gets told he isn’t a man. It’s great if you are a good enough person to ignore that day in and day out, but I bet there’s times it puts stress on everyone.
    I’d also guess at this point mommy works and daddy doesn’t is barely more ‘acceptable’ in school as a kid than having 2 moms or 2 dads.
    /Devil’s Advocate
    The less people do this the harder it is for the few families that have this arrangement, though, and Doc Laura could just stop already. Sigh.

  5. Sleepy
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    “The warrior. The man. The caretaker. The provider. The protector.” To me, these are huge turn-offs.
    I’ve worked in many places, and found that even if a male boss is good-looking, the “boss” factor will make him seem very unattractive to me. Over a number of years, my husband has grown career-wise and taken on higher level (management) roles. And while I wouldn’t say that I’m unattracted to him now, I will say that it’s pretty important that he leaves the boss thing at work.
    Perhaps I just was raised with high expectations of my role in a relationship? Well, my kids seem OK.

  6. GREGORYABUTLER10031
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    “They tend not to see them as the heroes. The warrior. The man. The caretaker. The provider. The protector.”
    Alrighty then…
    Where do I even begin?
    I’m sorry, but since I am a heterosexual cisgendered male, I’m going to be “the man” in any relationship I’m in, simply because I’m of the male gender (employment status and income are irrelevant to this)
    If I wanted to be the “hero” or the “warrior” or the “protector” I would have listened to my dad when I was 17 and joined the Navy!
    I’m not the “caretaker” either – because this is a relationship we’re talking about, not a job as a building maintenance worker!
    As for that “provider” business – again, this is supposed to be a relationship, not a business transaction!
    I’m being a bit of a smartass here, but seriously, Dr Laura has some antiquated ideas about male-female heterosexual relationships.
    Not that she’s the only person who thinks that way, unfortunately, and I’m sure there are straight male-female couples where the woman is the primary income earner and one or both partners has a problem with that precisely because it doesn’t fit the 1950′s model.
    Of course, the reason the 1905′s model doesn’t fit anymore is because we’re not in the 1950′s – the world has changed a whole lot, and changed for the better (in large part due to feminism) and that model is outmoded and should no longer be a guide for how we live our lives and pursue our relationships.

  7. Sarah Elizabeth
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    Oh, Dr. Laura. Do you really think any people take her seriously? If they do, we’re fucked.

  8. kat
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    My husband and I swiched roles about a year ago, so now he’s the primary parent. I say primary parent, because he does some part-time work, but our kids are in school.
    He loves it. He loves being able to make all the events at school after missing so many when he had a job that had him traveling all the time. He likes helping with homework, and being able to hang out with them in the summer. If anyone asks him how he’s doing with it, he tells them that his life is perfect – he’s his own boss, he spends more time with his kids, and he doesn’t have to work hard!
    However, he does get some skeptical comments from some people. Just last night, I was talking to an acquaintance who knows our situation, but asked when my husband was going to want to go back to looking for full time work, and felt sorry for me because I was missing out on life with my kids. (Um, I did that for 11 years. His turn now.)
    But I am happy to report that the kids love it, and it’s not found to be unacceptable at school at all.

  9. Toongrrl
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    I can’t stand her. Mrs. Family Values here estranged herself from her late mother and no one knew the woman died until apartment dwellers noticed an awful smell.

  10. Lilith Luffles
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    So I’m just curious…. if the couple is unhappy and fighting in the traditional roles, should they switch? If the man has less respect for his wife because she stays at home, should she work?
    It just seems like traditional roles are the norm and it’s ok to deviate if both partners are happy, but she did address what to do if both partners are unhappy in a traditional setting. Watch it again and pretend she is talking about a traditional home, and all of a sudden it’s like the argument shouldn’t even be made.

  11. onlynow
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    “Is dad being treated with less respect? Is mom coming home sort of bitter that she’s not with the kids, and feeling like since she earns the money, she’s the boss? ”
    I don’t see anything wrong with this statement. Let’s reverse the genders and see what it looks like:
    “Is mom being treated with less respect? Is dad coming home sort of bitter that he’s not with the kids, and feeling like since he earns the money, he’s the boss? ”
    The point is that the parent that stays at home should not be treated with less respect, and that the parent that earns the money should not presume that they are the boss. And that’s true no matter what the gender of the two parents are.
    What Amanda says, “In other words, are you still treating mom like a woman (with less respect), and dad like a man (the boss)? You’re good to go.” misses the point completely, and is fabricating outrage where there is none.
    In my experience, the keys to a happy relationship is that each partner contributes an equal time and energy to the partnership, receives an equal amount of respect and appreciation from their partner, and contributes equally to decision making. If these things are done, then who does what work matters very little.

  12. Comrade Kevin
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit recently. My partner and I in many ways have completely flip-flopped traditional gender roles. For starters, she’s the primary breadwinner. I do most of the cooking and the household chores like grocery shopping. This seemed fairly natural to both of us and there was no discomfort whatsoever in how this happened to shake out.
    But beyond that, I recognize the reason I was attracted to her in the first place is that in many ways, she is more stereotypically masculine based on her personality and how she looks at the world. I am more stereotypically feminine in that regard as well, but if seeking a partner means you seek that which you yourself lack in a desire to seek completion, I can understand why we work.

  13. IAmGopherrr
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    Why doesnt Laura just take her own advice and shut up?

  14. pedestrian
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    I have an aunt and uncle who are an interracial couple and a lot of relatives cloaked their racism in concerns for my poor cousin who was treated so badly at school. Yes, she was a victim of bigotry, as were they – but that doesn’t legitimize the bigotry!
    We SHOULD acknowledge that it is hard to live in a racist, sexist, homophobic society, especially for children. But minimizing friction only helps those who have the privilege to avoid prejudice in the first place. Maybe white, heterosexual couples can avoid some conflict for their children by conforming to gender roles, but what if some of their children are gay or transgender? Who will they look to for support?

  15. Libbierator
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    I watched this and actually thought it was pretty feminist. Largely because, I think there IS strife when people switch around the paradigms they grew up with; i.e., I grew up with Disney and still love it, but I also love feminism and I try to balance them in my life. It IS very stressful, actually. That doesn’t mean I want to reject either one; it means I try to intertwine them into who I am.
    It seems to me that Dr. Laura was saying that when people are confused about gender norms, there’s stress, and that stress is bad for children. Which is true. It is also true, and she didn’t acknowledge this as much, that trying to fit into those gender norms also causes a lot of stress, which is still bad for the children. What she emphasized, and what I agree with, is that the key is ‘how mom and dad’ (or mom and mom or dad and dad or a community) ‘treat each other’. If the partners, or the community, treat each other with love and respect, that’s good; if they don’t, and are leading stressful lives, the kids notice and that does have psychological effects on the kids (and it does). And love and respect can happen both in and out of heteronormative relationships.

  16. Aydan
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    And I have found over the years that there often is more marital strife when the roles are reserved. Whether you’re a feminist or not, whether you like it or not, them’s just the facts.
    Citation needed!
    But seriously, is there any evidence to back up this claim?

  17. everybodyever
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

    [W]hen the moms are working, and the dads are at home, the moms, the women, the wives, tend to change their feelings somewhat about their husbands. They tend not to see them as the heroes. The warrior. The man. The caretaker. The provider. The protector.
    Translation: Wives realize they’re self-sufficient, capable people who can make themselves happy and who need not depend for survival on their husbands.
    Sounds like good news to me — and one more strike against marriage.

  18. Sloppy Sandwich
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    I agree with Dr. Laura. My masculinity is a delicate hot house flower that may wilt and die if exposed to excessively large stacks of lady-earned cash. I had to ask my wife to stop making it rain in our living room because the showers of benjamins were making my testicles retreat into my abdomical cavity.

  19. Sloppy Sandwich
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    Shooting at the walls of heartache, bang bang! I am the warrior!

  20. gwyllion
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

    for those of you above who are unfamiliar with Dr. Laura and are willing to ‘cut her some slack’ i would encourage you to actually listen to the evil she spews on her show. i have heard her state that “death is better than divorce” when any woman states that she was raped or abused she asks for specifics and if the woman was not a small child abused at the hands of an adult then she must have had some hand in her own abuse/assault. I have heard her dismiss a woman who was sexually assaulted by her older brother with the comment that ‘siblings experiment’, i have heard her counsel a woman who suffered years of abuse from an older male relative as a child and was having trouble in her married sex life to use the abuse as a tool to channel her own sexuality. She advises women to be a fuck-hole for their men, and if the man doesn’t want to fuck to instead “make them a sandwich” In a nutshell – she HATES women, demonizes feminism, is a hypocrite and puts any and all blame for failed relationships squarely on the shoulders of women. If a person calls in to complain about their father her first question is always “what was your mother like?” i once emailed her after an especially vindictive attack on a young woman who called in and said “i thank any deities that may be out in the cosmos that you were never mother to a girl-child” She is a rape victim blaming, patriarchy embracing, woman-hating, venom spewing monster.

  21. Jannat
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    “Apparently she didn’t get the memo that this isn’t 1950 and we’re not in a Disney movie.”
    Actually, I was thinking more like caveman times, but you know.

  22. Kate
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    Other than the fact that Dr. Laura cannot expertly comment on the psychological effects on kids of having a stay-at-home Dad and a working mother because she does not have the necessary credentials (her Ph.D. is in physiology, not psychology), I find it interesting that she holds such conservative views on family structure considering she’s once divorced, had an affair with a married man who she later married while carrying his child, and is estranged from apparently ever member of her family. Talk about calling the kettle black…
    Once again, she is NOT a licensed psychologist, and I think it’s reprehensible that she even portrays that facade. In response to gwyllion’s comment, it also saddens me that she is the mother of a male-child because she still gets to pass on that hate to someone.

  23. bzzxz
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    It’s interesting how she refers to men in relationships as “the warrior.” It’s almost as if she’s saying that love is a battlefield.

  24. jayjay323
    Posted February 24, 2010 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    Gregory,
    “Of course, the reason the 1905′s model doesn’t fit anymore is because we’re not in the 1950′s – the world has changed a whole lot, and changed for the better (in large part due to feminism) and that model is outmoded and should no longer be a guide for how we live our lives and pursue our relationships.”
    I agree, and there even was a recent NY Times article outlining that role reversal can work very well (and does so more often now in the crisis).
    That said: what has not changed one bit are male ideas of what women want from them, and how men are scared shitless by no longer being needed, because they don’t believe they can be wanted. Sucks, but that’s what I feel is the current state of ‘privileged’ masculinity: you’re not sure you’re wanted, so you fight for being needed. And feminism isn’t doing a particularly good job at changing that – most women say one thing and then still opt for a guy with a bigger wallet and a higher social status. And no one would blame them for it, of course. It’s just that there are two sides to this thing and I don’t think one of them is being treated fairly.

  25. GREGORYABUTLER10031
    Posted February 25, 2010 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    “hat has not changed one bit are male ideas of what women want from them, and how men are scared shitless by no longer being needed, because they don’t believe they can be wanted.”
    It’s a really bad idea to generalize about how large categories of people think.
    In this case, I can assure you that not all males think that way.
    I know I don’t feel that way.
    Tirst of all, I’ve never been married, I’ve never done the “breadwinner” thing (or wanted to – this is not the 1950′s) and, consequently, my sexual identity vis a vis women has never been based on the idea that the only reason they’d want to be with me is money (hell, I’d be offended if that was the only reason somebody was with me!)
    Maybe I’m out there, and maybe other men don’t think this, but I’m quite sure that, just like us guys, women can, and do, select partners based on sexual attractiveness, personality and all the other stuff that makes you catch feelings for another person.
    Which brings me to this “most women say one thing and then still opt for a guy with a bigger wallet and a higher social status.”
    That’s a pretty gross overgeneralization.
    While indeed there are some women who’s choice of partner is purely and crassly financial, there are many women who choice of partner is based on sexual attraction, compatibility, love and other purely emotional (and very much non financial) reasons.
    Especially these days, when the vast majority of women are employed and male/female relationships are about companionship rather than economic necessity that is very much the case.
    Now, of course, your immediate personal experience may vary, and perhaps most of the women you meet are looking for somebody to support them rather than a partner in love.
    But you can’t go out and proclaim that all or even most women are like that, because that’s simply not true.

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