March 11, 2008

Victim-blaming, feminism-blaming(?): Dr. Laura’s comments re: Spitzer’s infidelity

Posted in gender roles, power hierarchy, victim-blaming at 8:43 pm by LB

I am too incensed to not comment on Dr. Laura’s comments about Spitzer’s infidelity, specifically that he cheated because his wife “failed him”. I agree with what Melissa at Shakesville says regarding this:


Secondly, it’s absolutely true that if someone’s (reasonable) needs aren’t being met by a spouse, then something will eventually and inexorably give. But that doesn’t justify cheating; it justifies ending the relationship. That’s true whether it’s husband or wife (or both) failing to deliver; it’s not a one-way street.


The other TODAY show panelists (rightly so) called this out as victim-blaming-that while both parties are responsible for the relationship, no partner is ever at fault for the other cheating.
But what I want to comment on is something else-Dr. Laura’s implicit blaming of feminism (or at least women’s rights) for this particular situation, if not for the situation of cheating husbands everywhere.


from MSNBC.com:

“When the wife does not focus in on the needs and the feelings, sexually, personally, to make him feel like a man, to make him feel like a success, to make him feel like her hero, he’s very susceptible to the charm of some other woman making him feel what he needs.”

And on an appearance with TODAY’s Ann Curry:

I would challenge the wife to find out what kind of wife she’s being,” she said. “Is she being supportive and approving and loving? Is she being sexually intimate and affectionate? Is she making him feel like he’s her man?

So unless women support their partners in a way that assures them that they are the bastion of patriarchal manhood, women are responsible if their partners cheat.

also from Dr. Laura with Ann Curry:

I have kept marriages together after affairs because I have reminded women that you have the power to turn this around. He had his children with you. He has his future life plans with you, his dreams, his whole mind, body and soul was wrapped up in the promise of you. If you now turn that back on, all that stuff you turned off because ‘I’m busy’ or ‘I’m irritated’ or ‘I’m annoyed’ or ‘I’m self-centered’ — if you turn that around, you have that man back.

So, dedicate your life and being to making sure he feels like a “real man” (however patriarchally and heteronormatively defined), deny your own feelings to cater to his, and don’t do anything for yourself if it might make him feel less of a man….she only barely falls short of saying “If feminism didn’t corrupt women into thinking their wants and desires are as important than men’s, we wouldn’t have this problem”.

This also comes from the person who says that if a woman is not in the mood for sex when her husband wants it, she needs to a) cut stuff out of her life-her job, other activities, etc., and b) suck it up and do it anyway. Clearly, Dr. Laura feels that a woman’s primary responsibility in the marital relationship is sex, and also that this poorly defined marital relationship is not just one important part of a woman’s life but the most important part. She, like others, think that once married, the husband is owed sexual access to the wife’s body.

It isn’t like the mantra “feminists are selfish” or that “feminism has emasculated men” aren’t already common arguments in our culture. Especially with regards to sex: how dare women say that sex doesn’t end when the man’s orgasm does! How dare women decide what sex acts they do and do not want to do! How dare women have sex only when they want to! How dare women demand equal attention in the bedroom (and in the rest of the house!) How dare women be so…selfish?!

And how dare women, you know, have jobs? How dare women not support classical suffocating visions of masculinity and gender roles? Clearly the issue is with dirty ole feminism…and not at all with men thinking that gender equality means that men don’t have to change anything about “the way things have always been.” Gone are the days of only a rights-based liberal feminism, where equality means women can have entry into the male space of the “public sphere.” Feminist gender analysis means a critique of how gender is produced in our culture and how that harms both men and women. It’s about analyzing interlocking forms of oppression-that patriarchy, exploitive capitalism, heterosexism/homophobia, and racism all feed off of each other in their oppressions. I’m getting off topic a bit here, but it isn’t too hard to see that Dr. Laura blaming Spitzer’s wife for him getting his “needs” met elsewhere–and the needs she’s talking about seem to me more about masculine ego and not about sex–is an attack on feminism’s critique of the construction of gender under patriarchy and practices of sexism.

A final note (also somewhat off-topic, but I found it quite interesting)…

One commenter on feministing made this insightful speculation:

I can’t help but to think of his massive sense of self-entitlement in hiring a “high priced hooker,” when hypothetically he could have spent under $500 on a fancy dinner and sex with some area DC lady (not a professional) who would have made the decision independently to do this for her own thrill.

And Melissa on Shakesville said the following:


But most importantly, this idea that spouses cheat solely or mostly because they are lacking “love and kindness and respect and attention” at home is antiquated horseshit. Yeah, some spouses cheat for that reason. And plenty of others—especially men in positions like Spitzer’s—cheat because it’s exciting and fun and because they are self-indulgent narcissists who are stupid enough to believe they’ll never get caught.


Considering Dr. Laura’s analysis, I don’t doubt that this narcissistic entitlement can be fueled by the male ego being unable and/or unwilling to adapt to the notion that they are not the centre of the universe, despite what patriarchy entitles them to. But this is not women’s fault or feminism’s or the erosion of traditional gender roles that consolidate masculinity– it’s men’s own attitudes regarding their own masculinity that needs to be questioned a bit more.

2 Comments »

  1. smartist said,

    I had a similar discussion with my bf last night, while watching the TV… but you’ve said it much better in this posting. bravo, LB!

  2. lindabeth said,

    Thanks Sarah! I can’t believe they still ask Dr. Laura to speak on television…


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