Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Dr. Phil Duo

I need to get another job. This can be evidenced by the fact that I have been watching too much Dr. Phil. What is so fascinating about this is that I watched episodes on Thursday and Friday which were just so strikingly sexist, particularly in relationship to one another, that I almost couldn't believe it.

On Thursday Robin McGraw, Dr. Phil's wife, had the opportunity to tell women what we need to do to look ten years younger during an oh-so-tired makeover show. Apparently all it takes to be a happier menopausal woman is microderm abrasion, teeth whitening, cellulite reduction cream, velashaping (?), eyebrow sculpting, 'natural' hormone therapy, not eating, a gym membership, working out in the proper (name brand) gear, an iPod, sunglasses, perfume, high heels, bubble baths, a cocktail dress, a crap-load of make up and a haircut. (Seriously, all of these things were mentioned!)

Image Via

The show featured five 40-50 year old women who were unhappy with their appearance.
"I've become a frumpy mom... I'm not feeling pretty anymore!"
Dr. Phil's only apparent reason for even being in this episode seemed to be to illustrate the contrast between men and women. Every time Robin named off some inane new beauty treatment he would shake his head in that condescending "oh you silly women" way. He joked many times about how women just like to be pretty and thin, blah, blah, blah. He lectured the women about going to the gym (one of them moaned about weighing 130 lbs!) AND he consistently referred to them as 'girls!' Remember, they were all between 40 and 50!!

Near the end of the show all of the women came out to show their new make overs. The audience applauded vigorously when Robin announced that one of the women was now a size 4. Now all of these viewers have learned that being a size 4 is how women are valued in mass media, this is the only reason that this woman made it onto broadcast television. This revelation sequence was my very favorite part because the first thing Dr. Phil did was ask the women's husbands how they thought that their wives looked. He didn't ask the women how they felt or what they thought. No, he was much more concerned with whether their torturous beauty rituals had succeeded in making their fat, balding husbands' dicks hard. Job well done! And of course, all of this was presented as being some great treat for all of these women.

Another portion of the show was spent at the mall. Robin showed viewers how to shop so that you can look years younger! She did this with her token gay man and her vacuous Barbie-doll-looking daughter-in-law.

Heternormativity, misogyny and class privilege all smashed into one hour long show. Well done!


The show on Friday was seemingly very different in its focus. However, if you pay attention to the subtext the connection becomes very clear.

The first part of the show was about Adam who is $200,000 in debt. Adam's family thinks that he is too concerned with material things. He claimed (and no one really disagreed) that "it's all about image." I am assuming he meant life.

Image Via

He would buy himself new vehicles at an alarming rate and he went to the tanning salon and got his hair done before being on the show. These things apparently demonstrate his obsession with his image. Dr. Phil's advice for him?

"Why do you care so much about what people think?
"Why do you need that Hummer to perceive yourself as okay?"
"Don't be that shallow, don't define yourself by that stuff."

Now remember that just one day earlier he and his wife were encouraging women to do those very things!! To absorb themselves in their image, to allow their possessions to define them, to be extremely concerned with their outward appearance. Now when a man is perceived as doing those very same things, he is told that that is unacceptable. He should not be so concerned with material things or with his appearance. No, that is the burden that only women must bear.


Anonymous said...

Wow. That is... revolting.

Great analysis.

Cortney said...

It is! And it amazingly goes unnoticed so easily!

Radical Reminders said...

oh my goodness! I wish that someone else can talk to these women to try and undo the damage that this "dr" did - telling these women that a makeover is all it takes for happiness is setting them up to fail. Yes, it's incredibly sexist but it is also very much unethical. If Dr. Phil is indeed a psychologist he should know better... Is Dr. Phil a real doctor? i've been trying to find out but the internet is full of info one way or the other... Anyway, great post, as always :)

Anonymous said...

Great post!

surfacing said...

Thank you for your post. Sometimes I feel so frusterated and alone when I notice something like this - and I couldn't have exposed the sexist ridiculousness of these daytime shows (even though I am guilty of watching them when time permits) better.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Phil show has "dummied" down each season. I used to LOVE the show because it was informative and helpful. I loved the therapy sessions.

Now it seems like it's all about shock factor. More time is spent on the problem then the solution.

The beauty segment with Robin was nothing but a giant infomercial. She looks like plastic. I honestly thought she was MUCH older then 55. And the woman from Bold and Beautiful ....WHAT was she thinking in her outfit? WHY does she always wear a wig? Does anyone know?


bowspearer said...

The sexism seems to conveniently swing on a pendulum when it suits Dr Phil. I recently posted a blog and post concerning the Domestic Violence episode they did, as the more evidence which emerges, the more of a universal issue it is for both men and women as both victims and abusers. However the episode merely reinforced the old stereotypes of only men being abusers and only women being victims.

It was even more emotional an issue for me as I was abused almost entirely by female family members from the ages of 6-29 and was the victim of several abusive relationships.

Yet my blog post and episode comment were both completely censored.

Does he give no thought to the number of abused children out there who are abused in addition to their parents, or people living in fear and suffering in silence because they know they'll be villified the moment they speak out purely because their abuser is female? Clearly not.

As all forms of child abuse are equally evil as are all forms of child abuse enabling; in a very real way, what they are doing by promoting that message is no different to holding down a 5 year old while an abuser proceeds to molest or rape them.

Yet so much of society is too cowardly to accept this harsh yet accurate truth.

Anonymous said...

lol it all depends on your point of view. I have seen more than enough episodes in which dr phil comes across as trying to make men look like pigs. Were the 50 year old women in $200,000 debt because of focusing on their appearance? No. You have made weak links strong and exaggerated the whole idea of "sexism". If a woman feels bad about her appearance and wants to improve it then let her, if those women were in massive debt because of it dr phil would have treated them the same as the dude. You have to understand that not everyone has the same ideology as you and those women who WANTED makeovers got what they wanted.

Anonymous said...

Hallelujah, finally another woman who sees as clearly as I do. I am fed up and tired of these type articles and shows that suggests to and causes poor females to believe that we are the only ones who need to take care of our looks. I am surprised when seemingly smart women join in this type of practice.

It's sad that so many females, and grown ones at that who ought to know better thanto fallforthis and then push this typeface madedoxtrine off on females.

please write more articles like this. :)

BTW: Sorry to write my comment 5 years later, but I just found this.