Wednesday, March 01, 2006

My Open Letter to Dr. Laura

NOTE: I love listening to Dr. Laura Schlesinger. She's entertaining, and she makes me think. Sometimes she's sweet, sometimes she's shockingly judgmental and abrasive. She stands up for motherhood, and all moms need more of that, even if Dr. Laura has some pretty strict rules about what good moms do.

But one thing that's been bothering me for awhile is the way she slams feminists. Because it has occurred to me that she is, um, a feminist. And if you ask me, she's both ungrateful and a little hypocritical.

So I wrote her a letter. Her website only allows 3000 characters, so I had to keep it as brief as I could (I actually had a lot more to say). I don't expect her to respond, and she hasn't. I think I raised some good questions.


Dear Dr. Laura,

I have been a listener of your radio show for a decade or more. I am grateful for the insight you provide about family life, I admire your advocacy for children. For example, the other day, you spoke glowingly about the benefits of breastfeeding, and it warmed my heart, since breastfeeding mothers are often under attack in American society. Thank you very much for doing that.

I hope it's okay to say that I don't always agree with you. Sometimes I have a hard time seeing myself in your generalizations. My husband doesn't fit your stereotypes about men. I am devoted to my family, yet I think of myself as a feminist, although one who doesn't behave the way the feminists you describe do.

In fact, sometimes it seems like even YOU don't even fit your own stereotypes about women. It's funny, because I think of you as a feminist!

I know you don't think much of feminists, but did you have any idea that if there had never been a feminist, you would be known as "Mrs. Laura," not "Dr. Laura," since feminists paved the way for women to pursue higher education? Before the feminist movement of the late 19th century, leading physicians promoted the idea that advanced study would siphon valuable blood away from the reproductive organs and toward the brain, rendering women sterile. Without the women pioneers who were the "firsts" at leading universities and in fields traditionally limited to men (especially scientific areas such as Physiology), such views would prevail today.

Did you know that without feminists, there wouldn't be any coeducational institutions, and you wouldn't be able to tout your Ph.D. from Columbia University?

Did you know that without feminists, you wouldn't be able to get a bank account in your own name, own property, or publish a book? Did you know that you'd have a hard time getting your own radio show because the proper place for a woman was in the home, not influencing public opinion?

I know you said not to bother writing if I don't agree with your views about feminists. But I had to. I've been wanting to ask you these questions for years. It seems like you have exploited the gains of feminists, yet your appeal to your listeners rests largely on criticizing them.

I call myself a feminist, but I'm not like the feminists of the 1960s. I don't hate men. Although I work for my husband now, I have stayed at home with my child, and I am a very devoted mother. I truly respect the right of every woman to attempt to strike the right balance between doing right by her family and pursuing work that's meaningful. Finding that balance is HARD, especially if you've worked to develop yourself prior to having children. You make it sound so easy, as if just vilifying the women who have attempted to try a new way will make the tension go away. But it doesn't.

I'm out of space. Thanks again for the work you do to honor and dignify mothers. Keep it up!