I confess: I'm a fan of "Dog Whisperer," the National Geographic Channel show showcasing the talents of self-taught dog guru Cesar Millan. Sure, Millan applies the same principles (calm, assertive owner behavior, daily exercise, boundary setting and discipline) to nearly every problem dog he encounters. But at least from the average-viewer perspective, both the dogs and the dog owners he counsels seem happier after he's coached them, and the show is generally a big feel-good affair.
Unlike Millan's recent comments about women, as quoted in an opinion piece in Thursday's New York Times! In a piece criticizing Millan's punitive training methods, contributor Mark Derr flags some yucky attitudes revealed in DVD outtakes:
"Women are the worst offenders in his world," Derr writes. "In one of the outtakes included in the four-DVD set of the first season of 'Dog Whisperer,' Mr. Millan explains that a woman is 'the only species that is wired different from the rest.' And a 'woman always applies affection before discipline,' he says. 'Man applies discipline then affection, so we're more psychological than emotional. All animals follow dominant leaders; they don't follow lovable leaders.'"
Nasty, and a weird assertion from a guy whose acknowledged hero is Oprah Winfrey. (Back in 2005, Salon's Heather Havrilesky wrote a great piece about her interview/dog-training session with Millan, in which he credited Winfrey and actress Jada Pinkett with helping him to succeed. He also offered a softer, if still essentialist, explanation of his views on gender: "What I learned when I came to America is, third-world country men do not fulfill women ... A woman requires affection, a woman requires emotion, a woman requires you to say, 'You're so beautiful and you're so great.'")
Happily, Derr has no patience for the hierarchical view expressed in the outtakes, remarking, "Mr. Millan's sexism is laughable."
And so it seems I'll need to find a new source of entertainment. At least I know where to go for suggestions.