Is my beloved Dog Whisperer, Cesar Millan, a sexist? Is he about to make me angry? Say it ain’t so!
I took a weird set of turns getting here, so follow closely.
NY Times Mark Derr writes an opinion piece about Milan and his dog/owner training practices.
Mr. Millan builds his philosophy from a simplistic conception of the dog’s “natural” pack, controlled by a dominant alpha animal (usually male). In his scheme, that leader is the human, which leads to the conclusion that all behavior problems in dogs derive from the failure of the owner or owners to dominate.
Mr. Millan’s quick fix might make for good television and might even produce lasting results in some cases. But it flies in the face of what professional animal behaviorists — either trained and certified veterinarians or ethologists — have learned about normal and abnormal behavior in dogs.
The piece is mostly about this struggle between those who advocate ‘punitive training’ and ‘reward-based training’. But on the first page we learn something very important about Mr. Milan:
Women are the worst offenders in his world. 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.”
Mr. Derr’s reponse: “Mr. Millan’s sexism is laughable; his ethology is outdated.”
Salon’s Broadsheet had a bit to say about the piece:
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.’”)
I honestly don’t know what to feel about this one. On one hand, I thnk Cesar is really great. I could watch Dog Whisperer for hours on end. I see people on the street with yappy, excited dogs and I just want to poke them hard and go “SHH!” and watch how they back down.
On the other hand, those quotes really do make him seem sexist. True, they are taken out of context and if someone called Mr. Milan to the carpet, he might be able to say something that will make it all seem okay. But… what?
I found ths whole thing via this post: The difference between sexism and racism
Imagine if the host of a popular TV show on dog training had made the following remarks:
“Black people are the only species that is wired different from the rest. They always apply affection before discipline. White people apply discipline then affection, so we’re more psychological than emotional. All animals follow dominant leaders; they don’t follow lovable leaders.”
He would probably be fired, don’t you think?
it’s still basically okay to announce in public that women are an inferior “species” who are more emotional than men.
That is, of course, Cesar’s statement but with ‘black people’ inserted for women. The poster’s thesis is that sexism is more acceptable than racism in our society. Only 46 reponses so far, but it’s a flamewar already. For good reason. Comparing oppressions never reflects well on anyone, but the white privilege and white women’s syndrome involved in making statements like this is so big we may not be able to fit in a room with this person.
Maybe you need to pay a little more attention to racism. Really, check the priv. Sexism is ignored in society, but racism is too. Just because you’re a white woman and don’t have to deal with it doesn’t mean you gotta go with the annoying ass “but people of color have it better than us” crap. If you need help, I have some books and news articles you can read.
She’s getting piled on over there and Blackamazon asks that some peeps provide some backup. I’m heading over to do such right now.
The discussion I would like to have here: Is what Cesar said sexist, or merely an observation? Is it okay to say women are diffrent from men without implying that women are less than men? How do we interpet his use of the word ‘species’?
Also, could he have gotten away with making the same remarks about black people? He is a minority, after all. Would he have made such observations along race or culture lines? Most of the people who appear on Dog Whisperer are white, so he could easily say “white people are the only ones who apply affection first, black people know better.” But would he be fired for it?
ETA: Looks like Alas picked up on this one, too. Surprise! We’re in agreement.
Son of ETA: The comments on the difference between sexism and racism post have been turned off because the OP is afraid of honest debate and being told what a wanker she is. However, Blackamazon gives a detailed analysis of the commentary that did occur and why it shows that white privilege is alive and well, even amongst ‘historians’.