I have a love-hate relationship with Dr. Phil. He's pragmatic and no-nonsense. His success is based on the fact that he can state common sense ideas to people who need to open their eyes to the bigger issue. I love him because he's right. I hate him because it's such a simple concept that has made him successful. Are people really that dumb? Having a love-hate relationship with him, means I had to go to his website. The following letter to Dr. Phil, sent via his website, resulted:
Dear Dr. Phil. In your 10 Myths about relationships, you say the following, "Men and women are wired differently." While the purpose of this statement was to express that couples cannot have the same mind about various issues in a relationship, there is a subtext to the statement that has serious negative impact on readers.
Since the 1974 publication of Maccoby and Nagy's "The Psychology of Sex Differences" more and more research has shown that there are very few differences physically between men and women. Women are not more sensitive than men. Women are not more suggestible than men. The list goes on. Certainly, there remains to be a firm answer to this issue. Are men and women different? Yes. How much of this difference can be attributed to nature and how much can be attributed to nuture? This is still unknown. According to research, what's most plausible is that men and women, due to social constructs, are raised in two completely different cultures, leading them to have very different ideas and behaviours. Just like Japanese and Americans may have trouble communicating due to differing cultures, so do men and women.
To say that men and women are wired differently suggests that men are "built" to perform certain tasks while women are "built" to do other tasks. This is a particulary sensitive issue for me because I am a woman in computer science. I am working towards a PhD in computer science in a department that is made up of only 6% women. Despite great strides in the women's movement, there are still so few women in this fascinating and financially empowering field. I strongly believe that part of the driving reason behind these low numbers are the messages that women receive in the media. Turn on almost any television show, and the "computer expert" is a date-less geeky guy, locked away by himself with all his gadgets. Your statement, that men and women are wired differently, contains a similar, though less visual message.
I believe that folks in the public eye like yourself have a greater responsibility not to further these kinds of incorrect ideas about the genders. You have a great show, and a great website, and you have the influence to change popular ideas. I implore you to change this wording in your website and in your vocabulary. Help to change a culture that teaches men and women that they are built only for certain tasks.