Alex Blaze

Dr Phil Doesn't Want 'Confused' Boys to Play with Girls' Toys

Filed By Alex Blaze | February 10, 2011 2:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: boy, Dr. Phil, entertainment news, gender policing, pop psychology, robby, television

I don't particularly like Dr. Phil's brand of pop psychology, which is more focused on being normal than it is on being happy. No matter how many times he asks "How's that working for you?" it's fairly clear that he hardly cares if the people who ask him for help are actually happy and is more concerned with telling people to be normal based on a very American bourgeois narrative of How Life Works.

dr_phil.jpgSo no matter how many shows he does about gay teen suicide, he's going to be one of the forces promoting internalized homophobia among young people. Consider this segment from a recent show where a mom asked what to do about her son playing with girls' toys:

Robby's 5-year-old son loves to play with Barbies and prefers wearing girl's clothes. She asks Dr. Phil how to deal with this behavior, which she doesn't think is normal.[...]

Dr. Phil tells Robby that she has a job to do: "Direct your son in an unconfusing way. Don't buy him Barbie dolls or girl's clothes. You don't want to do things that seem to support the confusion at this stage of the game ... Take the girl things away, and buy him boy toys."

Most importantly, he tells Robby, "Support him in what he's doing, but not in the girl things."

It's not hard to imagine Pat Robertson saying the same thing.

Dr. Phil's style works for what he does. No one wants to actually watch a real psychologist talk to a patient for hours, discussing how to best reach the patients' goals and with no concrete advice, no finger-wagging, and no scolding. He has to have a formula to fall back on, an understanding of what people should be doing that doesn't require him to actually know much about other people's lives, and it makes for better TV.

And, surprise surprise, in the lowest common denominator world of television entertainment, the easiest narrative of normality is straight, white, Christian, and middle-class.

So while he assures the mother that her child is just going through a phase, he makes sure to tell her that it's her "job" to shame her son into acting more macho. Send him a "direct message" that he's a boy, just in case he forgot (since people have a way of just forgetting their gender like that), and a direct message that being himself is unacceptable.

The goal is not to make this boy happy. What the boy wants does not concern Dr. Phil; he neither asks about it nor does he respect what he's told the boy wants, advising the mother to steam-roll over her son's personality and force him to replace his desires with other desires.

The goal is to make the boy normal, because everyone's goal in life is to make the Dr. Phils of the world more comfortable.

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" straight, white, Christian, and middle-class." and cis. Yep, that's who you need to be for Dr. Phil to see you as more than subhuman. He has a long history of homophobic and transphobic behavior, including taping an episode called "Gender Confused Kids" which had transphobic calls for guests and invited someone from Focus on the Family as an expert.

I remember watching a Dr.Phil episode with a person from focus on the family on it that admitted that it was possible for a boy to be born with a girls brain. Yet he kept insisting that the child should be raised male.He got hammered pretty hard by the mom and audiance that day.I was hoping after that show that maybe Dr.
phil had learned something.

Kathy Padilla | February 10, 2011 3:14 PM

Well - it's true he is confused. And Mom shouldn't support that confusion. She needs to be firm, sit Dr. Quick Draw McGraw down and tell him that it's just fine to play at giving psychological treatment on a TV sitcom - but if he's going to try and provide real professional advice as a psychologist on a serious issue - he needs to follow accepted standards of care. And to be a licensed psychologist in the State of California where he's f**king up this kids life.

Oh - he's not licensed in Texas either.


I'd rather listen to Ted Haggard than Dr. Phil.

My 6-year-old nephew specifically asks for the "girls" toys with his Happy Meals. He doesn't ask his mom - he asks the cashier. When the cashier inevitably looks at his mom for either confirmation or denial, my sister says nothing. She knows he's not the one who's confused. Whatever brand of queer he's shaping up to be (and we're pretty sure it's not straight cis-man), we will love and support him in a way Dr. Phil won't be able to screw up.

This brings to mind another incident a few years back when the director of NARTH (National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality) publicly stated that kids who act out in gender-inappropriate ways should be bullied and shamed by their peers.

Up until then, the message promoted by the group was one of compassion. It didn't hate homosexuals; it was just there to provide a service for those who didn't want same-sex attraction.

After the director made that statement, it became apparent that the group DID have an ulterior agenda. It was in fact just another arm of the Religious Right.

Quack! If it looks like a Duck, Smells like a Duck, Duck Crap all around and it Quacks like a Duck. . It Must Be a Quack! Do not believe the Phil show!

Be warned: Some; (perhaps more than we would care to know), psychologists/therapists can, and often do more harm than good. This is particularly true of the TV variety.