I know The Dog Whisperer seems like an odd choice for this site, but it’ll make sense when I’m done. Really.
Cesar Millan is a dog behaviorist – not a trainer, but someone who really understands how dogs think, and how to communicate with them like another dog would, and how well-intentioned owners can inadvertently encourage aggressive or fearful behavior. In his own words from the intro: “I rehabilitate dogs; I train people.”
As you watch, you may notice that most of the owners he meets with are women who don’t realize it’s good to dominate the dog, or don’t know how. They associate dominance with aggression and cruelty, and submission with fear. They think they can love the dog’s issues away because as women they’ve been trained to cooperate and tolerate. Sometimes Cesar even makes the point that it can be harder for women to become good dog owners, due to this lack of assertiveness training. But a dog in a human’s worl doesn’t need the pressure of thinking he’s in charge and out of his element, so Cesar teaches (mostly) women how to project authority in their energy, to which dogs are very sensitive, and give the dog the security of knowing its human is a good leader.
I always thought the show had a side effect of empowering women. I came to see it more as an underlying theme when Cesar made comments to the effect that once you learn to exert authority over a dog, it can have a ripple effect of empowerment throughout the rest of your life. But a few nights ago, I saw an episode in which he said something that utterly blew my mind.
He was explaining to a woman that in the dog world, a female can be a pack leader just as easily as a male, and that with elephants, it’s always females in charge. She was surprised, by the way – we’re so conditioned to think male dominance is a natural, not a contrived state. Then Cesar went on to say that women are meant to be ruling the world, rather than just their families; that we’re really designed to be the ones in charge, and there would be less war and poverty and so on if we were. He finished by commenting that he’s from a third world country (Mexico) in which women aren’t really allowed any power outside the home, and it’s his hope to see a woman running the world before he dies.
I just about fell off the couch.
He’s right, you know. Oh, my ideal would still be that we seek out the best individuals for leadership roles, regardless of gender, class, race or lifestyle, and put them in charge. But we’ll probably never reach my ideal until we’ve first taken power away from men and given it to women. Because women – whether due to biology or centuries of conditioning – are better at compromising and sharing authority; we’re less violent, and more prone to thinking solutions; we’re better at subjugating our egos and putting the needs of the many ahead of our own desires. And we have a natural built-in authority, designed to make us strong mothers, but equally good for making us strong leaders.
Conversely, men have proven themselves prone to aggressive and/or violent solutions, selfishness when leadership is most needed, and the tendency to mistake intimidation and extortion for authority. Interestingly, this is the sort of behavior you see from dogs who feel they’ve been pushed into an unsought and unwanted position of authority. Do men really want to be in charge, or do they just not realize we have the power to rethink the solutions prescribed by our ancestors?