AC VOICE

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A Steve Harvey Christmas

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(Lola Fadulu)– I’m an eighteen year-old female who has neither been in a romantic relationship nor had her first kiss. I used to feel very embarrassed and insecure about this. In fact, I whined about this a lot this past summer to whoever would listen. I was supposed to have had a boyfriend by now. What was wrong with me?

Because of all of this complaining about being alone and “undesirable”, I shouldn’t have been so surprised when I received two of Steve Harvey’s books for Christmas: Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man and Straight Talk, No Chaser. Both of which have subtitles that claim to offer insight into “the world of men” and relationships. Well, at least someone had been listening and was trying to help me out with my perceived crisis.

I’m only going to address Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, because that’s the only one that I’ve read so far. What a warped book it was. Before I continue, I want to be fair to the gift-giver and include that they hadn’t read the book before gifting it to me. The book is in no way a reflection of their own personal beliefs.

From the beginning, I was turned off from this book because of its outdated ideas of masculinity and manhood: “This is the very core of manhood – to be the provider…The more he can provide for his woman and his kids, the bigger and more alive he feels.” (Harvey p. 25). Is a male not a man if he is gay or if he decides not to have children? In addition, my skin crawled when he describes women as possessions: “Once he says he cares about you, you are a prized possession to him, he will do anything to protect that prized possession.” (Harvey p. 31). Women are not trophies or objects – no human being should be considered that way.

And lastly, his sweeping generalizations about men, women, and gay men bothered me: “…a gay guy – someone you can go shopping with, who doesn’t want anything from you but gossip and details about what the old man bought you…” (Harvey p. 38). Very quickly, I got the overwhelming feeling that Harvey believed in traditional stereotypes: included in those, that men should take care of women and that women should let them. As an independent woman who supports equality within relationships, Harvey’s support for traditional gender roles and dependence made me sick.

Despite all of this, I kept reading and was hopeful when I saw the title of Chapter 13: Strong, Independent – and Lonely – Women. Now was the time for Harvey to redeem himself. I was excited to read something that related directly to me. In short, Harvey claims that successful women who can provide and protect themselves are impossible for men to connect with because those women make it impossible for a man to prove his “manhood” – which is apparently the ultimate goal.

“We don’t mind it if you have yourself totally together…But if the man who is pursuing your affection is never allowed by you to exhibit his ability to provide or protect, then how can he possibly see himself professing his love to a woman who has not allowed him to feel like a man.” (Harvey 182).

Harvey offers a way for said independent and strong women to allow the men they’re interested in to feel like a man: “Just be a lady.” (p. 187). He then goes on to list examples of how a woman can “be a lady”: “don’t try to fix the sink, the car, the toilet, or anything else”, “don’t take out the garbage, paint, or mow the lawn”, “don’t do any of the heavy lifting”, “don’t be afraid to make a meal or two”, “don’t wear a T-shirt to bed every night”. In short, he advises self-proclaimed independent women to feign weakness and fragility, to play a sort of game to boost the man’s ego.

All of this reminded me of a foot-race between a small child and a parent in which the parent purposely runs slower to make the child feel like a faster runner. It all seems so dishonest to me. Sure, in the long run it boosts the ego of both the man and the child, but it doesn’t exactly improve their actual respective abilities. As a result, it’s immediately out of the question for me to downplay my abilities to perform a certain task solely to help boost a man’s ego. Harvey expresses that at some point women will have to choose to be “the big ol’ strong, lonely woman” or to “back down and just be a lady.” (p. 189). If these were truly my only two options, I’d choose to be “the big ol’ strong, lonely woman”. I don’t desire male companionship that much.

In the end, Harvey is obviously not the official pundit for relationships. But why was this book so popular (four stars on Amazon and #1 New York Times Bestseller)? It seems that heterosexual black women are Harvey’s main audience. Why us? Well, black women are portrayed, overall, in such a poor light in the media as a whole. Because of this, it’s common for us black women to internalize this and to begin to feel undesirable or unwanted. In addition, for the black women in higher education, there are few black men to choose from already. In addition, there’s reason to believe that many non-black men are exclusive towards black women. Perhaps they have been brainwashed by the media into accepting the negative stereotypes of black women as truth. So you have a lot of single black women, like myself, who are questioning whether or not we’ll be alone forever. And Harvey capitalized on that with writing these types of books. And he failed.

The larger issue seems to be that being a single woman is perceived as “bad”. That’s extremely problematic. A woman’s value should not be tied to her romantic relationship with a man or offspring. A man’s isn’t. It’s okay to be single and even enjoyable. So if it happens, great. If not, that’s also great.

“Now I realize that everything I was looking for was much closer than I thought. Whether it’s with someone, or alone, those glimpses when you love and accept yourself totally, the world around you changes. In the end, happiness is a choice, isn’t it?” – Paula Schargorodsky

Further reading: Black, Female, and Single

About Lolade (Lola) Fadulu

"Most of the cruelty in this world is just misplaced anger." - Zadie Smith

13 comments on “A Steve Harvey Christmas

  1. Anonymous
    January 1, 2014

    I’m a male, and for the last fifty years, I’ve been trying to figure out what’s genetic and what’s cultural and just how each influences the other — productively and counter-productively. I had welcomed the feminist revolution because although it cost me my first marriage, it also liberated me; it was at heart a humanist revolution enlightening for both men and women.

    I was fascinated recently by Camille Paglia’s “Time” commentary, which said basically that our educated Anglo-American culture has grown “routinely to denigrate masculinity and manhood,” and that “a peevish, grudging rancor against men has been one of the most unpalatable and unjust features of second and third-wave feminism.” Great thesis.

    Alas, Ms. Paglia then goes on to support her thesis by relegating masculinity to its basic brawn level talking about physical infrastructure, the “dirty, dangerous work of building roads, pouring concrete, laying bricks….bulldozing the landscape,” and so on. Women, according to her, miss the indispensible fact that men are needed for these labors, to build our skyscrapers and bridges. Oh, dear. I thought, Ms. Paglia just set women back a few hundred years.

    Over the years, I’ve spent a good deal of time in Europe, and the relationships I’ve had with European women, accomplished, assertive yet glamorous and alluring individuals, have rather spoiled me when it comes to American women. They are just not as rigid and combative, primarily because they don’t see these issues in terms of black and white, but are very happy to live in shades of grey. Women can build bridges, straight men can design dresses. Sure men because of genetics might have more muscle but do we therefore relegate them to hard labor anymore than we should women to the cooking the meals? Respecting an individual for their attributes and talents; negotiating a balance between labors, nurturing and supporting them in their endeavors, loving them for their imagination and generosity of spirit; none of these are unique to one sex or the other. Just how long does it take until our culture gets that?

    • Lolade (Lola) Fadulu
      January 2, 2014

      Thank you for reading and commenting about your experience. It has made me wonder why some cultures appear more or less sexist than others. In addition, I wonder about the specific impact that both history and religion have on these perspectives. Perhaps there will be a part two to this article.

      Also:
      “Respecting an individual for their attributes and talents; negotiating a balance between labors, nurturing and supporting them in their endeavors, loving them for their imagination and generosity of spirit; none of these are unique to one sex or the other.”

      Extremely well put – beautifully said.

  2. Anonymous
    January 1, 2014

    Keep in mind that man offering relationship advice here is on his third marriage. He cheated on his first two wives…

    • Lolade (Lola) Fadulu
      January 2, 2014

      Thanks for your comment. Yes, Harvey actually addresses Cheating in this book. He claims that the “biggest reason of all” why men cheat is because, “There’s always a woman out there willing to cheat with him” (pg. 106). The books drips with this type of sexism and irresponsibility.

  3. dreamerdispatch
    January 1, 2014

    I’ve always had a sinking suspicion that Steve Harvey was one of those promoters of pseudo-love (you know, dependent on stereotypes and not reality) based on the little I saw on commercials, but I was never invested enough to research him. Thanks for enlightening me. I also found your opinions/comments on his audience intriguing and insightful. Good article:)

    • Lolade (Lola) Fadulu
      January 2, 2014

      Thank you for reading – I’m glad that you enjoyed this article! Also, thank you for taking the time to submit a comment – I appreciate it.

  4. Nancy N
    January 1, 2014

    I watched the movie derived from the book “Think like a man, think like a lady” and it was very funny as it was really grotesque (I was not expecting some fine work so it didn’t bother me). I had no idea that it was actually a real book and that people trusted the advice of Harvey (I had to google it to know he was famous). The whole rundown about lowering your achievements to get a guy are in my eyes more insulting to men than women. It infers that straight men (because for him gay men are not men…pfff) are immature enough to need to be constantly flattered and that they are using their female partner as a way to shout to the world that they have the biggest one. I don’t know all the men in the world but from my experience this is soooo wrong! I think that those stereotypes pressure men and women to be individuals they are not :you are still a real man if you like shopping and cannot repair a sink, just as a woman who hates cooking and loves lifting IS a lady.
    About the representation of black women in the US media, I don’t really know much as a foreigner. However, I think that your way to handle the situation (which is not tragic, I mean seriously having been single all your life at 18 is not crazy even though society may make you think it’s the worst think that can happen…) is healthy. The first part of your article was hilarious until you revealed that the book had been a commercial success. It seems like a pack of bullsh*t I’m surprised he sold so many of them (as you said, capitalizing on people’s “distress”).

    • Lolade (Lola) Fadulu
      January 2, 2014

      Nancy,
      Thank you for bringing up the point that Harvey’s “advice” is, perhaps, as insulting to men as it is to women. Prior to your comment, I hadn’t thought too much on the low expectations that Harvey sets for men. I appreciate your comment.

  5. CuncelDaVoice
    January 2, 2014

    You seem to be the kind of person who thinks that external factors or society’s failures or even racial problems are to blame for your lack of fitting in, whether with men (this article), or your peers (the student-athlete article you wrote). Let me wax poetically with this quote:

    “you run into an asshole in the morning, you ran into an asshole; you run into assholes all day, you’re the asshole.”

    Thank you, and Cuncel Da Voice.

    • Lolade (Lola) Fadulu
      January 2, 2014

      Cuncel Da Voice,
      Thank you for your comment. That quote genuinely made me laugh. I’m actually not one to immediately, or even fully, scapegoat “external factors” for my perceived problems. In fact, before thinking on the impact of external factors, I self-reflect and self-critique a lot. Readers should not isolate that fact while reading my articles. Perhaps, in the future, I can make this more clear.

  6. Matt Randolph
    January 3, 2014

    Lola, this was an excellent, well-written article! Great work as always. I really think we should all have the mindset of “Think Like a Decent Person/Human” instead of “Think Like a Man.” I also appreciate how you critiqued Steve Harvey’s offensive and stereotypical understanding of gay men. Harvey seems to think that only straight men (who have children) are real men. Being a man should be more than just about your sexuality or how much you can “provide” for women and dominate them. In my view, being a good man, like being a good woman or decent citizen, should be about your values and actions as a human being. Keep on writing, Lola.

    • Lolade (Lola) Fadulu
      January 3, 2014

      Matt!
      I really appreciate your comment. Thank you. Yes, Harvey’s misinterpretations of both “manhood” and “womanhood” are extremely disappointing. You make a valid point that “we should all have the mindset of “Think Like a Decent Person/Human” instead of “Think Like a Man.” Well-said.

  7. IBB
    March 15, 2014

    Miss Lola…I really appreciate this brilliantly written article. Steve Harvey in my candid opinion failed woefully to point out that: “behind every successful man, there is a woman that is totally dumbfounded by the world’s definition of that man’s success”. Steve’s wife would attest to this!
    Please note: You are beautiful, smart and YOU DO NOT NEED A MAN (OR ANYONE FOR THAT MATTER) TO VALIDATE YOUR EXISTENCE!
    Keep up the good work!

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This entry was posted on December 31, 2013 by in Books, Gender, Media, Race, Relationships and tagged , , , , , .
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