Last week saw the U.S release of the film ‘Act Like A Man’, which has been produced by comedian Steve Harvey who penned the book ‘Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man’. I have never read the book and have no intention of seeing the film. I always thought it sensible to take advice from experts in their field. If I were in need of financial advice, I would happily take on board the thoughts of Bill Gates or Donald Trump. I don’t see the logic in taking relationship advice from a man with two ex wives that he cheated on throughout the entire marriages. What authority does he have to advise anyone on the state of their relationships other than being a celebrity?
In researching for my film, I have come across a few Black male dating/ relationship experts. I am very dubious about those who have had turbulent love lives. If you don’t know what it takes to have a long lasting happy relationship/marriage what real advice can you offer? I recall reading an article that Harvey thought he had learnt valuable life lessons after cheating on his ex wives for years. If he felt that why didn’t he write a book instructing men on how to treat their wives? Why choose women as his target audience? The answer is simple; we live in a society which is used to telling women that there is something wrong with them.
Women are bombarded with 400 to 600 adverts per day with 9% directly relating to beauty (Source: Media Scope). The beauty industry thrives on the insecurities of women; you’re too fat, too skinny, too old and too frumpy etc. With this backdrop it makes perfect economic sense why these ‘relationship experts’ target women. They use the fact that they as male have legitimacy to speak for the entire male population. They don’t conduct extensive research, just rehash a few conversations at the bar or the barbers and suddenly they are a bona fide expert. Harvey presents his information as ‘inside knowledge’ of the male psyche delivered in comedic little chunks. Too many women swallow this whole without question. They provide these entrepreneurs with the perfect malleable audience, waiting to be told what is wrong with them and how they need to improve.
Harvey’s work is aimed at Black women. We are a group who find ourselves under an intolerable level of scrutiny. On one hand we are always compared negatively to women of other races or completely ignored by mainstream media. To add insult to injury our main detractors are Black men. Apparently we are too loud, too dark, too aggressive, too stuck up, too fat and the list goes on and on. It is beyond pathetic that we have prominent Black comedians, rappers, entertainers and so called relationship experts who so easily mock the women who most resemble their mothers and sisters yet, they have the nerve to expect us to purchase their latest CDs/books/films.
I am always curious as to why the burden of creating successful relationships is placed squarely on women’s shoulders. Why don’t these love gurus write books telling men how to treat the women in their lives? Are men totally exempt from bearing any responsibility in making a successful relationship last? Society still sees a long term relationship as something women crave and what men try to dodge at every opportunity. This thinking undermines both sexes. Women do not need relationships to validate them and men are not so emotionally stunted that they do not want to be in happy fulfilling relationships.
It’s really not a surprise that there is plenty of scope to financially exploit Black women’s insecurities. I don’t belong to the doom and gloom brigade telling Black women that there is a man shortage. I think that is simply not true or only particular to Black women. I have many single female friends of every race, who have the same complaints about meeting decent guys. I wish I could explain why, it would probably make me a rich woman. I think that there is a seismic shift occurring between established gender roles and aspirations. I think that these changes within the Western world are largely positive as women and Black women in particular have greater opportunities today than ever before. However, I think that it has made expectations/interactions between men and women more fluid than say a generation ago. We all have more choice regarding dating/marriage/life options. Perhaps it’s the increased level of relationship options that makes it harder for everyone to make a choice in the first place.
Black women should fully exploit greater dating opportunities within and outside our race. However, there are a large number of Black women who only want to date Black men. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this. Half of my relatives are Black men and I love them dearly, well most of them. However, the main problem is that there are not enough eligible Black men to go round. That is the biggest stumbling block for Black women looking for a Black partner. It has nothing to do with how long you withhold sex or if you uphold a set of dating rules. If these Black male relationship experts really want to do Black women a favour, they need to address Black male unemployment, imprisonment, child abandonment and the acceptable blatant disrespect given to Black women. Steve Harvey and other ‘dating experts’ would make loving relationships within the Black community more likely if they encouraged Black men to continue with further education, and to become loving husbands and fathers. I suppose that philanthropy doesn’t offer the same financial returns that book and film deals do.
What all women need to remember is that the final say is in our hands. We decide where our money goes. It is important to question the motives of those who claim to be offering help. Until the likes of Steve Harvey are able to make one woman happy for at least 25 years, he does not have the authority to tell anyone how to manage their personal life. Patriarchy puts women under a continuous spotlight, encouraging us to vie for male validation. We don’t need to pay attention to men pretending to have women’s interests at heart. Their only concern is for their expanding bank balances. We all want quick fixes for the difficult areas of our lives. Following a set of rules offered by a comedian is not going to help people ascertain whether someone is a good match or not. We are talking about finding a life partner not training a puppy. Ultimately, I don’t need to think like a man, in order to find and keep one. Surely the trick is to think and behave like a loving human being.
Please let me know your thoughts