J. Soltys's Weblog

March 30, 2009

Steve Harvey’s Book Just Doesn’t Add Up

men-and-women-symbolsI recently ran across an article posted within CNN’s website that originally appeared at Oprah.com. It seems multi-media entertainer Steve Harvey has written a book about relationships, but more importantly, a book that “empowers women” in relationships. And Oprah, who exclaims “she loves everything it has to say!” was eager to have Harvey on her show to talk about and promote his relationship secrets in his new book, “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man.”

An example of Harvey’s omnipotent gender and relationship savvy can be found in comments like this:

When a man approaches a woman, he already knows what we wants from her, but he doesn’t know what it will cost. “How much time do you want from me? What are your standards? What are your requirements? Because we’ll rise to the occasion no matter how high you set the bar if we want to. The problem is, women have stopped setting the bar high.

Yeah, right Steve.

I’ve grown weary of observing many forms of media that have cultivated a belief that female romantic hardships is always the result of irresponsible men.

For example, he claims if women are to be blamed, it is only for not demanding more from their men. He is afraid to blame women on the same level as men, allowing the mythical purity of the female gender’s reputation – inherently good people who just make bad decisions – remain intact. His advice for women is delivered with compassion and understanding.
However, for the male population, Harvey’s assessment is different. Men are perceived to be inherently cunning, manipulative, and always assessing the relationship as a game of risk vs. reward, extending themselves only if there is something in it for them. Consequently, it is men and their behavior which ultimately is responsible for being the source of relationship troubles, and Harvey advises women to be cautious observers of men and their actions, or they will get stuck with one of the many “bad ones” out there.

Harvey proclaims:

Without ironclad standards, you’ll always end up back in the dating pool. “You’ve got to quit lowering your standards,” he says. “Set your requirements up front so when a guy hooks you, he has to know this is business.”
And don’t let the man set the pace of the relationship — Harvey says it’s always the woman who has total control. “With all that power, why do you suddenly relinquish this power just because you want a guy to accept you? That’s stupid,” he says. “Say: ‘Look, if you want to be with me, this is what you got to do. This is what it takes to get to me.'”

Sorry, but I find his advice pathetic. First, it is extremely sexist. The historical foundation of the women’s movement was to establish equality with men on every level, not dominate them. Women having total power and control in a relationship is just as dangerous as the man having total control and power in a relationship. Human beings, when given complete control over other human beings, will always abuse that power. Given that Harvey is African-American, you’d think he’d understand what a dangerous mentality he is advocating.

Also, he’s contradicting himself. He’s advising women not to relinquish any power to men, which translates to, do not capitulate to the needs of men. Women should demand what they want with no exceptions.
So I’m confused. Is Harvey  just asking the men and women to change roles? Or Is he saying women shouldn’t lower their standards (demands) to meet the needs of men, but the men should lower their standards (demands) to meet the needs of women? Or is he admitting that men are inherently better at choosing mates than women, hence the title, Act Like a Woman, Think Like a Man? Or is he advocating  a “two wrongs make a right” mentality?

I’m not sure, but even if I try to accept Harvey’s advice as having some credibility, I can’t get past a nagging problem. In the name of equality, doesn’t it beg the question that men are entitled to set a female partner standard also? If women must raise their standards to catch a good man, consequently, shouldn’t it also be true that men have to raise their standards to find a good woman? Or again, are men inherently better at choosing female partners and do not need to be educated and empowered with this ability?

The more I thought about Harvey’s advise,  the more I found it confusing, contradictory, and sexist towards both men and women.

Realisticly, in relationships, if neither one is willing to accept give and take, this behavior evolves into a “pissing contest”, which only ensures frustration and confrontation for both men and women. Also, most authors of those who have researched and written books on dating find that setting standards too high for a potential mate when dating is something both men and women are guilty of.

Now the real kicker

In the article, Harvey goes on to give more advice that is hard on the common sense factor. Not everything he says about men is negative, but it is not all positive either.

However, I feel ANY advice he gives is should be suspect.  Why? Harvey is not the epitomy of a relationship expert. Anyone considering buying Harvey’s “how to book” should know he is on his third marriage already.
And the consumer should also know that according to the Smoking Gun, Harvey’s former wife, Mary, filed a lawsuit against him in 2007. In that complaint, she accused Harvey of:

“adultery, his abandonment of some of his children, his poor and neglectful parenting of the parties’ child, and physical and mental abuse.”

And she claims she was, “severely shortchanged when it came to alimony, division of community property, and child support.”

Now being an advocate for men’s issues – with false accusations by women in divorce a disturbing topic for me – I am not going to say Harvey is guilty of the claims made by his former wife. He claims the allegations by his former wife are false, which I will assume he discards as accusations by a bitter, angry woman.
But I will say I find it extremely uncomfortable that a man who has these allegations against him, along with the fact that he is into his third marriage, would write a book to empower women in relationships. Obviously the guy struggles with women and relationships, so how does he have the audacity to write a book on the subject matter?

So let’s pause: Harvey has been married three times and divorced twice. One of his former wives has filed allegations of adultery, abandonment of his children, neglectful parenting, and physical and mental abuse, all of which he denies. So he decides he has this infinite romantic wisdom, and decides to write a book to empower women about relationships?

Is he for real?

I mean over the years, the guy couldn’t empower himself to stay out of conflict with women, so how the hell is he going to educate women on how to avoid unneccessary conflicts with men”?

Wouldn’t it have made more sense for Harvey to write a book for men, explaining what he did wrong in these relationships, and offer advice to other men on how to avoid some of the mistakes he made? After three marriages, and what he claims are false accusations, wouldn’t his advise on how men can avoid these issues have more relevence than an empowerment book for women? 
Wouldn’t that have been the masculine thing to do instead of writing a book that disparages men and their behavior, and assiduously applies comfort and false bravado to women?

If I may play the role of a psychologist for a moment, and offer my opinion, I would postulate that Harvey wrote this book out of some unresolved guilt he has been harboring for some time now about his behavior and/or actions towards women in his past. In other words, I think Harvey subconsciously wrote this book as an effort to help him deal with his dark side, a side we all carry with us. In order to assuage the guilt he carries for his past behavior, he transfered that behavior on to all men, and wrote the book to help empower women from falling victim to men like himself.

Fortunately, most men are not like Harvey.

So ladies, in these tough economic times, save yourselves a few bucks.

 

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