It was in 2009 when the state of black women’s singleness became newsworthy, studied by experts and a topic that everyone from bloggers to self-proclaimed relationship experts couldn’t stop writing about. Everyone from Nightline to the Washington Post weighed in on the “something must be wrong with black women” meme. Including black men.
Advising black women on how to get and keep a man is now seen as big business with comedian and radio host Steve Harvey leading the pack. He has turned what some would call black women’s dire circumstances (70% of children being born out of wedlock, 42% of black women never having married), into dollar signs.
For Harvey it all started with his radio show’s “Strawberry Letter” segment where women would write in asking for his advice on their relationships. Harvey would give no holds barred tough love answers similar to that of an uncle. It was almost inevitable Harvey would turn that opportunity into his first book, Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man. Harvey’s first book went on to sell over 2 million copies spending 64 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. In fact, Harvey’s first book was the second-biggest non-fiction book of 2009, behind only Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue.
His decision to write a second book Straight Talk, No Chaser after such success was as predictable as Tyler Perry making another Madea movie. And like Perry, his formulaic method is apparently what audiences want. Not even two months old, his second book is also a NYT Bestseller.
In my heart of hearts I want to believe that 2 million women did not purchase his first book. I want to believe that his second book is not really a NYT Bestseller and this is all a cruel joke. But it’s not. The reality is that there are black women out there who don’t understand when we are being pimped. Exploited. All for the sake of the almighty dollar.
Recently a video of Steve Harvey’s second ex-wife of 16 years hit the net. She accused him of cheating during their marriage, read letters from a mistress and even accused Harvey’s current wife of being the mistress while they were still married.
Why would we, in droves, listen to a comedian turned “relationship guru” who has been married three times? Help me to understand what would be appealing about taking his advice seriously.
At the core the problem is patriarchy. And that is no easy task to dismantle. Women are conditioned as hell.
Unfortunately, the media, black men and seems like the world is constantly telling black women we are undesirable and we are the problem. Statistics are used to validate this claim. In return, women in massive numbers believe that any black male celebrity who comes along to offer his golden advice, whether it is Hill Harper, Jimi Izrael or Steve Harvey, must have the master key of unlocking the gates to love. We have to stop this y’all.
Ask yourself why isn’t Steve making books for black men. Hell, they have a host of issues that need to be dealt with. Statistically they may be worse off than black women. But he knows better. Harvey knows that he wouldn’t sell more than 10,000 copies, let alone 2 million, targeting black men.
Knowing that women aren’t listening to other women writing books of the same genre is also very telling. Wouldn’t it make sense to read the perspective of a woman who most likely understands, empathizes and has been through some of the same joys and pains? Iyanla Vanzant has written books both dedicated to women and men in an effort so build stronger relationships in our community. Former NFL wife Shanae Hall wrote a counter to Harvey’s book Why Do I Have to Act Like a Man?. In 1999 author Denene Millner and husband Nick Chiles wrote What Brothers Think, What Sistahs Know about black relationships. What Steve Harvey is doing is nothing new.
It’s really unnerving that there are black men who choose to capitalize off of some of black women’s belief they need some type of help on finding or keeping a man. But it saddens me that we allow them to do it.
It is not my intention to make black women who do read Harvey’s books feel bad. Women have different reasons for reading what he writes and love is the one thing we all desire. However, every time women support one of these self-help books written by men who are not preaching the same garbage to their male counterparts, we are contributing to a patriarchal system capitalizing off of our desires. We are essentially telling men, ‘Keep dictating to us on who we should be and what we should do. We’ll keep supporting it.’ And that’s not something any of us should be willing to do.