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“Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man”, A Mentality We Can’t Afford

May 9, 2012

Comedian turned love guru Steve Harvey has also become a best-selling author with his book entitled “Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man”.  Harvey is poised to sell even more books and gain even more influence now that the book as been made into a movie and that movie has been a box office success. Personally, I’m happy for Steve Harvey’s success.  But I’m disappointed with the content of his message.  In my view, Steve Harvey promotes gender stereotypes while failing to encourage a more open-minded view of love in which we all eschew mind games,  accept mates who can give us the love that we crave and create norms that work for our individual relationships. Love, pure and simple, is enough to find our soul-mates, no games and no gimmicks.

Please see the following movie review which was published in the Grio on April 23, 2012.

http://www.thegrio.com/specials/life-and-style/act-like-a-lady-think-like-a-man-a-mentality-we-cant-afford.php

“Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man”, A Mentality We Can’t Afford

It should come at no surprise that “Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man” took the number one spot at the box office this weekend. After all, the movie is based on a wildly successful book. But please beware that this movie’s success comes at hefty cultural price.

Don’t get me wrong.  The book “Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man” expresses certain gems of relationship wisdom that relationship therapists promote in an easy to read and comical manner.

 1) The book advises women that they should be diligent in imposing their behavioral requirements on men.  Dr. Phil has been telling viewers for years that you should train people how to treat you.

 2)  Steve Harvey warns that the “we need to talk” are the most dreaded words that a man can ever hear because he can guess that some forms of criticism will follow that phrase.  Indeed, relationship therapist Dr. Steven Stosny asserts men feel     shamed by a woman’s criticism and the stress hormone cortisol floods the male       bodies, making men feel physical displeasure.

 3) The book states that a man often expresses his love of his partner not through     romantic words but by financially supporting and protecting his family. This point    is thoroughly elucidated in Dr. Gary Chapman’s book entitled “The Five Love Languages”.

 4) Additionally, Steve Harvey advises that women should directly and openly communicate their desires  because men can’t read minds. Well you could have heard that from your mother, brother and best friend too.

Sadly, this is about where the gems end and grossly anachronistic and chauvinistic “guidance” begins.  One central theme in the book is that men value themselves according to their title or status in life, the job or career that they have and the amount of money that they make.  Encouraging this definition, in my view, is highly problematic given the achievement gap facing males in education, the “mancession” that has produced high unemployment for men and the record incarceration rates that are depriving generations of “street entrepreneurs” of their freedom and relegating them to second-class citizenship upon their release.  Perhaps Steve Harvey understands that men can’t always be the main breadwinner, as he advises his female readers to “keep up the charade” of men being essential to the household instead of advising women to promote a reality of equality and shared responsibility.

“Don’t try to fix the sink, car, toilet or anything else”, “Don’t do any of the heavy lifting” and “Don’t be afraid to make a meal” are among Steve Harvey’s “sage” words of advice with respect to how to be a girl around the house.  This perspective completely undermines the cultural progress that has been made with respect to gender norms.  Some women are better at fixing things than some men and likewise, some men are better at cooking than some women.  I would hope that we are moving towards a division of labor which is based on ability, talent, desire and circumstance rather than sexual organs.

The prescription that women should wait 90 days before having sex with a potential mate because the Ford Motor Plant and DMV require that their workers labor for 90 days before being eligible for health benefits completely disregards the fact a sexual act is strikingly dissimilar from a Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance card.  Sex is hopefully a mutually beneficial experience and a woman who is empowered with respect to her own  sexuality will likely other milestones with respect to when she is willing  her body with a man.  The fact that Harvey cautions women to understand that that if she is not giving up the cookie frequently and with a bow on it, her husband will likely feel no qualms about getting “tightened up” elsewhere is sadly a-moral.

Lastly, the fact that the book warns that a woman should wrap her “cookie” in sexy lingerie and has no similar warning with respect to making sure that a man’s ding dong is wrapped in a condom is highly disturbing in this day and age of rampant STDs including HIV/AIDS, antibiotic-resistant gonorhea and throat cancer and cervical cancer inducing HPV.

I’m glad to say that the movie softens the atrocious advice in the book through its male characters.  The “happy married man” tells his male gang that he is going home to cook for his wife, not because he has to but because he wants to.  One male character is seen taking out his condom before he realizes that to his female prey is observing the 90 day rule and a night cap, is exactly that,  a drink at night.  Additionally, all of the main male characters eventually realize that they really love their girlfriends, with even the “happier divorced man” breaking down in tears as he begs his ex-wife to allow him to come home for some affection.  But sadly, this softening of gender norms is not enough to dismantle the cultural damage the most potent themes of the book and movie.

So the question remains for those of you who have not yet seen it, should you go?

Many people will tell you not to see it.  By seeing it, you would be supporting Kevin Hart who once tweeted  “Light skinned women usually have better credit than [sic] dark-skinned women… Broke @$$ dark hoes…lol.” and then responded to his detractors by saying that he is just a comedian and that dark-skinned women should stop being so sensitive.  http://newsone.com/2001720/steve-harvey-2-0-comedian-kevin-hart-offers-advice-to-black-women/.  Others will warn you not to see the movie because it is predictable and stereotypical and we have a right as black film-goers to demand more while reserving our support for movies that show a more nuanced depiction of African Americans such as “Pariah” and “I Will Follow”.

But you might believe that there are countervailing positives of the movie such as the cast of “Act Like A Lady, Think Like A Man” which most reviewers have aptly described as stunningly  beautiful, exceedingly talented and criminally under-employed.  Additionally, you may hope that by supporting this movie Hollywood gets the idea that black audiences are interested in more than the moralistic Tyler Perry genre.  By the raucous laughter of the packed theater that I was in, the predictable jokes are certainly worth the cost of admission. But please note that these jokes are expensive because antiquated gender norms and un-empowered irresponsible sexual decision making are mentalities that few of us can afford.

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