Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Kirsten West Savali: Think Like A Man: Is Our Economic Growth Worth the Price of Admission?



By: Kirsten West Savali, Your Black World

I don’t like Steve Harvey — yes, I said it.

To be more precise, since I’ve never met the man personally, I don’t like what Steve Harvey represents.

There is an arrogance—a barely sheathed tone of alpha-male superiority that permeates everything he spews from politics to relationships—that simply makes my skin crawl. In his controversial “book,” Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, he presumes that women are so desperate to snare a man that they will blindly lap up advice from one who manipulates his two divorces into a negative reflection of his ex-wives characters, rather than his questionable skill at being a husband.  In a deliberate attempt at adverse-feminism, he casts women as simple-minded huntresses who—with a simple fifteen-dollar literary weapon from Barnes & Noble—will be armed with the sophisticated techniques needed to catch our flawed masculine prey.  To make matters worse, he has a consistent habit of illuminating the misogyny in the Bible for public consumption, as if the Great One himself parted the clouds and said, “Woman, thou shall be a lady in the streets, but a freak in the sheets… (((sheets)))… (((sheets)))…”

Before I became agnostic, I clearly remember sitting in Bible study and hearing Proverbs 18:22, which reads: “He who findeth a wife, findeth a good thing;” not, “she who stalks a husband and lassos him to the altar with tricks (both psychological and sexual) findeth a good thing.”

Can the church say ‘Amen’?

To spread the proverbial icing on the cake, in a ballsy move, he decides to create Think Like A Man, a film that is nothing more than an advertisement for the aforementioned book. He does so with the calculated intent that, once again, people will flock to the theatres to watch a rom-com which features Black men and women that just can’t seem to get it together.

It would be funny if he weren’t so serious.

I freely admit that Black entertainment is the most recycled resource in the United States of America. We use it up, throw it out and repurchase it again without a second thought — then wonder why nothing new is being created. I also understand that money talks and my grudging, ambivalent support of this film will likely place me in the “Part of the Problem” box — and that’s a criticism I’m more than willing to accept. There was a time when my distaste for Steve Harvey and his Bishop Magic Don Juan suits would have led me to not only boycott this film, but write a scathing open letter of judgment to anyone who dared to support it.

That was before I learned to think like a chess player.

There will be people who see themselves, their friends and loved ones in Think Like A Man and be glad for it; just as the domestic workers in The Help were a reflection of the many women throughout the Deep South who toiled on tired knees and weary hearts to serve families with love and dignity. Renowned actress, Hattie McDaniel, who won the 1939 Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, made a profound statement in response to criticism she received for perpetuating negative stereotypes with her role as “Mammy” in Gone With The Wind:

“I’d rather get paid seven hundred dollars a week to play a maid than get paid seven dollars to be one.”

Do I agree with our generic depictions as under-paid whores and overworked help? Absolutely not. I have simply evolved to the point where I recognize that someone, somewhere can relate — and just because it’s not my story on screen, doesn’t mean that it’s not someone else’s. There are people who righteously believe that supporting mediocre cinematic fluff will further perpetuate the creation of the same. I agree, with a caveat: Supporting these films — without supporting other, more important ones --- is the real culprit. The key is not to negate the voices already represented (as numbers reflect, this type of film has a legitimate fan base), but building off of that momentum in Hollywood and helping fund that independent film, sponsoring that theater student, donating to those individuals who may not have a solid corporate push. The goal should be to diversify our options, not suppress the ones which don’t reflect our own lives.

Imbalanced “equality” is difficult, isn’t it?

It’s difficult to see our dirty laundry aired out in public, whether as art or in reality. It hurts that every, single time one of our movies makes it to the big screen, it’s so trivial and non-descript, that anyone with a half a brain could watch it half asleep with a half-smoked joint withering away in an ashtray at their bed-side.

Here’s the thing, though:

We are not a monolith. We. are. not. a. monolith.

We have clearly polarizing perspectives on life, love and entertainment and all of them are worthy of the silver screen because all of them represent facets of Black life. There will never be a consensus of the Citizens Black Caucus on what definitively represents Black life, because there is no one way to be Black.

Our issue is not necessarily with Steve Harvey; it is because there is no counter-point to Steve Harvey. It’s because there is no balance. It’s because for every gang-banger we know, we also know an accountant; for every Christian we know, we also know an Atheist; for every straight man we know, we also know a lesbian, and for every Black woman we know who thinks that having a man is the pinnacle of life, we know another Black woman who truly doesn’t give a damn.

More importantly, we know that the condescension of Black men, such as Harvey and his cohort, Tyrese, would be better directed toward their own brethren, rather than women who have spent generations thinking like a man, because they’ve had to take the place of absentee fathers who don’t know the meaning of the word.

Still, we cannot allow ourselves to believe that one movie --- that amounts to nothing more than the equivalent of She’s Not That Into You --- is a sweeping indictment of Black or feminist culture. White America has such idiotic fare as 40-Year Old Virgin, The Hangover, Road Trip and Knocked Up, and they flock to the theatres because they don’t have the weight of oppression and degrading public-opinion on their backs. They can live comfortably in the shadows of their ethnicity without their every move being prefaced by their “race.” They don’t have to become defensive, paralyzed in fear that every negative or trite image of their culture will become its definitive characterization; and we have to grow comfortable enough in our own skin to realize that we don’t either.

Think Like a Man may be a typical, overdone reflection of Black love and relationships, and you know what? That’s ok.  Because for every one of these films, we are strengthening our collective economic worth and paving the way for future generations of filmmakers to say, “Black America has more than one voice and all of them are worth hearing.”

And who knows…it just might be funny.


imageKirsten West Savali is Senior News Editor at YourBlackWorld.com. She is founder and administrator of the Nomadic Poets’ Oasis, an online destination dedicated to the exposure and elevation of poetry, spoken word and the visual arts. She is also currently co-writing The Hole in the Wall, a piercing, Blues-tinged screenplay that delves into the bruised soul of a fatherless son in search of himself. Her provocative commentary appears in various publications and explores the interconnectivity of race, gender, politics and culture. Kirsten’s work can be found on ClutchMagazine.com (where an earlier version of this article appears), HuffingtonPost.com, AOLBlackVoices, Loop21.com, IllumeMagazine.com, BirthplaceMagazine.com and others. Connect with her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter: @KWestSavali


Anonymous said...

Kudos to you Sister! When this book first hit the shelves I was amazed that some of the most educated women were reading this garbage. My best girl is an educator and would call me with the excerpts of the book and had the audacity to ask me if I wanted it after she was done. Steve Harvey has mastered one of OUR biggest problems: we sweep big problems under the rug when people give us things. All you ever hear is "...he does a lot for us..." Are we so needy that we toss our pride in exchange for freebies? And again, Steve has yet to make things right with his ex-wives yet he speaks the Lord name as though he has been saved. Black women aren't desperate but one would never know by the way we promote ourselves for the sake of media. Oh yes, we're doing it to ourselves now!

Tracey Brown said...

I say ditto! Well said! One of my bff's has been proclaiming the virtues of Harvey's book. I refuse to waste my time or money. I'd rather seek advice from a black man who has walked-the-walk.

I do not know how many times I have had the conversation with clueless black men who use the excuse that black women act too much like men to justify their predilection for white women. Your paragraph that states WHY black women have had to adopt the masculine traits in the family circle is on point.

Steve Harvey is laughing all the way to the bank--at the expense of black women. Particularly those who buy into is bass ackward thought processes.

Anonymous said...

Great piece here Kirsten...thanx.
I agree with the above poster that Harvey's book is more of a money grab than anything. I'm a single man myself who looks to become better educated on this topic. Are there any books that you, or your readers can suggest for me?

Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for saying so prolifically what I have been thinking since Steve Harvey started promoting himself as the soothsayer for all black people. I can't believe how much faith people seem to put into what he has to say. He's an entertainer with a "gift for gab" as we used to say back in the day. "Negro please."

Anonymous said...

This is an absolute GEM of an editorial! Thank you for having some sense, and not feeling compelled to unjustifiably "support" 'our' people 'doing positive things' like being "successful" in Hollywood (as the sarcasm drips from my lips like drool post- root canal). Great piece, and your point about why women have been "thinking like a man" for more than a generation is an entire topic of its own.

Anonymous said...

To the male commentor above who'd like some books to consider: "The Miseducation of the Negro" by Carter G. Woodson, "Sellout, The Politics of Racial Betrayal" by Randall Kennedy, The Willie Lynch Papers, "Uncommon" by Tony Dungee. These are just a few that are really some must-reads. IMO

Anonymous said...

I'm the poster who'd earlier asked for books. With all due respect, I meant books specifically on this topic of the modern black female and her approach to romantic relationships.
I do agree that Woodson and the Willie Lynch Papers are great reads. Thanks for the other suggestions.

Ressurrection said...

Steve Harvey has been recognized because of the 180 degree turn he made in his life. I believe that he is respected because of is admittance to wrong-doing in his other marriages. Now Michael Baisden, I don't like, but Steve has had a visible- spiritual change and I applaud and support that. I used to listen to his show, and these products that were created by him, are in response to his advice during the Strawberry letters. He has an audience of people who are caught up in unhealthy relationships and have no clue how to navigate themselves into a healthy environment to attract the right relationships. His audience are women with little or no self-esteem, regardless of their intellectual capacity. For me, he's not really saying anything we don't know or haven't debated before- but his marketing is King and he will get the ratings- and help a few women along the way to prepare for the right mate.

Beauty Is Diverse said...

Great article, I never supported his book and won't be supporting his movie either.

James W. Lewis said...

"...because they don’t have the weight of oppression and degrading public-opinion on their backs." Excellent point. You're absolutely right. Whenever a person of color commits a crime and reported on an online news feed, the comments after the article always have idiots spewing racist nonsense. Whites don't have to worry about that, as you said.
I plan to check out the movie. I don't always agree with Mr. Harvey, but I genuinely like the dude, and believe he sincerely wants to give back (like he does with the Hoodie Awards). I'm also smart enough to know for every Steve Harvey, there's a Hill Harper.

Anonymous said...

RE: black women acting like men. PLEASE READ THE WILLIE LYNCH LETTER.

Anonymous said...

I can barely tolerate Steve as he strikes me as the epitome of a modern day, blackface minstrel ala "Mantan" in Spike Lee's "Bamboozled". Having said that there is of course his very real, sincere, and remarkable efforts at mentoring Black boys. Those efforts have had real and so far enduring impact for many in our communities. Steve though is clearly out of his lane with the "think like a man' schtick. And in my mind this is really more of a celebrity falling for his own hype. Can't we see the very real effort to be the Black man's Oprah? With "Think like a man..." Steve has found that he touched a real need in our communities, notwithstanding he has no real understanding of Black female psyche, he has provided for some, no matter how dysfunctional a very real answer to their very real angst. Problem is neither he nor they realize that he is categorically out of his lane on this one. Now he compounds the error by turning what was supposed to be an attempt at sagacity into crass entertainment.

Tychalla said...

Poor Steve,he fell for the oldest trick in the book,make an omelette without breaking eggs.As long as you tell the Oprah feminst(defacto lesbian)indoctrinated black women that no matter how many bad choices she makes in life,it's somehow the black man's fault,black women will buy your books ,go to your movies and write sonets to you.But as soon as you tell them to be responsibile for their own actions and that it doesn't matter how broke,bisexual,mean,nasty,lazy and no good a man is,if you don't date him,sleep with him,have children with him and two or more guys like him,(multiple children by multiple fathers)it won't affect you.Just like my not dating,sleeping with,having an intimate relationship with women that are bisexual(a lot of black women are lip stick lesbians)smoke,have children,drink,are fat,have a low credit score,have no real hobbies,have no net worth,can't cook,don't clean up their own home,are nasty,mean and foul spirited,does not affect me.Black women love you until you start being open with them about their duplicity.

Tychalla said...

If black women were as picky about the guys they sleep with and have children with as they are about their hand bags,their would be no single mothers.You are the goal keeper to your own uterus.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing! I to, am not a fan of Steve Harvey, however I am an avid supporter of MOST things "black". Therefore, I will be going to see the film. Although I may not totally agree with the whole "Think like a man" concept, I do know that this movie is employs a large number of blacks (actors, writers, producers, etc.). I am also one that supports numerous black film projects; both major and independent!

Chryll D said...

Excellent, excellent, excellent! I love me some Steve Harvey on Family Feud and his stand-up comedy, but he can't have my money on something he knows absolutely nothing about: women. He has proven that he needs to be reading someone else's book on this subject. But having said that, I think women love hearing what men have to say about them, because they have been taught that's where the wisdom about themselves comes from. Yet, our grandmothers and mothers have told many of us the same thing and we ignored it until Steve Harvey or T.D. Jakes said it. Then, it becomes the gospel. I will do my own thinking! And that's the real fear: that all women just might do the same and that would put certain mean out of business! Remember, this is why Queen Vashti had to go!

PastorMike said...

I must admit that this article was well written, but it's intent is ill-mannered and something that is slanderous to anyone's character. The bible is quote in this article, but again with the wrong intent. Regardless of how you feel personally about Steve Harvey, you like anyone else have the right not to support or purchase his book, however it has been on the bestsellers list because of people's support of what is written in it. I don't agree with every comment or statement that Steve makes, but that's usually the case with anyone who you listen to for more than a little while. This is an opportunity to lift up anyone who has accomplished what Mr. Harvey has accomplished in such a short time. In the United States there are more worthy persons that could be attacked for their opinions and actions. Our children our being left behind because of lack of proper education or parents who stop being parents, or our local police authorities continuing to abuse their power. Let's not forget that we have built more prisons than we have college, and African Americans lead in most epidemics and negative categories in America. This list could be never-ending of things that deserve such great literary thought, but instead you use this God-given talent to tear down another person. We've witnessed this same thing happening to America's first African American President (at least the first documented). Instead of people writing about another person's accomplishments, we spend worthless hours tearing that down. Why is that? Probably because the media feeds, lives, and survives off of negative press. Had you gotten a personal look behind the scenes of Mr. Harvey's life I am sure that you could have written about all of the positive things that he has brought forth because of his position in life. He has a mentoring program for inner-city young men, and his wife does the same for young women. There was a time that he donated his suits to pastors, and the list goes on and on. More than anything that is note-worthy to write about is the fact that Steve Harvey gave his life to Christ. If you followed anyone around for 24-hours, including yourself, I am sure that there would be plenty negative to write about. A Jewish Rabbi once said, "Anyone that has to tear down another to lift their cause up, has not arrived."

Wendel said...

Kudo's to the sistah, I could not have said it better. I (too) was blown away when I saw/ heard Oprah giving praise to 'book' and it's author.

Sanjulo said...

A very well written and thoughtful article, not what I expected at all and I am grateful for that. Your points are well-taken and are not heard often enough. It is clear this was not something you just mailed in, but involved much thought and anaysis. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

As one who is a Christian and Believer, I totally agree..@Pastor Mike, how dare you with
Your contradictory self try to tear down this author in your "inconspicuous manner"? My male intended purchased this book for me as a "birthday" gift. When I opened the "Amazon" package, I was so disappointed. Here I am teaching you how to love me and you smack me in the face with that nonsense based on one man's excuse for why he got married for the 3rd time. I took that damned book to his house in the package and threw it at him. Along with a few choice words. Yes, we are still in a relationship and I am celibate. Ladies, I say validate yourself. Now Steve Harvey is funny, but he cannot tell my story or validate me.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your truth. We are not monolithic. And we are not listening to a popular culture of black men who spew hatred towards black women.