Archive for April, 2009

We are the Possible

Friend and fellow blogger Rosetta Thurman  interviewed me for  this week’s series, “We are the Possible”. Check it out!

How did you become involved in doing the work of social change?

For most of my childhood my parents did work in our church community and they were devoted to education and creating better opportunities for youth in our neighborhood and in our congregation. They developed a series of training for young people about everything from STDs to preparing for college. Seeing the way they connected to the needs of teens inspired me to do that kind of work when I got to college. I tried to find the best possible ways to reach out to the Black community on campus and not on help amplify our voice at a predominately white school, but also to build safe spaces for Black women on and off campus.

What causes are most important to you? 

Access to reproductive health is pretty important to me. It goes beyond abortion for me;  in my opinion every woman and girl should have the access to quality reproductive healthcare and sexual health education. I am also passionate about closing the achievement gap and providing creative outlets for inner-city youth. I believe that by providing safe spaces for youth they will have healthy alternatives to drugs and gangs and ultimately will be excited about furthering their education and bettering our communities.

The Only Steve Harvey Post that Matters

Okay, I’ll admit it.

This Saturday afternoon, I bought Steve Harvey’s book, Act like a Lady, Think Like a Man. Latoya Peterson from Racialicious can attest to this. She ran into me in Borders while I had the book in hand.

Anyways, I read the book in its entirety this weekend. And as a womanist, I felt so very inclined to write about this book as it pertains to single women of color. Before I begin: SPOILER ALERT: I will be discussing some things the book that are not fully discussed in his TV appearances, namely Oprah.

The book certainly had some gems. I found the 5 questions that each woman should ask a man before getting in too deep was very informative. I liked the fact that it affirmed what I thought I knew, but really didn’t: which is that women have more power in relationships than we are willing to admit. We can decide what the rules are and how it’s going to go. I had never been encouraged to think that way until I read this book.

I bought the book for a number of reasons. Other than wanting to see what the hype was all about, my primary reason  was that I am newly single, having broken up with my man almost three months ago. I thought I’d read the book and see what kind of insight I could gain from it, since I am re-learning what it means to be single in my mid-20s.

Which brings me to the first issue I have with the book:

1. Steve Harvey’s book, in essence, is not for quarterlife women of color. It just isn’t.

When you are in the quarterlife, nothing is really final. You are still trying to figure out what you want, and what you don’t want. You are even trying to figure out what love really is, what it means, and what it does.

You’re not even entirely sure if you even want to get married and if you do get married when that will happen.

If you ARE in a relationship, you don’t even really know if your boyfriend/girlfriend/partner is The One or what it even means to find The One.  I know this feeling all too well.

So when I read a chapter in the book that discusses how women should tell a man when she intends to be married (ie, the date and the time), it really does sound like bullsh*t to me. Why is that? Is it because I don’t wanna get married? No, the exact opposite. Trust me, one day I do want to be married and raise a family.

What struck me as odd was that, as a quarterlifer, I don’t even know how to broach the discussion of marriage….which frustrated me while reading the book because, well, he gave no instruction as to how the discussion should be had or when to have it. Steve Harvey literally said: “just tell a man when you wanna get married and if he really loves you he won’t flinch at it.” Come on now, Steve. don’t make it seem like it is that damn simple because it really isn’t.

As I told my friends the other day, quarterlife dating and romance means being in a constant state of maybe. Maybe we’ll go out on a date. Maybe I’ll see her at the party. Maybe he’ll make me his girlfriend. Nothing is definite. Everything is a gray area. Yes, even those of you who are boo’d up will or have experienced this in some way shape or form. And more importantly, no book by Steve Harvey will change that.

Because of this fact, I maintain the Steve Harvey’s book is not written for my generation. It is written for single Black women over 35 who have bought into the idea that there are no good Black men anymore.

Yeah, I said it.

This book plays on the idea of the “man shortage” and Black women’s anxieties over finding a good man. And while there ARE some gems in the book, over all Steve Harvey is not speaking to me as a single woman in my 20s.  He is speaking to my mom’s generation, some of whom truly believe that good Black men really don’t exist. Which brings me to my next point.

2. Steve Harvey portrays independent, professional working women as women who are resentful of men who try to take care of them: taking out the trash, paying for dinner, providing for a family, etc.

…which is complete and utter bullshit. There’s no other way to put that.

As a professional womanist I was completely insulted at the idea that every independent (Black) woman out here is angry and resentful of any man who tries to take care of them by doing “manly” things: taking out the trash, paying for dinner, fixing things around the house (or getting them fixed), etc. And what does he tell women to do instead?

“Just be a lady.” A lady to him means never raising a finger if a man is in the room.

I’m sorry….are you a woman? Oh, you’re not? Because I’d rather a woman talk to me about what that means. That’s just me though.

Not only does he put every professional Black woman in a box, but he also perpetuates some very dangerous  stereotypes. I like getting doors open for me. I like when I go out to restaurant with a nice guy and he offers to pay. I like when I can get my computer fixed by my guy friend/companion/boyfriend/etc. who happens to work in IT.  I am as strong as they come…and I know I am not alone.

3. And lastly, maybe these relationship books really are a bunch of drivel. Or: what we don’t talk about when we talk about love.

Don’t misunderstand me here–some books I think are great. And yes, I DID buy and read He’s Just Not that Into You. And I did buy and read Steve Harvey’s latest effort. But…

What if  we wrote relationship books which focused not on finding and keeping a man, but on the idea of love as a concept, as an action,  and as a heart-to-heart understanding?

What if we focused on a love ethic that also tells us that in order to be ready for our mate/partner/gf/bf/jumpoff/etc. we must first love ourselves?

I threw these ideas around on Twitter this morning. @BlueMonarch made a great point: so many of us are taught that our self-worth is built on the idea of finding and keeping a man, making it hard for  flipping the script and talking about self love. I couldn’t agree more.

This might be a tad radical for what we are used to when we talk about dating and relationships, but we need to start really discussing love and what it means. We need to discuss love and its madness, it’s boundless energy. Its capacity to heal, and to teach us how to be softer, gentler, more understanding. But most of all, we need to understand how loving ourselves is almost directly related to the kind of partners we meet and the standards we set for our partners.

Steve Harvey, you made a valiant effort. But you are still missing the mark.