[M]y girls and my concern for the future inspire me [to write this book] as well. They will all grow up and reach for the same dream most women do: The husband. Some kids. A house. A happy life. True love.
You may be forgiven for thinking I have quoted from The Misogynist’s Bible of 1950. But this was written by the American “comedian” Steve Harvey in his new best-seller Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man. My friend – a woman – asked me to write on this book, after we came into contact with this venerable tripe and wasted forest inbetween two perfectly nice pieces of book cover. (As ill-luck would have it, on the back, there is an unfortunate picture of Steve Harvey. He is no Hugh Jackman).
The reason why this crap has become a best-seller is the same reason another poison fruit was allowed to unfurl its petals of nausea, namely: The Secret. And the reason for The Secret and Act Like a Douche, or whatever, is selling so copiously – well, Oprah of course.
Oprah may be responsible for the marked decline in critical faculties, just gazing casually across her recent history of nonsense. Someone might write a book about it and call it A Short History of Nearly Nothing considering all the advances in critical thinking, knowledge and reason her recommended books have given to human society. From Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth, to James Frey’s A Million Whiny Pieces, and of course The Secret and now… this.
Harvey’s argument is this:
1. Women struggle to find men – presumably to marry and have kids with, of course. They just can’t wait to get started on the hassles of domestic life, and cook and clean and pick up the kids. I mean, why would women aspire to be good human beings, who live successful independent lives and help to better the world? Pfft, no Steve knows what they want, just read the previous quotation.
2. They struggle because they are thinking like a woman! If they want to bag men, they must learn to – you guessed it – “think like a man!”
3. Steve has realised this and wants to be the gateway so women can live happier lives – by marrying, having kids, and other horribly, closed-minded goals.
The Epicurean in me recoiled at this man’s mind; the complete closure of the mind to be formulated in so simple a construct should immediately strike people as being dubious. Something must be wrong here. I didn’t spend four years studying psychology to let a failed comedian write a pathetic work of misogynistic fiction to solve “relationship” problems. He is insulting the deeply coagulated, fluctuating amalgam we call the human being; he is further insulting their ability to work out problems for themselves.
People you pay to give relationship advice are better placed behind crystal balls. Unless they are your therapist, close-friend or parent, no one else should be giving you advice about yourself or about your interactions with other people. So-called relationship gurus never work – the testament that they have loyal clients, who have been with them for ages, should immediately point out the flaw: if they were so good, they wouldn’t have loyal clients! They should get the advice and leave, never to return with a string of wonderful lovers giving chase.
Harvey is an example of this kind of thinking – immediate solutions to long-standing personal problems. We like to expand our problems, such as “relationship problems”, to fit under a referential rubric and thus unite ourselves with others, calling ourselves failed lovers or lonely people. But the truth is far worse: our problems are our own and we need to solve it, individually. Life is not so hard for most of us that we need to turn to a failed comedian – what are his credentials to be dispensing such advice, please?
I struggled to read most of this book. It is filled with a man who thinks that morality comes from god or at least should fit some divine plan. He seems to have no knowledge of sexuality or how or why it occurs (I recommend Jared Diamond’s Why Sex is Fun or the sex chapter in Desmond Morris’s The Naked Ape). If it is not enough that he is completely misguided and deluded in thinking he is actually helping people – this gives a bad name to therapy, which is a hard, tortuous discipline and no easy answers are ever found – he is also a bigot. He claims that women should find out about a man by asking about his various relationships: his relationship with his mother, etc., and of course with god. If they don’t have a relationship with god, women, apparently, must pack up their bags. (It is how casually people accept this statement and how people in the audience, in the link, laugh that irks me. We should not accept such bigotry) Turns out all those atheists getting married – oh, what, women can be atheists too!? – should just give it up. They are atheist and have no moral “barometer”. Of course, if he did just a little reading into evolution or ethics, he would know that morals are not derived from his god (whoever she is).
Instead of this, people should try Bertrand Russell’s Marriage and Morals (which was mentioned in Lord Russell’s Nobel prize citation) and his beautiful The Conquest of Happiness. Now, readers will recall that I said you shouldn’t take advice from someone who wasn’t your close-friend, parent, therapist, etc. So why do I recommend Bertrand Russell? Well, the difference with this kind of advice is that it primarily aimed at critical thinking. It is not quick solutions; it is a formulation for a methodology one can adapt to enhance self-reflection and expand upon notions, to find those negative aspects orbiting one’s life. Russell is not the only one: I recall, at this moment, Robert Winston’s brilliant book on the mind, too, which attempts a similar theme albeit more up-to-date and scientifically sound one.
Please, dear readers, read Steve Harvey if you want an example of nonsense – but use your precious reading time for better books. I read it in one-sitting and hated that I had to – but I did it, so you don’t have to. It’s nonsense and it is insulting to those of us who studied how the human mind works, how humans interact, etc. Social science may not be a science according to Popper – and I agree with him – but I will be damned if hard work is not constantly involved in it, from the practitioners and the patients. Harvey, the bigot and misogynist, is deeply insulting to critical thinking, hard work at one’s own faults and insulting to women. There are better things to read than an overzealous, failed comedian on relationships.