Is Steve Harvey Dishing Out Good Advice or Is He Simply Marketing?

December 22, 2010  |  

Why would anyone take relationship advice from Steve Harvey?

Before you answer, consider the fact that Harvey has managed to captivate the hearts and minds of legions of lovelorn black women (and some men) through both his radio show (particularly, the always tantalizing Strawberry Letter segment) and with his book, Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, which is currently in its 50th printing and has sold more than 2 million copies.

His frank, yet sometimes funny and common sense approach to love and relationships has also earned him the covenanted spots as love advice columnist at Essence magazine and on Good Morning America. Harvey has even launched his own dating site, called Locate Your Love, which not only helps single folks make love – or whatever else – connections, but for a special price, allows users to ask personalized advice from the relationship guru himself.

And for those who yet to feel the love despite all of these offerings, Harvey is back again with his latest offering, Straight Talk, No Chaser: How to Find, Keep, and Understand a Man, which promises to pick up where his last book left off.

Okay, I get it—nothing in this entire universe is more intriguing and more complex to the human species than discovering the ins and outs of what makes the opposite sex tick. For black folks in particular, this quest to demystify love has been complicated through years of slavery, Jim Crow laws and endless news reports on why 70 percent of Black, successful women remain husbandless. So, it seems justified that a large number of how-to-books from self-appointed love gurus could feed our insatiable cravings for closeness and understanding.

Yet with the sheer volume of these books and the wide audiences that this advice reaches, it makes one wonder if these books are helping to facilitate the much needed dialogue between black men and women, or if the advice is just financially exploiting the insecurity of folks in desperate need of guidance?

In 2008 alone, there were 13.5 million self-help books sold with women overwhelmingly leading the pack as the primary consumers. Many of these relationship books are drafted by writers, who are unaccredited in any sorts of counseling, therapy or mental health training. Often times, the results or solutions given in these books come mostly from personal experience and ideas rather than scientific research.

Steve Harvey, whose roots stem from stand-up comedy, also has no background in any sort of relationship counseling and is on his third marriage. That’s not to say that degree-holding, counseling professionals trumps life experiences. Hill Harper, Harvard-trained thespian and all around hot tamale, actually did research for his book, The Conversation: How Black Men and Women Can Build Loving, Trusting Relationships, to go along side his personal narrative.

But in many of these self-help books, the conversations are often dominated by pathological finger-pointing, bitter sexism and sweeping generalizations. Two recurring themes in a lot of these books: Black women are single because they are narcissistic and insecure, while Black men are single because they are worthless and doggish.

Don’t get me wrong, some folks have legitimate issues, be it relationship or otherwise, which needs to be addressed. However, self-help books, in my view, do not take the place of self-reflection, prayer, counseling and if needed, extreme psychotherapy.

And not to be picking solely on Harvey, but if his relationship advice is so helpful, than why did he feel the need to pen another book? I mean, do you really need to be told to leave your cheating, drug-dealing boyfriend, or not to sleep with a married man? Perhaps the reality is that simplistic advice, often featured in these types of books, proves that sense isn’t always common but it does make dollars.

Charing Ball is the author of the blog People, Places & Things.

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