Half of my Twitter timeline was up in arms last week because of an article titled “Why Some Successful Black Women Can’t Find a Good Man,” written by an unknown “relationship expert”—male, of course, with no legitimate documentation, receipts or science to explain just what is holding sisters back. I won’t link the story or share his name because, honestly, I don’t want to give this individual any more attention than he deserves.
Hey, perhaps this brother could be some wellspring of knowledge about love and relationships, though I didn’t get that from the article or his website but you know, people have secret talents. That doesn’t matter much to me, nor does he, nor does this one particular article.
What DOES matter, however, is the fact that the internet and the success of Steve Harvey’s Think Like a Man have left us with an increasingly large pool of bumbling male “relationship experts” that typically direct their words, advice and often, their ire, towards Black women. From celebrities, to bloggers and even a few fellas who don’t seem to be 100% literate, the cannon of bad Black male advice givers grows every day.
Many women found Harvey’s book to be totally helpful and valid, as others would prefer he stuck to hosting game shows and selling suits. I don’t feel the need to weigh in either way, but I will paraphrase something the mogul once said in an interview when asked why he didn’t write a book for men: women are the ones who buy this sort of stuff and men aren’t going to do that.
When I see these Uncle Steve-wannabes, I feel that they have that same attitude. Worse, I doubt most of them have a sense of deep care and compassion for Black women; they just see the dollar signs! They see the potential for getting a little bit of fame (and perhaps some tail). And they will gladly do that on the backs of their sisters without daring to even try to engage brothers in a conversation about how they might become better partners or what they may be doing to contribute to the much-ballyhooed ‘Black Love Crisis.’ They forget that Harvey had a loyal fan base and established career before he started selling love advice (and that his book was largely due in part to a popular advice segment on his morning radio show.) It's like "He did it, why can't I?" Or for some "Why I can't?"
The narrative of Black female deficiency that is spun by these hucksters is very troubling. Depending on which one you listen to, Black women are just too mean, too accommodating, too sexual, too prudish, too big, too intelligent, too stupid, too traditional, too feminist, too accomplished, too lazy, too conservative, too liberal, too religious, too ungodly, too much and/or not enough. Apparently, we are the only ones who have any agency as it relates to keeping the love alive in our community and we are mucking it all up. Even when a man is a terrible partner or person, the greater blame is placed on the woman who chose him for staying around or for failing to stay around to help him grow.
My frustration should not imply that I think Black women have no accountability as it relates to our often-challenged relationships to our men; I am a Black woman who has made a great many mistakes in my relationships, I’ll be the first to admit that. However, the constant insinuation that we are the ones who have the majority of the deficiencies and the lion’s share of the work to do to fix the state of Black love is just wrong-headed, sexist and inaccurate. Furthermore, the number of brothers who are unwilling to engage other men about hardly anything aside from what Black women could be doing better is simply disgusting, heartbreaking and wrought with sexism.
Why are you ranting about women who can’t cook when you could be taking those brothers who don’t have real relationships with their children to task? Why denounce Black female success when you could be encouraging/supporting Black men’s efforts to thrive in the workplace and classroom? Why complain loudly about women who ‘give it up too soon’ if you sleep with these same women yourself? What makes you feel that you are so prize worthy that a nation of women should be working to adapt to your desires and whims? Why not pause to consider what you might do to become a better partner, man, friend? Why not encourage other men to do the same? Do you think having a Duke kit and giving out relationship advice in 2012 is not in conflict?
Okay, the last part was snark, but it's fair game. Don't have a texturizer and come at me, 'bro.
When we launched this new EBONY site last year, I did a lot of hand-wringing over whether or not to give Sil Lai Abrams the title “Relationship Expert.” The reason I finally agreed to it was because she is very much a student of human behavior and relationships. She bases her advice on vast experience and research…and I still hope that folks understand, as she does, that she is simply a woman with thoughts and ideas…just like the rest of us! But unlike the 20-something self-appointed sages with limited life experience (and limited relationships with real-life women, if we keep it all the way funky), she has a great deal of resources to back up her words AND she delivers them respectfully. That doesn’t mean that her truths are always going to work for you. The greatest tool we all should use is that of discernment.
That said, to my brothers who have tossed their hats in the advice ring, if you are ONLY in the game to get a rep or some money, scram. We will figure you out and ignore you accordingly, But if you really believe that you have something to say that can help people, consider 1) having critical conversations with men, not just women, 2) how much you can actually back up what you are talking about (are you really an “expert,” or just an opinionated person?) and, finally, 3) please check yourselves and make sure you aren’t dispensing your feelings as facts.
If you are so concerned with Black love, perhaps you can do some research to discover why Black men and women find challenges in getting along. What unique barriers have been placed in between us? Why are women held to a higher standard when it comes to dating and mating? You aren’t going to get most of these answers via the blogosphere and unless you have them, you probably shouldn’t be dispensing much advice just yet.
Jamilah Lemieux is the News and Lifestyle Editor for EBONY.com. She may joke, but she does not play.