I’ve spent several days thinking about Rev. Run, Tyrese, Amber Rose and their conversation about sexual consent on OWN’s It’s Not You, It’s Men. In short: Amber Rose had to explain that “no means no,” Tyrese talked about women’s sexual energy practically forcing men to “grope” them and Rev. Run threw in a heavy dose of respectability politics to justify men being disrespectful to women.
It was … troubling, to put it mildly. These two men, who are hosting a show about relationships, also wrote a best-selling book about relationships (hence the show), and there they sat, on national television, unable to grasp basic concepts like consent and that what a woman wears isn’t a pass to treat her badly or fondle her. These are the men, the supposed-to-be-enlightened ones, advising women about relationships? Seriously?
And while I’m disappointed—more so in Rev. Run than Tyrese, from whom, after years of shallow and misguided observations on social media, I’ve come to expect nothing—I’m not surprised by their sexism. It’s a common theme among men, including many so-called relationship experts. And that’s a huge problem.
It should be obvious why that’s an issue, but in case it isn’t: You have men who hold screwed-up views about sex and women telling women how to be better women to land a man. If the perspective with which they view women is shoddy, then it follows that their advice to women will also be shoddy.
Take, for instance, best-selling author Steve Harvey, who, despite the backlash he receives, does hit the mark sometimes. But when he misses? Honey! Harvey’s misogynistic gaffes were enough to inspire a popular YouTube compilation, “[S—t] Steve Harvey Says,” which has been viewed nearly 3 million times. Among the highlights? Harvey on why men cheat: “Because women allow them to” and because “women cheat with them.”
So, let me get this straight: A man cheating isn’t a man’s fault, and it’s no reflection on his moral compass or self-control and his lack of honesty or respect for his mate? He cheats because he’s absolutely not accountable and a woman allowed him?
Now, I’m confused because Harvey’s always talking about men being leaders (also sexist). If he’s a leader, then how is cheating “being allowed” by a woman? If a woman has the power to allow or not, isn’t she the actual leader? If so, give her the credit.
Harvey gets a lot of flak for his views because he’s the face of (black) relationship advice, but that sexist (and misogynistic) outlook trickles down to the Hotep experts who peddle their “advice” via Internet memes. You can barely open your browser or a social media app without encountering a photo of a semiattractive man next to a banal quote about what’s wrong with “females”—especially those with weaves; those who carry condoms in their purses (because God forbid a woman take the onus of protecting herself); those who are feminists or independent; those who aren’t “covered up”; and those who are single mothers (never a word critiquing single fathers ever)—and how each of these things makes them unworthy, unrespectable or, at best, incredibly flawed romantic partners.
What’s as bad as the bad advice from male experts is that relationship advice is rarely, if ever, aimed at men. Anytime a woman merely suggests to men that there are better ways to be a man, she’s swiftly and loudly told that a woman can’t tell a man how to be a man because women fundamentally don’t understand men. This is accepted as a universal truth.
So what exactly is it that gives men the inherent understanding of women to tell them how to be better women?
Riddle me this: Is it that men don’t need help when it comes to relationships, or is it that the entire onus of creating interest and maintaining a relationship is women’s work?
Here’s the big problem with this very popular line of thinking and all this relationship advice aimed at women: Women could listen to all of it—good and bad—become the so-called perfect woman and do everything men say they want, and relationships would still fail.
A modern relationship will not work when one person in it is perceived as, more or less, inferior, and that person isn’t financially dependent on a man for survival. Relationships will fail until men as a whole deal with their sexism. And they will fail until men as a collective put in the effort to build relationships and work on themselves, too.
Maybe we could all actually get somewhere better in our relationships if our experts did less trolling and started taking advice from women for a change or, even better, if they tried thinking like a woman.
Demetria Lucas D’Oyley is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love as well as A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She is also a blogger at SeeSomeWorld.com, where she covers pop culture and travel. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.