Recently, I had a conversation with a parent who asked about my sentiments towards the new Steve Harvey movie, “Think Like Man.” She mentioned that she was raising a teenage daughter, and that she was confused about what values, morals, and behaviors she should convey to her daughter about self-respect, friendship, and romance.
She expressed that her daughter was a 17-year old senior who had recently been accepted into college and had a special friend whom she was dating. I thought for a moment, and then offered up some potential scenarios that might happen if she were to, per the book and the movie, teach her daughter to “think like a man,” and to understand how masculinity is exercised in our culture: how being dominant, assertive, aggressive, independent, non-emotive, and maintain a sense of entitlement is, in many ways, encouraged in our society. I let her know that thinking like a man may enable her daughter to:
- Be less visible among her peers.
- Possibly make more money as an adult.
- Not have to be concerned about being scrutinized about crossing her legs or keeping them open while seated.
- Probably never be questioned about her weight, size, or beauty.
I also told my friend that, in my opinion, thinking like woman has NO place in our society if she wants her daughter to be happy.
…and then told the mother that all of my above satirical comments were created purely to get her to think about the overall message that Steve Harvey is suggesting to the public.
After the conversation, I thought about what I would share with my daughter (if I had one), if I were in the same situation:
- I believe I would teach her that being a woman and thinking like a woman can be pretty cool.
- While I would not push her to subscribe to traditional gender roles (e.g., passive or aggressive; nurturer or provider; collaborative or competitive, etc), I would encourage her to be “herself” and develop friendships and relationships that enable her to be the best that she can be.
- I would share with her how disappointed I would be if she would ever felt like she had to think like a man and act like a lady for the sake of finding a partner.
- Inasmuch, I would tell her how disingenuous not being herself would be to her mother, grandmother, and any other woman who marched, fought, bled, or died for women to have the same rights and privileges afforded to men.
- I would tell her that acting like a “lady” or “bitchy” would be her choice (I don’t think I would say “bitchy” to my daughter but you know what I mean…lol) and that she could act however she wanted to act so long as she is offering others her authentic self.
Could I have this conversation as a man with my daughter? Sure I could. I would have this conversation with my daughter because I wouldn’t want anyone to diminish, negate, or ridicule who she is or who she could be.
Steve Harvey is a genius for writing a book and subsequently a movie about the value placed upon women in our society and how they are invisible and invalidated. There has been, and will continue to be, a lot of discussion about how women need to shift their thinking to become more successful and happy in life.
I’ve often wondered about the lessons and experiences that Mr. Harvey and others share with their daughters, nieces, and female loved ones, about how a woman’s thinking is supposedly so flawed that they have no recourse or choice but to think like what they are not – men.
Perhaps we (men) fear that if we truly accepted women at face value, then it would force us to deal with our own insecurities about what we think about ourselves and how we act when no women are around…just a thought.
By Dr. James Wadley, BDO Relationship Expert
Dr. James Wadley is an Associate Professor and Director of the Master of Human Services Program at Lincoln University. He is a licensed professional counselor and marriage, family, and sexuality therapist in the States of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. His book, “The Lost and Found Box”, addresses the need for individuals to rediscover happiness. You can learn more about him at drjameswadley.com or follow him on twitter @phdjamesw