Steve Harvey and the Problem with Victim Blaming2/17/2013
Each day on my way to work, I tune in to the Steve Harvey Morning Show. I enjoy listening to the s...
Each day on my way to work, I tune in to the Steve Harvey Morning Show. I enjoy listening to the skits and parodies, featured guests, and the friendly banter of the Crew. Although at times a little rough and rude, Steve himself is clearly the star of the show, and it is his star quality that makes it such a huge success.
Although there are several segments of the show that may seem to be rude or in bad taste, none compare to what happens at the start of the 8 o’clock hour. This infamous “Strawberry Letter” segment involves reading a (presumably) listener-submitted letter, asking Steve for his thoughts on a personal issue – usually dealing with relationships. The segments typically go something like this:
Shirley Strawberry (one of the Morning Crew members) reads the letter aloud for the audience in an exaggerated, overly proper, “ladylike” tone. She then delivers what sounds like a safe, scripted response to the issue in question that usually lacks any sort of passion, depth, or any signs of real thought. Then, Steve is left to give his over the top take on the scenario.
Although I was once a person who would listen to the segment, whether or not I agreed with what was being said, I have now become so uncomfortable with the overly raucous nature and context of his responses that I feel compelled to change the station. The reason for my disdain of this and other venues through with Mr. Harvey and others like him speak on relationship dynamics is the way in which they are so comfortable with their own blatant misogyny and sexism.
On any given morning he can be heard discussing relationships in terms that refer to women as “stupid” and “ignant” (yes, I spelled that correctly), and assuring them that they alone are solely responsible for the ways in which they are treated by men.
Although I have never heard him discuss actual physical assault, when addressing the emotional abuse and maltreatment these ladies experience at the hands of the men in their lives, he resorts to what is essentially victim-blaming. He tells them that they are responsible for the type of treatment they receive from others and shows no expectation of accountability for the actual perpetrators of this ill-treatment at all. What’s worse is that his Morning Crew consists of two women who daily cosign on this nonsense!
Mr. Harvey and others like him have turned the low self-esteem that plagues the so-called “softer sex” into a multi-million dollar industry. By feeding our insecurities with blame and accusations disguised as well-meaning advice, these people have capitalized on our self-doubt to a sickening degree. Why then, do we buy into it? Why is it that so many women fall prey to the hype?
We fall into the trap because we want to believe that it is within our control to change things about others, when in reality, it isn’t. While it is true that people who are already abusive by nature will continue to abuse you so long as you continue to allow it, this does not mean in any way that you are responsible for the abuse. Loving someone is not an excuse to be abused, just as having the mental fortitude or enough self-doubt (whichever the case may be) to handle it does not give whomever a free pass to abuse you.
Blaming a woman for being abused by someone else is about as nonsensical as blaming a house because someone set it on fire. It is important for the preservation of our community that we recognize abuse and misogyny in all of its forms for what it truly is – and that we hold those who perpetuate it accountable instead of resulting to callous victim-blaming and shaming simply because it is the easier of the two to confront.
The culture of victim-blaming and shaming flourishes throughout our community and society and into the most innocuous of places. It is accepted by mainstream society as simply a fact of life, and few seem to think more deeply into it than what we are told. Women who are in relationships where they are lied to, cheated on, called names, or beaten should just leave – if you don’t leave (regardless of your reasons), then you’re stupid, and you deserve what’s happening to you.
Perhaps we consider the violent party in the relationship to be a jerk (or worse), but it seems as though no one ever actually expects this person to take responsibility for themselves and their actions, or to change. As a matter of fact, we tend to think that these people are incapable of change. I don’t know about you all, but if I were a man, I would be offended by this line of thought as much or more than the idea of victim-blaming. It suggests that men cannot control themselves, and are by nature abusive people. It suggests that, as women, we should take care not to wake the sleeping beast within them.
Really? Like, for real?
How about we teach our sons that it isn’t okay to physically react when they’re angry? How about we don’t glorify violence throughout their lives in sports, video games, etc.? How about we teach our daughters that there is no shame in loving yourself, and that it isn’t your fault when someone treats you wrong? There has to be change in the way that we all look at ourselves and our world if we expect for things to get better.
It is my responsibility, it is your responsibility, it is everyone’s responsibility to educate, inform, and ensure that both men and women understand their value and worth, and know that they don’t have to continue playing into the hype. Instead of acting like ladies or thinking like men (in the words of Mr. Harvey), how about we act like adults and deal with our issues accordingly?
I don’t think that’s asking for too much.
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Kioshana LaCount is a 20-something professional hailing from the Deep South (Alabama). She makes a living in assisting young people in obtaining the skills that they need to become responsible, productive citizens, and in her free time she writes, crafts, and advocates. Feel free to contact her at Kioshana.firstname.lastname@example.org.