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Steve Harvey and Benevolent Sexism

steve harvey

Steve Harvey

Yes, I will admit it. I pretty much listen to the Steve Harvey morning show in my car almost every morning when I drive to school [about a 35 minute drive]. I initially only listened for Nephew Tommy’s prank phone calls which were pretty hilarious, however these calls were usually couched in between Harvey and his morning crew spewing out horrible advice for the young generation about sex, politics, and religion.

In case you haven’t heard, apparently some sex tapes have been released from Mimi Faust and Nikko Smith [Love & Hip Hop stars] on the internet and major media sources have been circulating this story widely. Of course, Steve Harvey had something to say. His advice to women was: “Please young women out there, think of yourself… think about what people will say about you when you’re not around; stuff people will say behind your back.” He continues to say, “You’re not here for sex…You’re here for life. God didn’t create you for sex.”

He says all of this while not even addressing the men who were also featured in the video, as if only the women should receive some father-like scolding from Harvey. The fact that the men were strategically left out of Harvey’s diatribe presents a very problematic look into the ways rape culture silently congratulates men for sex, while shaming women.

In an amazingly sharp and smart critique from Olivia Cole on Huffington Post, she says:

“Steve Harvey-types view women and sex through the lens that misogyny has provided for centuries: The lens that renders men invisible when there is an instance of shame being doled out. Casual sex, unwed pregnancy; centuries of misogyny dictate that it only takes one to tango; that the shame of ‘illicit’ sex falls squarely on the shoulders of one and not two. And those shoulders always belong to a woman. When it comes to wagging a finger or calling someone a whore for premarital sexual activity, the man involved somehow dematerializes into a puff of smoke, leaving the woman to bear the brunt of society’s scorn alone.”

rape culture

“Society teaches DON’T GET RAPED rather than DON’T RAPE.”

Rape culture always excuses men by erasing them from the dialogue about sex. We excuse men’s behaviors by assuming that it’s just “natural” for men to be more sexual then women which is just plain ol’ misogyny and sexism. Perhaps these narratives about sex are conveniently being framed by men. Why is it is such an uncomfortable realization for patriarchy that women are sexual beings who exist for more than just being gazed at. Is it a threat that women can have orgasms? I mean, who does Harvey think heterosexual men are having sex with? Walls? [well…let’s not get into that, lol]. Women have sex drives too, you know. We don’t always just have sex to have children. We are human and we enjoy sex too!

Cole continues to say:

 “What’s annoying about Steve Harvey is that he delivers these little gems under the guise of being interested in the empowerment/protection of women and girls. A thin guise, I might add…According to Harvey, women’s lives should be dictated by the expectations and presumptions of others. Our bodies are not our own: We exist at the will of laws perpetuated by people like Steve Harvey, who would have us covering our ankles in the name of modesty. Harvey isn’t interested in empowering us; he only wants to lay red tape in tight boxes around us in his effort to corral us into his idea of the ideal woman.”

Steve Harvey reminds me of Judge Joe Brown, the televised judge persona whose main tagline was, “Protecting womanhood, promoting manhood.” [Yeah, he was recently arrested, so…] Are we promoting a manhood that allows for men to consume women’s bodies in whatever ways they please under some manipulative guise that we’re “protecting” women?

We keep clinging to these traditional [or sexist] gender roles that tell men to be these big, burly hyper-sexual meatheads, while women have to act super weak and pretend that we’re damsels in distress every two minutes to make men feel more masculine. Like, come on. In this configuration, men are allowed to be full sexual beings while women are viewed as chaste, hyper-committed hermits who stay home and are afraid of their vaginas.

These views can only serve men. This culture is structured around a heterosexual man’s sexuality which is why almost every mainstream movie, show, and music video is centered on sexually pleasing heterosexual men. I mean, how many times have us heterosexual ladies tried to watch a movie with our men at night, and the movie conveniently shows women’s breasts everywhere? I’m just waiting for the day when these industries decide to cast naked men every two minutes, but that probably won’t happen anytime soon because of the predominant view that women aren’t sexual…even though we’re naked in every movie…yeah, I can’t work out that math either. As Harvey says, women don’t exist for sex…whatever that means.

There’s actually a term for this folks. It’s called, benevolent sexism. Hostile sexism is something that most of us are familiar with—visible, aggressive negative attitudes towards women [like a man calling a woman an “ugly bitch” because she holds a powerful position in a company]; however, benevolent sexism is more insidious and subtle. Benevolent sexism operates through phrases like, “women are pretty, delicate flowers”, or through actions like men opening doors for women. It’s essentially sexism that comes across as a compliment or as a positive thing. [Think of chivalry, which we’ve been trained to associate with well-mannered men who treat women like they’re flowers simply because they’re women…which is sexist].


Women are just so delicate. “Chivalry” = benevolent sexism.

Benevolent sexism tricks women into thinking that we’re special or that we’re being protected by men [for no reason] at the cost of men pretty much running the world. It’s a way of packaging oppression with a pretty face. Women tend to defend this type of sexism because it makes us feel like there’s something intrinsically special about us without us having to actually do anything to deserve real attention. It’s easy to fall into this set-up because it feels so easy, and therefore, it starts to feel “natural.” We naturalize these feelings because it just feels right, whereas in reality, our behaviors are being validated daily by the media advertisements that surround us and showcase the same behaviors.

So, Steve Harvey telling women that our bodies are like precious pearls that are waiting to be excavated by men essentially means YOU’RE JUST A BODY WHO ONLY EXISTS FOR THE SEXUAL PLEASURE OF MEN [sorry to the men who identify as gay and the women who identify as lesbian…you just don’t exist in Harvey’s eyes], however, through a benevolent sexist lens, it sounds so much nicer like: women, you’re all just so precious and beautiful and you deserve to be respected [MEANING YOU DON’T HAVE A SEXUALITY], so don’t tarnish  your body. You’re worth so much more.

You see what I mean? Benevolent sexism is tricky because it comes across as a compliment, whereas it’s the same old violence. It’s just a new way of repackaging hostile sexism.

As Cole states:

Steve Harvey is not interested in empowering or protecting young women. Instead, he joins the likes of Tyler Perry, Tyrese and Chey B, who sit on their towering soap boxes making money off policing the lives and bodies of women. Write a book about young boys for once, Mr. Harvey, if you want to impress me; write a book about rape culture and the way we teach young men that women’s bodies are trophies, objects, status symbols, commodities.

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  • Hennie

    This article is in my opinion wrong. Steve is right, and he does talk to and about our young men.
    We as women should respect ourselves better. We are special for only an woman can bare child. Women keep this population up. We raise the future.
    This is why we are delicate flowers. Id like to see the author of this article tell a man to treat her like a man. It won’t be enjoyable.
    Woman control more of the it world then one would believe. We don’t live for the sexual pleasure of men and when we degrade ourselves as such is not being free its just that degrading, this is why few men do it. And why our women should not do it

    • Aphrodite Kocieda

      Hennie. Thanks for your response, and thank you for reading the article. I disagree with your statements. “We are special for only a woman can bare child.” So what do we say to women who CAN’T have children, or to older women who can no longer bare children? Are they not women? What do you say to women who CHOOSE not to have children?

      I’m not stating that women *should* make sex tapes. I am merely pointing out how the belief that women are somehow naturally more delicate and less sexual than men is merely a cultural myth that serves to disenfranchise women. “I’d like to see the author of this article tell a man to treat her like a man.” Why do I have to be treated like a “man”? I don’t even know what you mean by that. I’d like to be treated like an equal person…that’s it. So, if men aren’t treating us like delicate flowers then they’re treating us like men? That doesn’t make sense to me.

  • Hennie

    Am a Veteran, was airborne. I will always appreciate a chivalrous man. . .

  • This is wonderful article. Thank you for speaking out. I am trying to comprehend why we feel Steve has to speak us. I don’t agree with his agenda, always blame the female . It is up to us as women to stop this rape-culture. Women stop blaming women, step from behind the man and let’s step up to the plate to defend our sisters this as been going on for to long disguised as protecting us when in fact blaming us. Enough of this I am combat ready.