John Legend: “Having A Daughter Isn’t The Only Reason I Care About Women’s Rights”

His statement should speak for itself, but sadly we live in a world where it is not obvious that caring about women’s rights is a no-brainer. Although we have seen a lot of progress in many areas including LGBTQ rights and feminism, toxic masculinity is still rearing its ugly head in a number of ways, usually by those who feel threatened by the advancement of women.

Singer John Legend who has been an outspoken feminist for a while has recently joined a new campaign for Axe body spray which was designed to engage senior high school students to help them mentor younger students. And look, we know there is a fair amount of hesitation toward holding up certain celebrities or male feminists on a pedestal in general, especially after the backlash toward revelations about Joss Whedon from his ex-wife. So we’re not putting John Legend in the spotlight, it’s more about his message and perspectives on feminism.

For the Axe campaign, he was joined by author and poet Carlos Andrés Gómez who wrote a book called “Man Up: Reimagining Modern Manhood”, 15-year-old high school student Solomon Mussing and 21-year-old transgender activist Hunter Klugkist.

The foursome have been traveling around the country speaking at schools about various experiences in their own lives and engaging with students as the new school year kicks into gear. In an interview with Cheryl Wischhover form, John spoke about his part in the Axe initiative, as well as the current political climate and his views on feminism.

The topic of toxic masculinity also came up, and it is something that has been discussed on the road as part of the Axe campaign. Recalling his own days in high school, the musician said he clearly remembers what the definition of “being a man” was back then.

“The quintessential man was athletic; he’s strong, he’s tall, he’s fast, he’s the quarterback of the football team, and he has sexual prowess and is getting all the girls,” he said, speaking about an ideal that still lingers today.Yet John did not fit this mold and wants young men today to know that it is OK to be different.

“Myself, I was more of a nerd. I was more into reading and politics. I was a writer and a singer and a performer, and I was a terrible athlete and I wasn’t tall and I didn’t get a lot of girls at the time! What we’re just trying to do is encourage some space for them to figure it out and a way of taking some of the pressure off,” he said.

He then moved onto the current political climate, speaking about how there is far more space for marginalized voices to be raised, but how the presidential election has encouraged backlash toward this kind of progress.

“Some of the political conversations we’re having and some of the negative things we’ve seen happen is almost a backlash to the world becoming more inclusive and more permissive and more open to different expressions of gender identity and us electing our first black president and all these things,” he said.

“There’s sometimes a reaction to that, a backlash, from people who feel like they might be losing something because other people are becoming more equal, and because there’s more justice for other people. We saw it in Charlottesville, fueled by people who feel like they were losing something by seeing other people being treated fairly or equally,” he added, mentioning the far-right rally in Virginia which saw a number of people injured and one woman killed when a white supremacist drove a car through a crowd of protestors.

His perspective reminds us of the saying “when you are accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression” which is certainly a great way to sum up the rise in hatred since the 2016 presidential election.

John was also asked whether having a daughter (with wife and model Chrissy Teigen) has made him see the importance of feminism more than ever before, and he had the best response.

“I’m always suspicious of people who become feminists only when they have a daughter. I don’t like that you have to have a gay son to be for gay marriage. I feel like you should have enough empathy for other people that you don’t need someone to be in your family to think they’re valuable. I thought of myself as a feminist before I had a daughter and before I was married. Having a daughter might reinforce that, but it shouldn’t be the only reason I care about women’s rights,” he said.

That is honestly one of the best statements we have seen when it comes to equality. How we wish this was the norm, rather than the exception!

“I think it’s important that we speak out against sexual assault and it’s important that we look at the root causes for why men feel the need to be dominant in that way and to be that toxic. We need to attack the causes for that so that women can feel more safe,” he also said, touching on issues that have been talked about a lot in the past few years in light of numerous campus sexual assault stories and various news stories that show how even the justice system protects toxic masculinity, as in the case of convicted rapist Brock Turner.

After some questions about his fashion and style choices (since he was being interviewed by a fashion site), John cleverly points out how personal style can also become victim to the narrow masculine standards thrust upon men.

“There is such a range of the way guys want to present themselves. I don’t wear makeup other than the basics for TV or whatever, but there are plenty of guys who are doing that. Some of it goes in waves. In the ’80s, Prince was wearing makeup and Rick James was wearing makeup and some of our coolest artists that we love and value now were wearing makeup. I think we need to allow people to be creative and not put limits on how they present themselves just because you’re a man [and] you’re supposed to be this way,” he said.

Labels and limits help no one. Stereotypes about masculinity or femininity only seek to keep people trapped and beholden to unrealistic ideals. Here’s to more men speaking out the way John Legend does about feminism.


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