Justin Baldoni’s TED Talk About Redefining Masculinity Is Both Timely & Necessary

Harvey Weinstein. Matt Lauer. Charlie Rose. Kevin Spacey. Louis CK. Mark Halperin. You all know what these men are now synonymous with. They have become the key figures in the current movement to expose widespread and systemic sexual harassment, rape, assault and intimidation in the media and entertainment industries. We are seeing a long overdue moment in culture where women are finally getting the courage to speak out, some decades after the fact which shows you how powerful the patriarchal, toxic standards of masculinity have become.

We thought it reached fever pitch in 2016 in the lead-up to the Presidential election when the infamous Access Hollywood tape showing Donald Trump talking about grabbing women by the genitals surfaced, and many male political leaders and media pundits casually brushed off those shocking remarks as “locker room banter”. It was certainly a turning point, but not until the Harvey Weinstein expose late in 2017 did the culture of toxic masculinity become a behemoth that finally started to crumble in real and tangible ways – high profile men in powerful positions losing their jobs because of their disgusting behavior.

It ignited a flurry of think-pieces and endless amounts of media coverage about the way women have been treating men, and most pointedly, the way men are brought up to think that exposing their genitals and treating female colleagues as second-class citizens was never anything out of the ordinary. There is cause to take heart in this moment. Not only should the burden be shouldered by women, but also men who need to recognize the role they can play in helping to tear down harmful and toxic patriarchal standards.

And there are men who are using their voices and platforms to urge other men to do better. To be better. And to reject the narrow ideals they have been brought up on which also leave them with a very skewed idea of what being a “man” is. One such man is actor and feminist Justin Baldoni, who has been very outspoken about gender equality. His latest addition to this ongoing conversation is his TED Women talk from this year, titled ‘Why I’m Done Trying To Be “Man Enough”‘.

The premise of his 18 minute talk was likened to his job as an actor, where he has to memorize a script and play a character. He says this is essentially the same as the messages boys are given in everyday culture in terms of what it means to be manly.

“This is the script that we’ve been given. Girls are weak, and boys are strong…. I came here today to say as a man that this is wrong, this is toxic, and it has to end,” he said.

Aside from his well-known role as Rafael on ‘Jane The Virgin’, Justin is launching a talk show aimed at men called ‘Man Enough’, which has said will discuss the kinds of issues he is already passionate about. Justin believes men today have a huge responsibility to tackle the toxic culture if we ever hope to truly see it crumble.

“I believe that as men, it’s time we start to see past our privilege and recognize that we are not just part of the problem, fellas, we are the problem. The glass ceiling exists because we put it there. And if we want to be a part of the solution, then words are no longer enough,” he said in his TED Women talk.

In light of this important cultural turning point we are witnessing, we wanted to take the opportunity to share 3 more TED Talks that seek to offer tangible solutions to dismantling toxic masculinity, while also giving men permission to define their identities in a way that can be nuanced, complex and authentic to who they are, not what societal standards demand. We believe these can be useful resources for everyone looking to become educated about the issue, and share with family, friends and colleagues about the need to participate in cultural change.

Dr. Jackson Katz has been a powerful voice in this movement, using his expertise to speak to men in the military and in the NFL about toxic masculinity. In his November 2012 TEDx Talk, he focused on domestic violence violence and sexual abuse, saying they are often thought of as “women’s issues”. But he points out that these are intrinsically men’s issues — and shows how these violent behaviors are tied to definitions of manhood. It was a clarion call for us all — women and men — to call out unacceptable behavior and be leaders of change.

Tony Porter is an educator and activist who is internationally known for his work around domestic violence. In 2010 he gave a TED Women talk titled ‘A Call To Men’. His message to men everywhere is “act like a man.” Telling powerful stories from his own life, he shows how this mentality, drummed into so many men and boys, can lead men to disrespect, mistreat and abuse women and each other. His solution: Break free of the “man box.”

in 2015, author and scholar Michael Kimmel spoke at TED Women about gender equality, outlining why it is good for everyone, including men. Rather than just making the point that it is the right thing to do, he makes the surprising, funny, practical case for treating men and women equally in the workplace and at home. It’s not a zero-sum game, but a win-win that will result in more opportunity and more happiness for everybody.

One final video we want to share while we’re on the topic of dismantling toxic masculinity is the trailer to a documentary called ‘The Mask You Live In’, by filmmaker Jen Siebel Newsom who also made the powerful documentary ‘Miss Representation’. Available on iTunes, this film is a great foundational resource, especially for parents and educators, in terms of making conscious decisions when raising the next generation of young men to break the cycle of toxic masculinity.


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  1. Pingback: "My First Book Of Feminism (For Boys)" Laying The Foundation For Gender Equality In Youth - GirlTalkHQ

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