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Justin Baldoni’s TED Talk Is a Beautifully Honest Exploration of the Different Sides of Masculinity

We’ve been looking forward to Justin Baldoni’s (Jane the Virgin) weekly series Man Enough for a few months now. I first saw it announced in October of this year, described as a dinner-party-style show with male celebrities and public figures discussing issues of masculinity.

Baldoni recently gave a talk at the TEDWomen Conference and showed us what we can expect from those discussions. After watching the above video, I’m more excited than ever.

I highly recommend watching the whole video, as it covers a lot of ground. He talks about being bullied growing up because his father raised him to be thoughtful and empathetic—i.e. “soft.” He talks about the discrepancy between how he sees himself and how Hollywood sees him, and how the roles he gets typecast in have an effect on how he presents himself to the world, a world that insists boys and men present their masculinity by adopting an “almost disgusted view of the feminine.” But that rigid, exclusionary view of masculinity and femininity is toxic for everyone involved.

Not having a “desire to fit into the current broken definition of masculinity,” he’s reevaluating the “scripts” men are given, dictating how they present themselves and also how they judge themselves. He tells the men in the audience, “I’m not saying that everything we’ve learned is toxic. I’m not saying there’s anything inherently wrong with you or me, and men, I’m not saying we have to stop being men. But we need balance, right? We need balance, and the only way things will change is if we take a real honest look at the scripts that have been passed down to us from generation to generation, and the roles that, as men, we choose to take on in our everyday lives.”

Baldoni has a large social media presence, using that presence to create what he calls “a daily practice of authenticity and vulnerability.” He uses the platform to express his love for his wife and his two children and he says the response has been overwhelmingly positive. But he also shares his analytics breakdown and his audience online is nearly 90% women.

At one point, he says he tried an “experiment,” and started posting more traditionally masculine pictures and videos, documenting his workout routines and meal plans. He says the shift was noticeable. Not only did more men start interacting with his posts, but he got his first-ever interview request for a men’s fitness magazine, naming him as a “gamechanger.” But, as he asks, “Is that really game-changing? Or is it just conforming?”

And see, that’s the problem. It’s totally cool for men to follow me when I talk about “guy stuff” and I conform to gender norms. But if I talk about how much I love my wife or my daughter or my 10-day-old son, how I believe that marriage is challenging but beautiful, or how as a man I struggle with body dysmorphia, or if i promote gender equality, then only the women show up. Where are the men?

He says he has a challenge for those men (“because men love challenges”).

I challenge you to see if you can use the same qualities that you feel make you a man to go deeper into yourself. Your strength, your bravery, your toughness. Can we redefine what those mean and use them to explore our hearts? Are you brave enough to be vulnerable? To reach out to another man when you need help? To dive headfirst into your shame? Are you strong enought to be sensitive? To cry, whether you’re hurting or you are happy, even if it makes you look weak?

Are you confident enough to listen to the women in your life? To hear their ideas and their solutions? To hold their anguish and actually believe them, even if what they’re saying is against you? And will you be man enough to stand up to other men when you hear “locker room talk,” when you hear stories of sexual harassment, when you hear your boys talking about grabbing ass or getting her drunk, will you actually stand up and do something so that one day we don’t have to live in a world where a woman has to risk everything and come forward to say the words “me too”?

He says that he’s been having to take a real look at the ways he’s been unconsciously hurting the women in his life. It’s hard to have toxic behavior (like, in his case, chronic interrupting) pointed out to you. It’s not easy to decide to talk less and listen more. There are a lot of things that aren’t easy, but are very much necessary.

As men, I believe 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.

I love that Baldoni addresses how the toxicity of those “scripts” men are given is harmful not just to women, but also to men. And I’m looking forward to seeing how these kinds of conversations take shape with other men’s voices involved.

Man Enough was originally set to premiere on November 28th, but there’s now a countdown timer on that looks to indicate its new premiere is Thursday, December 14th. Look for it at that website.

(via People, image: Shutterstock)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.