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Sean Penn Blames ‘Cowardly Genes’ for ‘Feminized’ Men in Gross Rant

Oh cool, genetic analysis from Spicoli.

Oscar winner Sean Penn has offered his perspective on modern American masculinity, and the results were unsurprisingly gross and offensive. In an interview with The Independent, Penn said “I am in the club that believes that men in American culture have become wildly feminised… I don’t think that [in order] to be fair to women, we should become them.”

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He doubled down, saying “I think that men have, in my view, become quite feminised … I have these very strong women in my life who do not take masculinity as a sign of oppression toward them. There are a lot of, I think, cowardly genes that lead to people surrendering their jeans and putting on a skirt.”

Okay, there’s a lot to unpack here, starting with Penn equating femininity with weakness. The misogyny jumps out, and it’s not the first time that Penn has voiced these sexist views. He previously dismissed the Me Too movement as a “kind of receptacle of the salacious.” He continued , “The spirit of much of what has been the #MeToo movement is to divide men and women… [With] women that I talk to, not in front of a camera, that I listen to, of all walks of life, there’s a common sense that is not represented at all in the discussion.”

Penn’s statement is a weird indictment of women, while at the same time citing women he knows as authorities. In doing so, he channels a Jordan Peterson-like attempt to share his misogynist opinions via pseudo-academic speech. In the same interview, Penn addresses “white American male entitlement”, but is unable to square the sexism inherent in that entitlement with the industry’s (and the world’s) treatment of women.

Penn also fails to acknowledge the transphobia and homophobia inherent in his statement, which is bitterly ironic coming from the man who won an Oscar for portraying gay rights activist Harvey Milk. And what is he even talking about? Trans women who embrace their gender identity by wearing skirts? Non-binary folks exploring different gender expressions? Is Penn’s masculinity so fragile that the sartorial choices of strangers affects his own masculinity?

Penn longs for the traditional hallmarks of toxic masculinity, of a man who could punch photographers and physically threaten people without fear of retribution or accountability. It’s also deeply unsurprising that a man like Penn, who describes femininity as cowardly, has a long history of alleged domestic violence.

Perhaps the most indicting moment of the interview is the response of his daughter, Dylan Penn. Journalist James Mottram described her response as “one that leaves Dylan quiet, staring into space.”

Many took to social media to call out Penn for his perspective:

(via The Independent, image: Emma McIntyre/Getty Images)

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Image of Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.