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Terry Crews Apologized for Implying Children of Same-Sex or Single Parents Are “Severely Malnourished” but Won’t Give Up the Underlying Argument

Terry Crews speaks onstage during The 2019 MAKERS Conference

3/6 Update below.

Back on February 24th, Terry Crews tweeted out a New York Times article written by Derecka Purnell. Purnell criticized a speech Barack Obama recently gave to a group of young black men at a town hall for his mentorship initiative My Brother’s Keeper. Purnell saw his words as “finger-wagging” and enforcing respectability politics.

“Programs like My Brother’s Keeper insist on making better versions of Trayvon Martin, the black victim, instead of asking how to stop creating people like George Zimmerman, the racist vigilante,” she writes. “Rather than encouraging them to dismantle the systems that deepen wealth inequality, Mr. Obama tells black boys to tuck their chains.”

Crews was not a fan of the article.

He was especially upset that the article was written by a woman. “You can speak with us— just not FOR US. There is a big difference,” he wrote.

From there, the conversation morphed into one of single parents and the roles men and women in play in children’s development. And over a week later, that conversation is still going.

In a now-deleted tweet, Crews wrote that “paternal AND maternal love are like vitamins and minerals to humanity.” One user responded that “love is not gendered. a child will not starve with only one gender loving them.”

Crews replied, “But they will be severely malnourished.”

This was taken by many to be an implication that children raised by one parent or by same-sex parents will be deficient in some way, despite his assertion that that wasn’t his meaning. This isn’t the first time he’s said something to this effect, though. Back in 2014, he went on The View and said, “I’m not discounting mothers, but [a child] will be insecure until he finds [a father].” Just like in his recent tweet, the first part of his sentence is negated by everything after the “but.”

He apologized for that tweet and called it a “wrong choice of words.” Maybe the vitamins metaphor just got away from him. Or maybe it was a clunky one to start in the first place.

However, he’s also continued to insist that his words were misinterpreted.

And, in fact, it does feel like his words were misinterpreted–but only because he presented them clumsily. It seems clear that in talking about maternal and paternal love, he’s not restricting this to mothers and fathers, but to all sorts of role models in a child’s life. But that’s a point he never really states clearly, and occasionally even contradicts.

While I believe love itself isn’t gendered, I’ve written here about the importance of female role models in young girls’ lives. That seems to be the same sort of message Crews is angling for, but his wording is not doing any favors to his argument. Nor is his decision to subtweet and mock those who were hurt by the (perhaps unintentional but still very present) implication that single parent or same-sex households were lacking some necessary form of love.

I’m sure there were some people jumping into this argument with the primary intention of expressing anger they didn’t actually feel. But Crews seems to be assuming a bad faith argument from the majority of people he’s engaging with and dismissing the possibility that he could have legitimately said something hurtful.

We’re big fans of Crews here. Over the last year-plus, he’s become such an incredible advocate for the #MeToo movement and non-toxic masculinity. Hopefully, he will recognize why so many people found his words hurtful but considering he’s been saying similar things for years, we might not get that wish.

Updated 3/6: Thank you, Stephanie Beatriz! And thank you, Crews, for listening.

(image: Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for MAKERS)

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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.