A TED Talk Review of Justin Baldoni's 'Why I'm Done Trying to be Man Enough'

 

Boys will be boys…a common phrase used to describe toxic behavior that justifies the suppression of women, extreme self-reliance, and suppressing emotions for the sake of, “being a man.” Justin Baldoni - American actor, director, and filmmaker is challenging this idea by asking himself and other men what it means to really, “be a man.”

In a TED Talk titled, “Why I’m Done Trying to be Man Enough,” Justin bravely explores the ideas impressed upon him as a child and how those ideas have impacted his adulthood. Interestingly enough, the roles Justin was being cast as were depictions of the kind of man who perfectly captures what toxic masculinity is; tough, shirtless men with perfectly chiseled jawlines that never cry and always, always dominate in the relationship.

Justin explains the contrast between himself and his characters by stating, “these roles don’t represent the kind of man I am in my real life…But it was how Hollywood saw me, and over time, I noticed a parallel between the roles I would play as a man both on-screen and off. I’ve been pretending to be a man that I’m not my entire life. I’ve been pretending to be strong when I felt weak, confident when I felt insecure and tough when really I was hurting.

"I’ve been pretending to be a man that I’m not my entire life. I’ve been pretending to be strong when I felt weak, confident when I felt insecure and tough when really I was hurting.

It is true that men and women try to mask their emotions sometimes, so what qualifies this as toxic masculinity? When women suppress their emotions they’re encouraged to talk it out and be open and vulnerable with their friends. Men, on the other hand, are often silenced by remarks that make them feel as if expressing their emotions makes them “soft”.

The dynamics in male-male friendships tend to work much differently than that of a female-female relationship because men are typically not as comfortable being open with each other. Justin says, “I know men who would rather die than tell another man that they’re hurting…if it’s about work or sports or politics or women, we have no problem sharing our opinions, but if it’s about our insecurities or struggles, our fear of failure, then it’s almost like we become paralyzed.”

Justin perfectly wraps up in this TED Talk how men have been made to feel. Bridging this gap can often feel uncomfortable and scary, but we need to be willing to stand up and proclaim that it is okay for men to just be themselves by just being human. Encouraging our sons to be, “good men” doesn’t have to mean that they suffer in silence and it definitely should not become an excuse to treat women as lesser beings. Being a good man should equate to nothing other than being a good human being.

Men should treat women with respect because that is how they would expect to be treated. Justin boldly called out other by asking them, “Are you confident enough to listen to the women in your life...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?

Are you confident enough to listen to the women in your life...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?

Male dominance is a long-standing problem in human trafficking. It is no accident that over 70% of human trafficking victims are women. The idea that men have to always be in charge has allowed for a society in which men are rarely held accountable for the way they treat women, but what if men didn’t always have to be in charge? What if men were allowed to express feelings of joy and sadness?

There is nothing wrong with being a man. Men are unique individuals with needs, wants, and desires too. I don’t think we need to stop telling our men to, “be a man”. The real solution is to redefine what being a man means. Men, you must be willing to listen to what your male friends are feeling, not just what their favorite sports team scored last Sunday. You must be willing to say, “no more” when you hear inappropriate talk amongst your male friends.

Justin paid beautiful homage to his father saying, “while my dad may not have taught me how to use my hands, he did teach me how to use my heart, and to me that makes him more a man than anything else.” It is not too much to ask that we all are treated with respect and dignity, and that begins with the willingness to allow for growth and vulnerability.
 


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About the Author

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Sonsee Jenkins is a lover of animals (big and small), hand lettering, and writing. Her experiences include rehabilitating raccoons, writing for her school’s humanity department, and advocating for the oppressed. She attends a small university in Northeast Indiana and hopes to use her degree (and all her time working up to it) to end human trafficking.