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TEDWomen 2017

Justin Baldoni: Why I'm done trying to be "man enough"

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Views 2,552,515

Justin Baldoni wants to start a dialogue with men about redefining masculinity -- to figure out ways to be not just good men but good humans. In a warm, personal talk, he shares his effort to reconcile who he is with who the world tells him a man should be. And he has a challenge for men: "See if you can use the same qualities that you feel make you a man to go deeper," Baldoni says. "Your strength, your bravery, your toughness: Are you brave enough to be vulnerable? Are you strong enough to be sensitive? Are you confident enough to listen to the women in your life?"

- Actor, filmmaker, social entrepreneur
An outspoken feminist, Justin Baldoni has been doubling down on his efforts to start a dialogue with men to redefine masculinity. Full bio

As an actor, I get scripts
00:12
and it's my job to stay on script,
00:15
to say my lines
00:18
and bring to life a character
that someone else wrote.
00:19
Over the course of my career,
00:23
I've had the great honor
00:25
playing some of the greatest
male role models ever
00:27
represented on television.
00:31
You might recognize me
as "Male Escort #1."
00:33
(Laughter)
00:36
"Photographer Date Rapist,"
00:38
"Shirtless Date Rapist"
00:42
from the award-winning
"Spring Break Shark Attack."
00:43
(Laughter)
00:46
"Shirtless Medical Student,"
00:48
"Shirtless Steroid-Using Con Man"
00:49
and, in my most
well-known role, as Rafael.
00:51
(Applause)
00:55
A brooding, reformed playboy
00:58
who falls for, of all things, a virgin,
01:01
and who is only occasionally shirtless.
01:04
(Laughter)
01:06
Now, these roles don't represent
the kind of man I am in my real life,
01:08
but that's what I love about acting.
01:12
I get to live inside characters
very different than myself.
01:14
But every time I got
one of these roles, I was surprised,
01:18
because most of the men
I play ooze machismo,
01:22
charisma and power,
01:25
and when I look in the mirror,
that's just not how I see myself.
01:27
But it was how Hollywood saw me,
01:30
and over time, I noticed a parallel
01:32
between the roles I would play as a man
01:34
both on-screen and off.
01:36
I've been pretending to be
a man that I'm not my entire life.
01:41
I've been pretending
to be strong when I felt weak,
01:45
confident when I felt insecure
01:49
and tough when really I was hurting.
01:53
I think for the most part
I've just been kind of putting on a show,
01:56
but I'm tired of performing.
02:00
And I can tell you right now
02:03
that it is exhausting trying to be
man enough for everyone all the time.
02:05
Now -- right?
02:12
(Laughter)
02:13
My brother heard that.
02:16
Now, for as long
as I can remember, I've been told
02:18
the kind of man
that I should grow up to be.
02:20
As a boy, all I wanted was to be
accepted and liked by the other boys,
02:23
but that acceptance meant I had to acquire
02:28
this almost disgusted view
of the feminine,
02:30
and since we were told that feminine
is the opposite of masculine,
02:32
I either had to reject
embodying any of these qualities
02:35
or face rejection myself.
02:38
This is the script that we've been given.
02:41
Right? Girls are weak,
and boys are strong.
02:44
This is what's being
subconsciously communicated
02:48
to hundreds of millions of young boys
and girls all over the world,
02:50
just like it was with me.
02:54
Well, I came here today to say, as a man
02:56
that this is wrong, this is toxic,
03:01
and it has to end.
03:04
(Applause)
03:06
Now, I'm not here
to give a history lesson.
03:12
We likely all know how we got here, OK?
03:16
But I'm just a guy that woke up
after 30 years and realized
03:18
that I was living in a state of conflict,
03:21
conflict with who I feel I am in my core
03:23
and conflict with who the world
tells me as a man I should be.
03:26
But I don't have a desire
03:30
to fit into the current
broken definition of masculinity,
03:31
because I don't just want
to be a good man.
03:35
I want to be a good human.
03:39
And I believe the only way that can happen
03:42
is if men learn to not only
embrace the qualities
03:44
that we were told
are feminine in ourselves
03:46
but to be willing to stand up,
03:50
to champion and learn
from the women who embody them.
03:52
Now, men --
03:57
(Laughter)
03:58
I am not saying that everything
we have learned is toxic. OK?
04:00
I'm not saying there's anything
inherently wrong with you or me,
04:03
and men, I'm not saying
we have to stop being men.
04:06
But we need balance, right?
04:09
We need balance,
04:12
and the only way things will change
is if we take a real honest look
04:14
at the scripts that have been
passed down to us
04:18
from generation to generation
04:20
and the roles that,
as men, we choose to take on
04:22
in our everyday lives.
04:25
So speaking of scripts,
04:27
the first script I ever got
came from my dad.
04:28
My dad is awesome.
04:32
He's loving, he's kind,
he's sensitive, he's nurturing,
04:33
he's here.
04:40
(Applause)
04:42
He's crying.
04:48
(Laughter)
04:49
But, sorry, Dad,
as a kid I resented him for it,
04:52
because I blamed him for making me soft,
04:56
which wasn't welcomed
in the small town in Oregon
04:59
that we had moved to.
05:01
Because being soft
meant that I was bullied.
05:03
See, my dad wasn't
traditionally masculine,
05:06
so he didn't teach me how to use my hands.
05:08
He didn't teach me
how to hunt, how to fight,
05:10
you know, man stuff.
05:14
Instead he taught me what he knew:
05:17
that being a man was about sacrifice
05:19
and doing whatever you can
05:23
to take care of
and provide for your family.
05:24
But there was another role
I learned how to play from my dad,
05:27
who, I discovered,
learned it from his dad,
05:29
a state senator
05:32
who later in life
05:33
had to work nights as a janitor
to support his family,
05:35
and he never told a soul.
05:39
That role was to suffer in secret.
05:41
And now three generations later,
05:43
I find myself playing that role, too.
05:46
So why couldn't my grandfather
just reach out to another man
05:49
and ask for help?
05:53
Why does my dad to this day still think
he's got to do it all on his own?
05:54
I know a man who would rather die
05:58
than tell another man
that they're hurting.
06:01
But it's not because we're just all,
like, strong silent types.
06:04
It's not. A lot of us men are really good
at making friends, and talking,
06:08
just not about anything real.
06:13
(Laughter)
06:15
If it's about work or sports
or politics or women,
06:17
we have no problem sharing our opinions,
06:21
but if it's about
our insecurities or our struggles,
06:24
our fear of failure,
06:27
then it's almost like we become paralyzed.
06:30
At least, I do.
06:33
So some of the ways
that I have been practicing
06:37
breaking free of this behavior
06:40
are by creating experiences
that force me to be vulnerable.
06:41
So if there's something
I'm experiencing shame around in my life,
06:46
I practice diving straight into it,
06:50
no matter how scary it is --
06:53
and sometimes, even publicly.
06:55
Because then in doing so
06:58
I take away its power,
07:00
and my display of vulnerability
07:02
can in some cases give other men
permission to do the same.
07:04
As an example, a little while ago
07:09
I was wrestling with an issue in my life
07:11
that I knew I needed
to talk to my guy friends about,
07:13
but I was so paralyzed by fear
07:17
that they would judge me
and see me as weak
07:21
and I would lose my standing as a leader
07:23
that I knew I had to take them
out of town on a three-day guys trip --
07:27
(Laughter)
07:32
Just to open up. And guess what?
07:33
It wasn't until the end of the third day
07:36
that I finally found
the strength to talk to them
07:38
about what I was going through.
07:42
But when I did,
something amazing happened.
07:45
I realized that I wasn't alone,
07:47
because my guys had also been struggling.
07:50
And as soon as I found the strength
and the courage to share my shame,
07:53
it was gone.
07:57
Now, I've learned over time
07:59
that if I want to practice vulnerability,
08:01
then I need to build myself
a system of accountability.
08:03
So I've been really blessed as an actor.
08:06
I've built a really wonderful fan base,
08:10
really, really sweet and engaged,
08:13
and so I decided to use my social platform
08:15
as kind of this Trojan horse
08:18
wherein I could create a daily practice
of authenticity and vulnerability.
08:20
The response has been incredible.
08:25
It's been affirming,
it's been heartwarming.
08:27
I get tons of love and press
and positive messages daily.
08:31
But it's all from a certain demographic:
08:36
women.
08:40
(Laughter)
08:41
This is real.
08:44
Why are only women following me?
08:47
Where are the men?
08:50
(Laughter)
08:51
About a year ago, I posted this photo.
08:54
Now, afterwards, I was scrolling
through some of the comments,
08:58
and I noticed that one of my female fans
had tagged her boyfriend in the picture,
09:01
and her boyfriend responded by saying,
09:05
"Please stop tagging me in gay shit.
09:07
Thx."
09:11
(Laughter)
09:12
As if being gay makes you
less of a man, right?
09:14
So I took a deep breath,
09:18
and I responded.
09:21
I said,
09:24
very politely, that I was just curious,
09:26
because I'm on an exploration
of masculinity,
09:28
and I wanted to know
why my love for my wife
09:30
qualified as gay shit.
09:32
And then I said,
honestly I just wanted to learn.
09:34
(Laughter)
09:37
Now, he immediately wrote me back.
09:42
I thought he was going to go off on me,
but instead he apologized.
09:45
He told me how, growing up,
09:51
public displays of affection
were looked down on.
09:53
He told me that he was wrestling
and struggling with his ego,
09:57
and how much he loved his girlfriend
10:01
and how thankful he was for her patience.
10:03
And then a few weeks later,
10:07
he messaged me again.
10:09
This time he sent me a photo
10:12
of him on one knee proposing.
10:15
(Applause)
10:16
And all he said was, "Thank you."
10:22
I've been this guy.
10:25
I get it.
10:27
See, publicly,
he was just playing his role,
10:28
rejecting the feminine, right?
10:30
But secretly he was waiting
for permission to express himself,
10:32
to be seen, to be heard,
10:37
and all he needed was another man
10:38
holding him accountable
and creating a safe space for him to feel,
10:39
and the transformation was instant.
10:43
I loved this experience,
10:45
because it showed me
that transformation is possible,
10:47
even over direct messages.
10:50
So I wanted to figure out
how I could reach more men,
10:52
but of course none of them
were following me.
10:55
(Laughter)
10:57
So I tried an experiment.
10:59
I started posting more
stereotypically masculine things --
11:01
(Laughter)
11:05
Like my challenging workouts,
my meal plans,
11:07
my journey to heal my body
after an injury.
11:11
And guess what happened?
11:14
Men started to write me.
11:17
And then, out of the blue,
for the first time in my entire career,
11:19
a male fitness magazine called me,
11:22
and they said they wanted to honor me
as one of their game-changers.
11:25
(Laughter)
11:31
Was that really game-changing?
11:35
Or is it just conforming?
11:38
And see, that's the problem.
11:40
It's totally cool for men to follow me
11:42
when I talk about guy stuff
11:44
and I conform to gender norms.
11:47
But if I talk about
how much I love my wife
11:50
or my daughter or my 10-day-old son,
11:54
how I believe that marriage
is challenging but beautiful,
11:58
or how as a man
I struggle with body dysmorphia,
12:02
or if I promote gender equality,
then only the women show up.
12:06
Where are the men?
12:10
So men, men, men,
12:12
men!
12:17
(Applause)
12:19
I understand.
12:27
Growing up, we tend
to challenge each other.
12:29
We've got to be the toughest,
12:32
the strongest, the bravest
men that we can be.
12:33
And for many of us, myself included,
our identities are wrapped up
12:36
in whether or not at the end of the day
we feel like we're man enough.
12:40
But I've got a challenge for all the guys,
12:45
because men love challenges.
12:47
(Laughter)
12:49
I challenge you to see
if you can use the same qualities
12:52
that you feel make you a man
12:55
to go deeper into yourself.
12:57
Your strength, your bravery,
your toughness:
13:00
Can we redefine what those mean
and use them to explore our hearts?
13:03
Are you brave enough
13:10
to be vulnerable?
13:12
To reach out to another man
when you need help?
13:15
To dive headfirst into your shame?
13:18
Are you strong enough to be sensitive,
13:22
to cry whether you are hurting
13:25
or you're happy,
13:27
even if it makes you look weak?
13:28
Are you confident enough
13:31
to listen to the women in your life?
13:34
To hear their ideas and their solutions?
13:37
To hold their anguish
13:39
and actually believe them,
13:41
even if what they're saying
is against you?
13:44
And will you be man enough
13:47
to stand up to other men
when you hear "locker room talk,"
13:49
when you hear stories
of sexual harassment?
13:53
When you hear your boys talking
about grabbing ass or getting her drunk,
13:55
will you actually stand up
and do something
13:59
so that one day
we don't have to live in a world
14:01
where a woman has to risk everything
14:03
and come forward
to say the words "me too?"
14:05
(Applause)
14:07
This is serious stuff.
14:18
I've had to take a real, honest look
14:21
at the ways that I've unconsciously
been hurting the women in my life,
14:22
and it's ugly.
14:28
My wife told me that I had been
acting in a certain way that hurt her
14:31
and not correcting it.
14:36
Basically, sometimes
when she would go to speak,
14:39
at home or in public,
14:43
I would just cut her off mid-sentence
and finish her thought for her.
14:45
It's awful.
14:51
The worst part was that I was completely
unaware when I was doing it.
14:53
It was unconscious.
14:56
So here I am doing my part,
14:58
trying to be a feminist,
15:00
amplifying the voices
of women around the world,
15:01
and yet at home,
15:04
I am using my louder voice
to silence the woman I love the most.
15:05
So I had to ask myself a tough question:
15:11
am I man enough
15:14
to just shut the hell up and listen?
15:16
(Laughter)
15:18
(Applause)
15:20
I've got to be honest.
I wish that didn't get an applause.
15:24
(Laughter)
15:27
Guys,
15:29
this is real.
15:31
And I'm just scratching the surface here,
15:33
because the deeper we go,
the uglier it gets, I guarantee you.
15:35
I don't have time to get into porn
and violence against women
15:38
or the split of domestic duties
15:41
or the gender pay gap.
15:45
But I believe that as men,
15:48
it's time we start to see
past our privilege
15:50
and recognize that we are
not just part of the problem.
15:52
Fellas, we are the problem.
15:55
The glass ceiling exists
because we put it there,
15:56
and if we want to be
a part of the solution,
16:00
then words are no longer enough.
16:02
There's a quote that I love that
I grew up with from the Bahá'í writings.
16:05
It says that "the world of humanity
is possessed of two wings,
16:10
the male and the female.
16:14
So long as these two wings
are not equivalent in strength,
16:17
the bird will not fly."
16:21
So women,
16:25
on behalf of men all over the world
16:27
who feel similar to me,
16:31
please forgive us
16:34
for all the ways that we have not
relied on your strength.
16:36
And now I would like
to ask you to formally help us,
16:41
because we cannot do this alone.
16:44
We are men. We're going to mess up.
16:46
We're going to say the wrong thing.
We're going to be tone-deaf.
16:48
We're more than likely, probably,
going to offend you.
16:51
But don't lose hope.
16:53
We're only here because of you,
16:56
and like you, as men, we need
to stand up and become your allies
16:59
as you fight against
17:02
pretty much everything.
17:05
We need your help
in celebrating our vulnerability
17:08
and being patient with us
17:11
as we make this very, very long journey
17:13
from our heads to our hearts.
17:17
And finally to parents:
17:20
instead of teaching our children
17:25
to be brave boys or pretty girls,
17:27
can we maybe just teach them
how to be good humans?
17:33
So back to my dad.
17:38
Growing up, yeah, like every boy,
I had my fair share of issues,
17:41
but now I realize that it was
even thanks to his sensitivity
17:45
and emotional intelligence
17:48
that I am able to stand here right now
talking to you in the first place.
17:50
The resentment I had for my dad
I now realize had nothing to do with him.
17:55
It had everything to do with me
and my longing to be accepted
17:58
and to play a role
that was never meant for me.
18:04
So while my dad may have not taught me
how to use my hands,
18:07
he did teach me how to use my heart,
18:11
and to me that makes him
more a man than anything.
18:14
Thank you.
18:17
(Applause)
18:19

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About the speaker:

Justin Baldoni - Actor, filmmaker, social entrepreneur
An outspoken feminist, Justin Baldoni has been doubling down on his efforts to start a dialogue with men to redefine masculinity.

Why you should listen

Justin Baldoni is an actor, director and entrepreneur whose efforts are focused on creating impactful media. He can be seen playing Rafael on CW’s award-winning phenomenon Jane the Virgin. In 2012, Baldoni created the most watched digital documentary series in history, My Last Days, a show about living told by the dying. On the heels of that success, Baldoni founded Wayfarer Entertainment, a digital media studio focused on disruptive inspiration.

In 2014 Baldoni started the annual Carnival of Love with a mission to improve the way the Los Angeles community views and interacts those experiencing homelessness. To support his work on Skid Row, he started the Wayfarer Foundation, which supports his work breaking the cycle of homelessness and supporting individuals facing terminal illness.

More profile about the speaker
Justin Baldoni | Speaker | TED.com