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The 7 Best Masculinity TED Talks

Masculinity

Seven incredibly powerful TED Talks looking at the problems facing men today, from a variety of compelling directions. Must watches for all men...

‘On healing and forgiveness’ by Dolph Lundgren

This talk by the action legend begins with him opening up about the physical abuse he’d suffered at the hands of his father throughout his childhood in Sweden, where he’d be frequently beaten up. His way of coping, he says, was: “You freeze and go dead. All your emotions are bottled up inside.” He then talks about moving to America and having his career take off, but how that trauma he locked up inside set him on a destructive path which almost destroyed his life and career: “you’re trying to escape something you can’t escape from because its inside of you.” The talk ends on a deeply moving note, which we won’t spoil, which talks about healing yourself and then trying to help others too.

‘Why I’m done trying to be “man enough”’ by Justin Baldoni

With nearly 3m views on YouTube, this was one of the big watershed TED Talks about modern change for men, and indeed a watershed moment for masculinity discussions worldwide. The American actor and film-maker Justin Baldoni makes a heartfelt call to redefine masculinity; it is bravura performance which delivers key thinking about how we change the world by changing ourselves. It also pulls no punches in this as it looks at men hung up on performing their gender identity to the detriment of others and who need to make the “long, long journey from the head to the heart.”

A call to men by Tony Porter

Porter talks about growing up in New York and the tough world he was socialised in. One which, with its rules of toughness, dominance and superiority to women should be familiar to most men – Tony identifies the behavioural expectations as the ‘Man Box’. And boy does he deliver this in a deeply resonant way as he reveals the difference between the way he spoke to his daughter and the way he spoke to his son, dark incidents from living in The Bronx and the fear that keeps men in the Man Box: “This fear that leaves us paralyzed.” He delivered it as TEDWomen and he tells the audience, “My liberation as a man is tied to your liberation as a woman.”

‘Violence against women – it’s a men’s issue’ by Jackson Katz

An important watch for current conversations and the fact that domestic violence and sexual abuse are not ‘women’s issues’ but men’s issues. “One of the key characteristics of power and privilege,” Jackson, a gendered violence activist, says, “[Is] the ability to go unexamined, lacking introspection, in fact rendered invisible, in large measure, in the discourse about issues that are primarily about us.” He looks at how this happens, stressing that sexual abuse is not simply about lone individuals but part of a systemic social problem which is producing “abusive men at pandemic rates.” “We need more men with the courage and the strength to start standing up and saying some of this stuff…There has been an awful lot of silence in male culture about this ongoing tragedy of men’s violence against women and children, hasn’t there?” Ultimately this is an empowering talk for men to take charge of their lives, start changing leadership in peer groups and institutions, in order to make the world safer for women, and for the next generation of girls and boys. A must watch.

‘Boys won’t be boys. Boys will be what we teach them to be’ by Ben Hurst

Revelatory talk by the advocate and Head of Facilitation at the excellent UK organisation Beyond Equality, in which he relates some of the responses to the work he does in schools with boys, and identifies how expectations set on them can lead to a culture of limited expression and uncomfortable Man Box restriction. He says he found, “If boys had a choice they wouldn’t want to be what society expects them to be.” Crucially, he identifies the work that needs to be done to change this, as well as memorable hammering home the urgency: “the ways that we’re expected to behave and to treat other people are not the best ways to live our lives, and they don’t lead us to being happy and whole human beings.”

‘Why big boys don’t cry’ by Gareth Griffith

Deeply moving talk by Gareth, who was a PhD student looking at self rated mental health in the UK at the time, about his personal struggles with mental health which led him to the brink of suicide and the need to find space in order to talk. No doubt that this will deeply resonate with a great many of us, including his affecting articulation of his struggles where felt like he “lived a life where I let down everyone I ever loved or cared about.” He makes for a complete political and personal overhaul of how we think about mental health. He says at one point, “Talking about your mental health is not just good for you, it’s good for everyone.” Requires a standing ovation even at your laptop.

‘The Mask of Masculinity – the traditional role of men is evolving’ by Connor Beaton

“Feminism is not the death of men. Machoism and our idea that in order to be a successful man we need to dominate others, we need to be a lone wolf, we need to figure it out by ourselves, that’s what’s really crushing men today.”

Almost every line of this talk hits home, as Connor delivers a searing portrait of men trapped in cycles of emotional and creative denial. He says, “The biggest challenge facing men today is to be able to overcome and move through some of the negative stereotypes that surround masculinity.” Using his own story to illustrate this he also delivers a surprise around the 11 minute mark which leaves not a dry eye in the house. Inspirational barely touches it, just watch, then share with your friends…and then talk to those friends.

 

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