Barack Obama Opened Up About Explaining Toxic Masculinity to Sasha and Malia
He talked about the idea of manhood with his pal Bruce Springsteen.
As former president of the United States and father to two daughters, Barack Obama has a very unique insight into American culture and how men fit into those ideals. In the upcoming episode of his podcast with Bruce Springsteen, Renegades: Born in the USA, Obama explains that he had to tell his daughters, Sasha and Malia, about the idea of toxic masculinity and how it could affect them as women.
Elle has a preview of the sit-down, which sees Obama telling Springsteen that guys are expected to be masculine, be good at sports, and be "a man" all the time. That, combined with a few other things, he says, create the perfect storm to breed violence, something he says that Americans still need to acknowledge.
He noted that he's spoken to his daughters' friends about traditional masculinity and how people today can learn from seeing things that can be considered toxic now, like prioritizing "sexual conquest" and "making money" above treating people with respect and dignity.
"I talk to my daughters' friends about boys growing up, and so much of popular culture tells them that the only clear, defining thing about being a man, being masculine, is you excel in sports and sexual conquest," he said. "And violence, right? Those are the three things, and violence, if it's healthy at least, is subsumed into sports. Later, you add to that definition, making money, right? How much money can you make?"
Obama went on to say that the Me Too Movement and women seeking equal pay are two other things that haven't been fully addressed. The conversation is ongoing, he said, because we're all still working on ourselves.
"But there is a bunch of stuff in there that we did not reckon with," he added. "And now you're seeing with Me Too, part of what we're dealing with in terms of women still seeking equal pay, part of what we're still dealing with in terms of domestic abuse and violence. There was never a full reckoning of ... who our dads were, what they had in them, how we have to understand that and talk about that, what lessons we should learn from it. All that kind of got buried."
During the episode, which will be available in full on March 22, Obama and Springsteen talk about society's general attitude towards masculinity and how it has — or hasn't — changed as people learn more about Me Too, become exposed to feminism, and see more women take office and influence American politics and culture.