John Legend Discusses How Toxic Masculinity And Gender Stereotypes Affect Kids

"We’re being indoctrinated pretty early on.”


This year, 10-time Grammy Award winner and actor John Legend is part of AXE's Find Your Magic Initiative, a new program which aims to bring a message of self-expression and inclusivity to teenagers. Legend partnered with masculinity expert, poet and author Carlos Andrés Gómez to mentor high school seniors and shows them there's no one way to "be a man," according to a press release. 

With his participation in this program in mind, 38-year-old Legend spoke out against toxic masculinity and gender stereotypes in an interview with NBC News' Think commentary and opinion section

The singer shared that he's noticed how limiting and harmful gender stereotypes can be for children. Legend spoke about both his own experience as a boy growing up in Ohio and as a parent. Legend has a 1-year-old daughter with his wife, Chrissy Teigen

"Society gives you all kinds of cues as to what's valuable, what's considered masculine and feminine. But as a kid you're not really understanding it as such, you're just seeing it as this is what boys are likely to do and this is what girls are likely to do," he said. "I see it even as I'm raising my daughter. The kinds of toys that are most likely given to girls versus the ones that are given to boys. The kinds of careers kids are steered into, even at a young age, that are seen as more feminine or more masculine. I think we're getting those messages without even knowing it from such an early age." 

Later, Legend posited that we learn gender stereotypes as kids both our real-life and our media consumption

"We're being taught very early on, from movies and from the playground and all kinds of other things, about how we're supposed to interact with each other and perform our gender," he said. 

Speaking from his own experience, he believes Black men are held to even more stringent standards of masculinity compared to other men. 

"Some of this expectation we put on ourselves, I think, to some extent," he said. "But it's also driven from other people, as well as from the broader phenomenon of hyper-masculinity. This manifests itself in a lot of ways that can be really harmful for us and for the people we interact with, women in particular."  

Legend shared that he feels fortunate to have been raised by a father who "presented a really balanced kind of masculinity" to his children "that was very inclusive." 

"He was an artist. He made some of his own clothes and was into fashion and creativity," Legend said. "He also was a manufacturing worker who worked on assembly line, so he did kind of a stereotypically manly job in the day but at home he was really creative and expressive. And so I feel like we always felt like we had the permission to be artists. It was three boys and one girl that my dad raised, and we always felt like we had the permission to be confident in doing that kind of thing." 

Boys today are growing up in a different time than when Legend was a teen, but he has some advice for them. He thinks boys coming-of-age today should seek different kinds of media and listen to people who are different then themselves. 

"I think part of it is to learn to listen, to pay attention to other people and not only learn from books and from outside media, but also listen to your classmates. Listen to women. Listen to people who are different from you and develop a sense of empathy for the things that they're going through. I think we should all be humble and we should all listen to each other and learn from each other," Legend said. 

He encourages boys and teens today to challenge themselves to try new things outside of their comfort zones. 

"I don't say be fearless, because everybody has fears. I think it's an unnatural thing to tell someone to not ever be afraid," he said. "But I think it's important to work through your fears and overcome them by doing the things that make you afraid, doing the things that challenge you and push you and will eventually hopefully help you learn and grow."

You can read Legend's interview in full by checking it out on NBC News' Think section.

(H/T: HuffPost)


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