This brilliant TED Talk nails 3 important truths about being a 'real man.'

If you haven't heard actor Justin Baldoni's name, you at least probably recognize him.

Photo by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for NALIP.

Best known for his role as Rafael on "Jane the Virgin," Baldoni is the epitome of Hollywood's "tall, dark, and handsome" stereotype. He is every bad boy with a sinister past. Every womanizing billionaire. Every domineering playboy.


In a recent talk at TEDWomen 2017, Baldoni joked about the string of characters he's been typecast as (most of them appear shirtless a good majority of the time).

"Most of the men I play ooze machismo, charisma, and power," he said. "And when I look in the mirror, that's just not how I see myself."

Baldoni's past roles include "Male Escort #1," "Shirtless Date Rapist," and "Shirtless Med Student." Image via TEDWomen.

Baldoni came to realize that it wasn't just on-screen that he was pretending. In his everyday life, he found himself trying to conform to society's masculine ideal as well, and it all felt like a lie.

"I've been pretending to be strong when I felt weak. Confident when I felt insecure. And tough when really I was hurting," he explained.

The past few years have been a journey for Baldoni, who has set out to redefine for himself what "being a man" is really all about. In his TED Talk, he shared three major realizations he had along the way.

1. "Real men" make themselves vulnerable — not just with women, but with other men too.

Baldoni's early attempts at being more open about his emotions publicly on social media went great — until he realized almost all of his followers were women. Opening up to his fellow men was another challenge altogether.

"If it's about work or sports or politics or women, [men] have no problem sharing our opinions," he observed. "But if it's about our insecurities, our struggles, our fear of failure, it's almost like we become paralyzed."

He recalled recently wanting to talk to his guy friends about a serious issue in his life and needing almost the entirety of a three-day guys trip to work up the courage to do it. Once he did, however, he found many of his buddies were eager to share with him, too.

"My display of vulnerability can, in some cases, give other men permission to do the same," he realized.

(If only there were a TEDMen Baldoni could have given this talk at.)

2. "Real men" hold other men, and themselves, accountable.

As he began to engage more with other men, Baldoni started to become even more aware of toxic male behavior around him. It was everywhere.

He recalls an Instagram comment someone left on a photo of him and his wife. The random male commenter called the photo "gay shit."

So Baldoni decided to message him.

Image via TEDWomen.

"I said, very politely, 'I'm just curious, because I'm on an exploration of masculinity, and I wanted to know why my love for my wife qualified as gay shit,'" he remembered.

To his surprise, the man responded thoughtfully about how his own displays of affection had been mocked as a child, and he apologized for lashing out.

"Secretly he was waiting for permission to express himself," Baldoni said. "And all he needed was another man holding him accountable and creating a safe place for him to feel. The transformation was instant."

3. "Real men" embrace the good aspects of traditional masculinity — with a twist.

Not everything traditionally associated with manliness is bad. Strength, bravery, and confidence are great things to aspire to (regardless of one's gender). But Baldoni urges men to think deeply about what those qualities really mean in practice and whether, perhaps, there's not a different way to think about spending their energy trying to achieve them.

"Are you brave enough ... to be vulnerable?" he asked. "Are you strong enough to be sensitive? ... Are you confident enough to listen to the women in your life? ... Will you be man enough to stand up to other men when you hear 'locker room talk'?"

Near the end of his talk, Baldoni acknowledges an important point: As bad as the "performance of masculinity" is for men, these rigid gender roles can be far worse for women.

He bemoaned that there wasn't even enough time to get into issues like the gender pay gap, division of household labor, and violence against women — all issues created and upheld by the toxic male behavior Baldoni's fighting against.

"The deeper we get into this, the uglier it gets," he said.

He challenged the men watching and listening to demand better of themselves and those around them.

"If we want to be part of the solution, words are no longer enough," Baldoni said.

Listen to the whole talk in the YouTube video below, or watch it all on TED.com.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less
Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less