Barack Obama is reflecting on what he wanted his daughters and their friends to know about toxic traits of masculinity.
“So much of popular culture tells (boys) that the only clear, defining thing about being a man, being masculine, is you excel in sports and sexual conquest,” Obama told his podcast co-host Bruce Springsteen in Monday’s episode of “Renegades: Born in the USA.”
Springsteen added “violence” to the list of traits boys are taught to think of as masculine traits. Obama noted that “violence, if it’s healthy at least, is subsumed into sports.”
The former president, who served from 2009 to 2017, shares daughters Malia, 22, and Sasha, 19, with wife Michelle Obama.
In November, Obama shared his daughters felt “the need to participate” in the Black Lives Matter protests after the death of George Floyd last summer, in an interview with People. He said they didn’t join in the protests for the attention, but rather “they were very much in organizer mode” and did it of their own volition.
“I didn’t have to give them a lot of advice because they had a very clear sense of what was right and what was wrong and (of) their own agency and the power of their voice and the need to participate,” he said. “Malia and Sasha found their own ways to get involved with the demonstrations and activism that you saw with young people this summer, without any prompting from Michelle and myself, on their own initiative.”
Obama added: “I could not have been prouder of them.”
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Speaking in Monday’s episode to Springsteen, both men reflected on how their fathers’ generation dealt with gender issues and how the next generation can do better.
“There were some qualities of the traditional American male… that are absolutely worthy of praise and worthy of emulating,” Obama said. “That sense of responsibility, meaning you’re womb to do hard things and make some sacrifices for your family or for future generations. The greatest generation showed that again and again. And that handling your business… that sense of responsibility of being an adult.”
He added:” But there is a bunch of stuff in there that we did not reckon with, 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.”
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