Former President Barack Obama cautioned a group of young men on Tuesday about falling for old “stereotypes” of what being a man means. He demonstrated that by introducing himself to his audience as “Michelle’s husband.”
“If you’re confident about your strength, you don’t need to show me by putting somebody else down,” Obama told the audience at a My Brother’s Keeper event, according to The Huffington Post. “Show me by lifting somebody else up.”
Obama and Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry - introduced by Obama as “Ayesha’s husband” - spoke at the event in Oakland, California, reported The Independent.
“All of us have to recognize that being a man is first and foremost being a good human. That means being responsible, working hard, being kind, respectful, compassionate,” said Obama on Tuesday, the Huffington Post reported. “The notion that somehow defining yourself as a man is dependent on, are you able to put somebody else down… able to dominate… that is an old view.”
Obama launched the MBK initiative in 2014 as “call to action to close opportunity gaps facing boys and young men of color,” says the Obama Foundation website.
To mark the campaign’s fifth anniversary, Obama and Curry spoke to a group of young African-American men from across the country.
“Obama also made specific reference to racism and how it plays a role in perpetuating toxic masculinity,” the Independent wrote.
Because of the historically racist message from society that black men are “less than,” Obama said, according to the Independent, “we feel we have to compensate by exaggerating stereotypical ways men are supposed to act. And that’s a trap.”
He said communities suffer a lot of “violence and pain” stemming from men who wanted to be respected with guns and knives, according to The Washington Post. Obama called it “a self-defeating model for being a man,” The Washington Post reported.
The former president also talked about how hip-hop and rap music can perpetuate stereotypes that only lead to revealing people’s vulnerabilities.
“If you are very confident about your sexuality, you don’t have to have eight women around you twerking,” he said, per AP. “Cause I’ve got one woman who I’m very happy with. And she’s a strong woman.”