Justin Baldoni is done wondering if he’s “man” enough.
Best known for his role as Rafael Solano on the CW’s award-winning show “Jane the Virgin,” the actor and self-proclaimed feminist, has used his voice and talent to prove that he’s more than just the heartthrob he plays on television.
Baldoni spoke to a packed crowd at the Ohio Union Thursday evening –– which included his mother, an Ohio State alumna –– going nearly an hour over the event’s allotted time. The 34-year-old centered the conversation around “Redefining masculinity,” consent and breaking the stereotypes of being “Man enough.”
A director, filmmaker and entrepreneur, Baldoni is behind the world’s most-watched documentary series “My Last Days,” co-founder of production company Wayfarer Entertainment and producer of his own online series “Man Enough.”
In a pre-show interview with The Lantern, Baldoni spoke about his childhood, in which he saw his own masculinity being defined and decided for him. He said his national series of talks discusses the meaning behind the term masculinity and whether or not the word even needs a definition.
“I think that I’m on such a journey where I’m publically learning everyday what it means to be a man or what it doesn’t mean to be a man or what the definition or whatever masculinity is,” he said. “And what I’ve learned, I think in the last couple years, is that for most of us men, masculinity was defined for us, it wasn’t a choice, it wasn’t an option, it wasn’t ‘Choose your own adventure, pick this or pick that.’ It was just ‘This is what it means to be a man, if you’re not these things, than you’re not a man.’ I think that’s wrong.”
Along with this ever-changing definition of what it means to be a man, Baldoni said the role of men in society is transforming as well, moving away from a power dynamic between the sexes to a consistently more supportive and equal relationship between men and women.
“Specifically to my work, I would say the role of men should change to support women more,” Baldoni said. “Versus, I would say historically, we’ve been an oppressor to women, and that now I think it’s time to figure out how we can amplify women’s voices by using our own.”
Baldoni applied this same idea to the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements, focusing the conversation specifically on consent, especially in college.
“Pretty much guys of any age can understand that it doesn’t take away their masculinity by embracing qualities that are perceived to be feminine,” he said. “By standing up and defending women, I think if anything, it makes them more of a man, not less of a man. That’s just changing the way that we see it.”
Though women made up a majority of the audience, Baldoni noted the number of men in attendance, comparing it to the small number present during his talk at the University of Pittsburgh on March 27.
After applauding the men in the crowd and pointing out an entire fraternity in attendance, Baldoni admitted to being terrified of being a man exploring masculinity.
“So much of our worth as men comes down to whether or not we feel like we can be accepted or seen as cool or ‘manly men,’ or dudes from the other guys,” Baldoni said. “What I found, is generally the response to the things that I say or the work that I’m doing is received really well by women and it’s a big challenge for men. It just makes me so happy that Ohio has some woke dudes.”
Baldoni touched on his childhood and wanting to be liked and accepted by the boys his age. As a young boy, he said his “feminine qualities” –– such as his kindness or sensitivity –– made it less likely for him to befriend other guys, or be seen as equal to them, something that he has struggled with into adulthood.
Throughout the show, Baldoni asked the men in the audience to be willing to challenge the stereotypes and norms of masculinity in their everyday lives, giving the women a chance to “experience a true, vulnerable journey into the male psyche.”
“What does it mean to be a man?” he asked.
For Baldoni –– referring to his November 2017 TED Talk “Why I’m done trying to be ‘man enough’” –– new-age masculinity, so to say, is all about embracing the feminine in oneself and becoming an ally for women.
“I focused my TED Talk on how men can be allies by embracing the feminine in themselves,” he said. “That’s what it all comes down to. What if we allowed ourselves the space and the freedom to cry when we need to cry and to be happy when we want to be happy?”