At its heart, Obama and Springsteen’s podcast is redefining the toxic masculinity upheld by Trump

On Monday, former president Barack Obama and musician Bruce Springsteen launched the first two episodes of an eight-episode podcast collaboration referred to as “Renegades: Born in the USA” on Spotify.
Springsteen and Obama have been mates for over a decade, and the podcast options them, as Spotify put it, “in deep and revealing dialog,” which befell in Springsteen’s New Jersey recording studio. 
“On the floor, Bruce and I haven’t got so much in widespread,” Obama stated in the introduction to the first episode. “He’s a white man from a small city in Jersey. I’m a Black man of combined race born in Hawaii with a childhood that took me round the world. He’s a rock n’ roll icon. I’m a lawyer and politician — not as cool.”
He continued: “But over the years, what we have discovered is that we have a shared sensibility. About work, about household and about America.” 
The first two episodes of “Renegades” are primarily centered on race and racism. Obama talked about feeling like an outsider in Hawaii. Springsteen mentioned the racial make-up of Freehold, New Jersey, and built-in neighborhoods. Both talked about the life and legacy of civil rights activist John Lewis. 
But a thread that already runs via “Renegades,” and is slated to be mentioned particularly in a future episode of the podcast, is what trendy masculinity can and ought to seem like — a subject that was delivered to the cultural forefront all through Trump’s presidency, which was, in some ways, guided by his personal pugilistic, slender definition of manhood.
Take this part from the first episode of the podcast, through which Springsteen and Obama mentioned that their wives, Patti Scialfa and Michelle Obama, had hit it off.  
“Michelle was more than happy in the insights you had about your failings as a person,” Obama stated with amusing. “And after we would depart a dinner, or a celebration, or a dialog, she’d say, ‘You see how Bruce understands his shortcomings and has come to phrases with them in a manner that you haven’t? Uh, it is best to spend some extra time with Bruce, as a result of he is put in the work.’ So there was additionally slightly of the sense that I wanted to be coached in how you can be a correct husband.” 
Springsteen, additionally laughing, responds: “It’s been my pleasure.” 
Already some key tenets of their shared understanding of masculinity come to gentle via that straightforward alternate: respecting your partner as a companion, being cognizant of and proudly owning as much as your limitations, and continuting to work to grow to be a greater man and husband, which regularly means shedding a few of the extra toxic trappings of American masculinity. 
Both males have mentioned the idea of toxic masculinity earlier than. During a 2016 interview with NPR’s “Fresh Air,” Springsteen detailed how he needed to shed the concept that there is a singular pathway to being acknowledged as a person.
“You’re younger and you are all the time in pursuit of your younger manhood,” he stated. “You’re making an attempt to determine, what does that imply? There’s loads of stress on younger males to type that out and we are likely to gravitate in direction of one-dimensional iconography so far as what it means to be a totally grown man.” 
He additionally clarified to “Fresh Air” host Terry Gross that his early on-stage persona was simply that. 
“If you simply checked out the exterior, it is fairly alpha-male, which is slightly ironic, as a result of that was personally by no means precisely actually me,” Springsteen stated. “I feel I created my specific stage persona out of my dad’s life and maybe I even constructed it to swimsuit him to some extent.” 
Several years later, throughout a 2019 convention for his My Brother’s Keeper initiative in Oakland, Obama spoke about how racism performs a job in perpetuating toxic masculinity. 
“Racism traditionally on this society sends a message that you’re ‘lower than,'” Obama stated. “We really feel we now have to compensate by exaggerating stereotypical methods males are presupposed to act. And that is a entice.”
Later in the presentation, he stated that “the notion that one way or the other defining your self as a person is depending on, can you put any individual else down — capable of dominate — that is an old view.” 
But it is a view that did outline Trump’s presidency. 
From shrugging off his “seize ’em by the pussy” rhetoric as “locker room speak,” to speaking about his literal testosterone rely, to portraying sporting a masks to stop the unfold of the novel coronavirus as a type of weak spot — and then allegedly wanting to tear open his shirt to disclose a Superman t-shirt after leaving Walter Reed after he was hospitalized for coronavirus —Trump’s type of masculinity was a form of caricatured machismo.
“Donald’s masculinity is a cartoon model of masculinity – it is all bluster,” writer Tom Digby informed Salon in 2020. “Donald is all about bravado; he by no means demonstrates precise bravery. From his reliance on pretend bone spurs to keep away from the Vietnam War to his current try to flee political defeat by sabotaging the Postal Service, Donald has constantly demonstrated a complete absence of braveness.” 
However, as Salon’s Matthew Rozsa reported in January, a current examine discovered that help for a dominating type of masculinity might be used to foretell one’s love for Trump. “Trump strategically used rhetoric in each his 2016 presidential marketing campaign and throughout his presidency that evoked parts of hegemonic masculinity and tried to place him as the ‘ideally suited man,” Schermerhorn wrote to Salon at the time. 
These restricted views on what masculinity entails — stoicism, virility, dominance — can contribute to a worry of social and political actions that may upend present gender, race, and class-based standing quos, which can lead to aggression and violence. Through this lens, it is not a shock that Trump’s presidency culminated in an tried rebellion at the United States Capitol. 
“Renegades: Born in the USA” guarantees to be a balm for that. At a time when the nation is so fractured, due, largely, to a president who refused to confess he was mistaken, it is refreshing to listen to two males — who each symbolize America in their very own methods — enthusiastically focus on overcoming their shortcomings and popping out higher on the different facet. As Springsteen places it in the podcast, to alter, you have to forsake ego and “empty out and grow to be a vessel” for empathy.
Episodes of “Renegades: Born in the USA” might be launched weekly on Mondays on Spotify. 

 

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