Terry Crews called himself an 'idiot' for being a toxic man: 'I am guilty'


Terry Crews wants to dismantle toxic masculinity — by sharing his own experience with it onstage at the 2019 MAKERS conference on Friday.

“I was raised by toxic masculinity,” the Brooklyn 99 star said. “My earliest memory, I probably was about 4 or 5, when the most vivid memories was watching my father punch my mother in the face as hard as he could.”

Being raised in that environment — he’s from Flint, Mich. — meant that he internalized that he was more valuable than women simply because he’s a man. “It was all a part of my young culture. It was like you weren’t even a man until you slept with at least 10 women, used them, abuse them and throw them away, lie to them, tell them that you love them and walk away,” he said.

Crews also felt pressure to get strong as a young man. “I had to get stronger than you. The rules of the toxic gang is literally the bench press, it’s ridiculous. It’s like determining whoever gets to run everything, you benchpress the most, you get to run the world. But the ridiculous part about that is that most of these people aren’t smart,” he said. “So the problem is you have a bunch of idiots who are very strong determining what goes on.”

Actor and activist Terry Crews speaks during the 2019 Makers Conference in Dana Point, California, U.S., on Friday, Feb. 8, 2019. The event gathers industry leading females for roundtable discussions to help inspire the women of tomorrow. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Actor and activist Terry Crews speaks during the 2019 Makers Conference in Dana Point, California, U.S., on Friday, Feb. 8, 2019. The event gathers industry leading females for roundtable discussions to help inspire the women of tomorrow. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Crews went as far as to call himself an “idiot” for playing into these tropes. “I am guilty. Terry Crews is guilty. Let me tell you, the day I realized what toxic masculinity was in my life was the day my wife walked out.”

The actor went on to admit that he had been unfaithful in his marriage and later went to rehab and therapy in hopes of not losing his family. “I apologized and also I took accountability for who I was,” he said. “I had to make amends but it’s not enough to just say you are sorry.”

Not only has Crews had experience being a toxic man, he was abused by one. In February 2017, an agent grabbed his genitals at a party “in front of everybody and I pushed him back and grabbed him and said get off me, man.” Crews told his story online after the Harvey Weinstein allegations emerged and, subsequently, thousands of people began sharing their stories online. “These women were coming forward with their stories and I was like, ‘I know what that is,'” he said. “I could not stay silent because I knew this happened to me.”

Crews hopes that speaking out will help change the culture. “Men need to be vulnerable. We need to talk. Men need to share.” But, he added, on the other side, “Women need to be fearless. Like my wife. My wife faced the fact that she might be alone for the rest of her life and she didn’t care. She was fearless. And it saved us all.”

Read more from the MAKERS conference: 

• ‘We may have to fight our generation of men’: Read Jameela Jamil’s powerful speech on ending toxic masculinity
• P&G exec defends viral Gillette ad: ‘Inaction isn’t enough’
Entrepreneur encourages women to have ‘f*** you’ numbers: ‘The best revenge is a bunch of zeros in our bank accounts’