2021 Gotham Awards

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Kwame Brown and Boosie Badazz may have found their newest ally in their perceived war on male gender roles from the strangest of places: Sean Penn. The 61-year-old actor doubled down on his statements of “frustration” with where the world is headed, and particularly American men, in a recent interview that earned him the wrath of Thandiwe Newton.

In early January, Penn said the following to Kaleem Aftab of the UK’s iNews: “I am in the club that believes that men in American culture have become wildly feminized. I don’t think that being a brute or having insensitivity or disrespect for women is anything to do with masculinity, or ever did. But I don’t think that [in order] to be fair to women, we should become them.”

Some weeks later The Independent‘s James Mottram asked Penn to break down exactly what he meant by his previous remarks. “I think that men have, in my view, become quite feminized. I have these very strong women in my life who do not take masculinity as a sign of oppression toward them,” Penn said. “There are a lot of, I think, cowardly genes that lead to people surrendering their jeans and putting on a skirt.” (Russell Westbrook and Zaya Wade would probably like to have a word with Penn.)

But Thandiwe Newton promptly called Penn out on Twitter for his comments. “Dude what are you SAY-ING?? Like for REAL? You’re a jibbering FOOL,” she tweeted. “MF you used to be sexy but now you’re just tragic,” before pointing out that he’d made those statements in front of his daughter.

This is not the first time Penn has made some eyebrow raising statements about men and women, especially in light of his jumbled history. He has been lauded for his humanitarianism through his nonprofit CORE, his fight for gay marriage, and his disapproval with former President Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

However, Penn also has a dodgy past when it comes to his own personal dealings with women. His alleged history of domestic violence towards ex-wife Madonna has haunted him to the extent that Penn sued director Lee Daniels for even mentioning it. (Penn reiterated that both he and Madonna denied the abuse ever happened, and that he was never arrested for it. Penn later dropped his $10 million defamation suit after Daniels apologized for even bringing it up and making a donation to a charity of Penn’s choice.)

The actor also received heat for his skepticism about the who #MeToo movement, saying it was a plan “to divide men and women” in a 2018 interview with TODAY. “This is a movement that was largely shouldered by a kind of receptacle of the salacious,” Penn told anchor Natalie Morales. He also added, “I don’t want it to be a trend, and I’m very suspicious of a movement that gets glommed onto in great stridency and rage, and without nuance.”