12/12/2014 11:13 EST | Updated 12/12/2014 12:59 EST

Terry Crews, An Unlikely Feminist, Teaches Us How To Let Go Of Our Pride

At first glance, Terry Crews is everything you would expect from an "alpha male." He's a former NFL football player, he plays macho movie and television roles, and he's pretty good at bouncing his pecs for Old Spice commercials — yeah, you know which ones we're talking about.

But behind this manly persona — or maybe because of it — Crews has a lot to say about feminism, violence against women and masculinity in general.

The author of Manhood: How to Be a Better Man — or Just Live with One, a memoir about his life thus far, the actor says it took understanding his own negative behaviour to make any significant change.

Crews, who plays Sergeant Terry Jeffords in "Brooklyn Nine-Nine," was in Toronto in November as a keynote speaker at the White Ribbon's What Makes A Man conference, a two-day lecture series that encouraged people to redefine the word "manhood." Crews talked about struggling with a porn addiction, being verbally aggressive towards his family and constantly being propped up by his pride.

"I notice with athletes that they become their wins and their losses," he tells the Huffington Post Canada. "Your worth as a human being has nothing to do with them, but as men we internalize it. When I won a game I became a winner and I thought I was better than everyone else."

He says the only way for a man, or anyone for that matter, to let go of their pride is by understanding their worth is more than the money they make or their career successes.

"You have to wake up in the morning and tell yourself you are priceless. You are worth the universe and everyone on earth is worth the same," he says. "And when you win something, it's just a good day. And when you lose something, it doesn't affect your worth."

In September, Crews spoke out against the NFL's initial reaction to former Baltimore Ravens football player Ray Rice, after a video showing Rice knocking out his wife in an elevator went public. Crews told ET News it took him back to his own experience watching his father abuse his mother, and he also realized there were very few celebrity men speaking out against gender-based violence, especially in the black community.

"I stand in solidarity with any man who is a feminist and sees where women need to be respected. Men need to calm down with this whole hyper masculinity."

During his time in Toronto, Crews also sat down with TVO's Elamin Abdelmahmoud to talk about the relationship between men and feminism.

"I want to be clear that feminism is not saying 'women are better than men.' That's not what is going on .. What it is is that we're talking about gender equality, true gender equality.. but the problem is that men have always felt that they're more valuable .. I have been that guy where I felt I was more valuable than my wife and kids," he tells TVO.

This year may be considered a monumental moment for women's rights in mainstream media. International attention on alleged sexual assault cases against Bill Cosby and former CBC host Jian Ghomeshi, as well as hashtags like #BeenRapeNeverReported, are allowing countless victims to speak up against abuse. From Crews' perspective, the conversation is important, but we have to continue talking about the issues for any real change to happen.

"If we don't stay on it and remind people how they should behave, we will seep back into this toxic environment."


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