Men Who Take Baths

Abubakar Khan

Canada, 2019
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We need to take a look at what we are actually trying to do, instead of just making noise.


How are you doing?

I’m good, how are you?

I’m doing well; man, this is great!

"Great!" Is that how you’d describe it?

Well, I think it’s just relaxing. And calming.

That is definitely the state that I want you to be in.

What does "being a man" mean to you?

I think in different parts of my life, that’s changed. When I was younger, being a man was being closed off, keeping things to yourself, and just putting your head to the ground and grinding hard. I was raised by a lot of hypermasculine males. There was a lot of ‘you know what, don’t talk about how you feel’ and ‘you don’t cry’. That was how I was raised and that was something that I saw a lot.

But as I’ve gone through life, there have been moments where I’ve seen that that’s not necessarily true. I think being a man is being able to really be in tune with your emotions, knowing who you are, and being vulnerable. Also, taking a bath once in a while!

What's a moment in your life that has had a profound impact on you?

There was a moment that comes to mind right away. When I was about 21, I believe, I was at university and I remember I got a phone call that my uncle had cancer. So I was like, alright, interesting, cancer. Everybody hears about it, then it actually affects you and then you’re like, whoa. 

December 2015, I’m sitting in the hospital in a room with all these old people and my family. There is a moment where the doctor is basically explaining to everybody that you know, your cousin, your son, whatever, was gonna die. My dad asks about how the doctor tells people they only have a month to live. The doctor tells a story about a guy who was on the ground banging his fists for his ten-year-old daughter and his 8-year-old son. He was just…broken. And that was a moment where I remember my dad and my grandfather, two males that are very hypermasculine, for the first time in my life they actually broke down and started crying. That was the moment where you’re like, these guys can actually cry too, this is insane! After that, I had to do a lot of soul-searching. What it took for me was a moment like that, to say wait a minute, it’s OK to cry.

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How do we raise boys into men that view women as equal?

Right now, the world is championing that to be a woman is to be strong. We don’t have the opposite of that for boys. We don’t have messaging that to be soft is to be strong.

I think the biggest thing is that you need role models, right? You need people that are showing you what it looks like to be vulnerable. That’s what I have been doing. I’ve been focusing on, even online or meeting up with people, having heart-to-heart conversations where it’s just sitting down and connecting with them and showing them that it’s OK to be vulnerable. 

My platform has always been that I was an athlete. I’m a big guy, so when they see me, they say, oh my god this guy’s opening up about how he’s feeling, maybe it’s OK for me to open up as well? My thing is if I open up myself, then I can begin opening up other people too. 

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The words ‘toxic masculinity’ have come up. What do you think when you hear those words?

I think in the world we live in, anything in excess is bad. That could be an excess of masculine energy or an excess of feminine energy. I think life is about balance. When you talk about toxic masculinity, I think that it’s when you’re overly masculine and that you’re neglecting your feminine side. That’s the way I look at it. I think that's what’s happening. A lot of women are forced to be more masculine in workplaces to survive too. That’s really messing with a lot of different people. That’s where I think the balance is off.

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For men and women, it takes having heart-to-heart conversations because it really humanizes both sides.

What are some barriers that we’re facing when we’re advocating for gender equality, and how are we actually going to work together to overcome those?

I think that, again, my big thing is that the more you know yourself, the more you know what you’re capable of. We’re focusing on self-aware people. What I mean by that is, let’s say with gender equality, if people don’t even know what they’re capable of then how can they really ask for what they are worth? That’s my focus. The more self-aware we are as a society or even as people then we’ll know what to advocate for. Right now, I think people are just advocating for anything but they don’t even realize what it is that they need, what it is that they require. 

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instead of dividing and conquering, it’s time to unite and prosper.

The #MeToo pendulum has swung so far in one direction that it’s obliterated a lot of bad behaviour, which has been necessary. But how do we now learn and recalibrate?

I think we need to renovate. That’s a big thing. It’s time to. Instead of obliterating everything, it’s also realizing that you have to start renovating from within. I think that there's definitely a lot of momentum to #MeToo, and it needed to happen, but now we need to take a look at what we are actually trying to do instead of just making noise. 

The world we live in, we’re really focused on noise, but what are you really doing for causes long-term? I keep going back to that self-awareness aspect. The more that I realize my own privilege, the more that I start understanding. The more you know yourself, the more you’ll be able to know what to advocate for instead of just running around like a chicken [with its head cut off].

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if people don’t even know what they’re capable of then how can they really ask for what they are worth?

I think you would have loved one of the men that we had interviewed in the last round. He had said, "the irony of us needing to come together is that it requires going deeply inside yourself."

Yeah! One-hundred percent! I love that! Damn! 

My last question for you is why did you say yes to doing this?

Honestly first and foremost, you asked. This is something that’s been stirring in my mind for a long time. We have to work together. Like, we really have to work together. We can’t keep doing these cycles throughout history because they are vicious. Instead, we have to come together. 

There’s a quote I keep saying: instead of dividing and conquering, it’s time to unite and prosper.

For men and women, it takes having heart-to-heart conversations because it really humanizes both sides. A lot of young men do not know how to talk to women, but I grew up with a strong powerful mother. 

We’re living in these echo chambers and that’s what’s screwing a lot of people up. I think just by taking a bath, which is what everybody loves to do, like who doesn’t want to take a bath? It’s nice! That’s why I think that this is needed and it’s going to be even more crucial as time progresses. You’re on to something big. I’m just glad that I got to be a part of it.

Thank you, my friend. You just hang around in those bubbles as long as you want!