Men Who Take Baths

George Stroumboulopoulos

Canada, 2017
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There are a myriad of factors that create a space for men like Harvey Weinstein to survive and thrive.

Where does masculinity fit in a “future is female” world?

What do you mean by masculinity?

Masculinity from the standpoint of what men are told how to be is versus how they want to express themselves.

It’s different for my generation to the next group of kids, for sure. I don’t know what women go through but there seems to be some sort of support structure where you talk to one another and there is a lot of self-correction and training that goes on in friend groups. Nobody teaches you how to be a man. Nobody. I grew up without a father. I had two strong uncles and a really great, tough neighborhood. That’s where I learned. I’m a big believer in market correction and that you’re supposed to cross lines and be corrected for it. There’s shit I won’t do now because I learned the hard way. To go back to your statement off the top, I don’t really care what men think about the role of men in feminism. I think the male conversation needs to exist in the context of Harvey Weinstein. That’s where it’s important for every man to sit back and listen to what’s happening. 

The truth is, and this is an unpopular thing to say, this is not a female issue. This is a male issue. There are a myriad of factors that create a space for men like Harvey Weinstein to survive and thrive. It’s hard to explain to people what our brains are like and to have it not dismissed. Harvey Weinstein, sexual predators, president Trump - I can’t believe those two words go together - but when he said “locker room talk,” well, I’ve been in a lot of locker rooms and you certainly have graphic conversations about sex lives, but never once in my entire life have I heard anything borderline sexual predatory. Ever. I’ve been in shitty old men hockey rinks that I play in, all the way up to NHL and NFL locker rooms. Never has something like that been said. So that version of masculinity isn’t real. But men need to talk to other men about this. That’s the conversation. 

In terms of feminism, who really cares what we think? If men feel left out of the conversation, that’s their own problem. Men need to listen and ask what you guys want. The other complicated part is that not all women want the same thing. I’ve been in many conversations with smart, educated women who don’t describe themselves as feminists. It blows my fucking mind. But then they tell me why and they have some legitimate points. But I wouldn’t worry too much about involving men in the conversation. You set the bar for what’s acceptable and we have to follow that.

The Harvey Weinstein situation, you said that you think #MeToo one of the most important moments of pop culture in the last 30 years. Why this moment in particular?

I can’t speak for all men, but I’m a relatively white male in a public eye position, and some might say a position of influence—

—and you’re sitting in a bathtub.

If I set this meeting up, this is would be in the newspaper! You set this meeting up so it’s different. 

In all seriousness, there are a lot of fucking guys right now who are nervous. Do you want to know who the most chill dudes are? The guys who have no worry about their past behavior. I think it’s the first time men have been shaken like this. 

When you’re growing up, especially for me, every time I left my house and started walking to school, so from about five-years-old until I moved out of my neighborhood at twenty-two, I thought I was going to get beat up, killed or into a fight. Every. Single. Day. You learn how to manage fear and your role in the world, and that’s why I have no fear today. I know this is a long answer but it connects to the question: what can shake you? If you are a grown-ass man in this culture, very little can shake you except for yourself. The outside world has no real impact on you, until now. Your choices are now being scrutinized and they ought to be. This is the first time it’s happened like this. The biggest difference is not that women are coming forward, because they have before, it’s that now they’re being taken seriously.

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"You have a societal problem when you equate your confidence to your job."

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"One of the greatest gifts I ever had was not having a father."

Rage is in all of us and nobody wants to explore it.

Anger is what’s interesting about being a man because it’s the most male characteristic to protect. I’m talking about from the beginning of men until now: hunt and protect. That’s obviously evolved but if you go back to day one, that’s a part of our history that we’re not allowed to deal with anymore. If you want to have an intelligent, thoughtful discussion about anger, it’s quickly dismissed. To me, that’s the thing that needs to be explored. I mean, you want to teach young boys about what’s appropriate behavior, you need to understand what the brain is like. You don’t know what it’s like to be fourteen and getting punched out. I’ve heard a lot of really smart people say that part of the reason why Trump got elected was because we became such a soft and sensitive culture. We took out the ability to deal with bullies from our system. There used to be a rule for bullies, it’s that you beat the shit out of them. We don’t know how to deal with bullies in the public space anymore. We need to explore and understand how a boy’s brain works to prepare him for what’s coming.

In raising boys, is the key to help them understand themselves before they can learn how to understand women?

With the exception of a few years working in sports, most of my TV career I’ve only ever worked with and for women. I was also raised by a mother and sister, so I never had to be taught to respect powerful women. I didn’t know any different. I think with boys, you have to lead by example. That’s how we learn. When I was fourteen, I didn’t like to be told anything, I just wanted to watch the lives of men I respected to see how they did it and incorporate it. It’s like training wheels. You practice being them for a while until they become you. I think it’s really challenging though because you can only raise a kid so much until they’re being raised by the streets, and now “the streets” is the internet. If we wanted to see a naked woman, we had to steal porn. It was a process! Somebody had to go into a convenience store with a big jacket in the middle of summer and steal it. I think a lot of it is sexuality and teaching young boys appropriate sexual behavior. We still live in a culture that hates sex and doesn’t value women. I think you have to demystify sex. When you’re young, that’s what drives you: try not to get beat up and can I kiss that girl?

That’s cool you brought that up because we haven’t touched on the biological driver for men, which is sex.

It’s an enormous part of your brain! And role models are important to help guide that. I look back at the MuchMusic era and whenever we played a video that was super racy, we would have a show afterward called MuchTalks. We would contextualize the sexual imagery, not just for young boys but for young girls too. We had those conversations because it was important to explain to young boys that you can’t do this, or that there is a difference between sexuality and something else. I remember when I was young, my bedroom walls were filled with pictures of rock bands and satanic shit. But I had one poster of a woman that I got a show called The Fall Guys and she was wearing a bikini. I came home from school one day and my mother had taken one of my shirts and tacked the shirt on her body. I took it off, but the next day, the same thing. And she kept putting it back on until one day I said, what are you doing? She said, are you dating or married to that woman? You don’t look at a woman like a sexual object. This is what my single mom, busting her ass with four jobs at 32 was saying, and I look back now, and that might be the most important moment in my development. I’ve never disrespected women and I think it’s because of that.

It’s a conversation that needs to be had, that women are dressing for their self-expression and not for you. Nor should the way she dresses be grounds for sexual assault, which feels so obvious to say.

And even she is dressing for you, you don’t get to say that to yourself. You have to train your brain. This isn’t going to come out right, but I was around the corner from my house in the car and I saw one guy cut another guy off, and you see the rage. One guy gets out of the car and he knocks on the window and he says, step out of the car. This was a long time ago, but the girl I was dating was in the car, and she said, oh no. And I said, wait-wait-wait, let’s see if he gets out. And the guy got out of the car. And then I said to her, this is the best thing you’re ever going to see in your life. This is day one. This is before education, before adaptation and evolution. This is the most primal thing you will ever see, a guy saying get out of the car, and he got out of the car. Do you want to understand a whole other part about the male brain? Rage is in all of us and nobody wants to explore it. You want to make us better people, let us explain to you what it’s really like. 

What about that fight or flight mentality when it comes to feminism? Do you find that a lot of guys want to shy away from that conversation?

No, they want to stay in it. But here’s the thing: they don’t know anything about it. I’m amazed at how little men and women actually know about feminism and the history of it. It should be a class in the same way that financial literacy has to be a class. You need to teach kids how to be good citizens.

And emotional intelligence, how to connect to humans, play outdoors and make a fire.

I think we need two or three generations to die off. I spent some time with Billie Jean King and she said that change is incremental. There’s just no way around it. We’ll have watershed moments like we did with Harvey or the tobacco industry, but change is incremental. You have to teach people at an early age how to interact with each other. I guess because of the show’s I’ve been on, I’ve talked to “the kids” you’re talking about. Like, when I worked at MuchMusic, kids used to come hang out all the time, and you could see it, like, oh man, your dad’s an asshole or your mom’s fucking weird. You can see it in them. It’s the previous generation’s view of masculinity that’s so conflicting for a young boy.

In my neighborhood, a lot of the guys were blue-collar so their only sense of self was their job and the fact that they could provide for their family, and then suddenly they got laid off. There were no real mechanisms in place to help a guy come to terms with the fact that his view of himself has changed. You take a man’s job away from him and he loses his confidence. You take his confidence away from him and you have a fucking problem. Not everybody lashes out, but you have a societal problem when you equate your confidence to your job. Those guys are the fathers of those kids and raise them a certain way. One of the greatest gifts I ever had was not having a father. I have a Vitamix view of how men ought to be because I got to put a lot of cool ingredients, and some shitty ingredients, into the mixer. I didn’t have one guy to learn from. I had a single mom and it was a fucking win because I see the world differently.

It seems like when we’re talking about men right now, especially in the public sphere, it’s about highlighting the bad ones. What are good men thinking?

I think there are different versions of good men. Most men I talk to say, let it come down. Men have to accept the fact that the pendulum has swung and it’s not bad. If you don’t break the law, you will be OK. If you break laws that are unjust, break the laws. Civil disobedience, fucking right. But that ain’t this. Common sense is that you don’t sexually harass someone. Most guys are just dumb and don’t know that if they make an offhand comment to a woman even if they have no malice or ill-intent, that is still the comment they made. What most men don’t realize is that it’s the one comment they made and the one-thousandth comment she's heard today, and one of those comments is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Every comment should be the straw. Regardless of gender, most people think that this life is their experience. It’s not. It’s our experience.

It seems like we’re all confusing each other about what we really want and how we want to be approached.

I walk with my head down. 

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