Men Who Take Baths

Men Who Take Baths: Toronto

Canada, 2020
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Highlights from Toronto (2019)

How are you navigating being a man in our changing world?

Listening to the women in my life.

I have a lot of female friends who are really incredible. Just listening to women, and not necessarily about feminist issues but just listening to them, in general. I’m getting some really great advice. Feminine energy is more intuitive and I’ve been trying to get in touch with intuition and trusting life.

I’m at real odds with how I’m navigating being a man, to be honest. Sometimes I do feel like “the man,” in that traditional sense, and sometimes, I think the world kind of demands that of us. But we don’t like to be upfront about it in our culture. It’s like, you want me to “be a man” but you also want me to do all this other stuff.

Can you give me an example?

In a relationship.

You want me to make a decision—do this and do that—you want me to “be a man,” but you also want me to be soft and gentle and emotional. The reality is that sometimes what comes along with that isn’t what everybody actually wants. That’s another problem. With the rejection of certain values, we don’t really have anything to replace them with.

In terms of my own self and “being a man,” I’ve been exploring my sexuality a lot the past five years, and for my whole life to be honest. I don’t identify with anything. I used to say I was straight but I try to avoid that. I really feel strongly that the future is pretty genderless.

I think trans culture is going to be a huge part of pushing things forward. I feel like those voices are super important because they have an incredible perspective that no one could possibly understand. I don’t think we have even come close to embracing that in the mainstream or even in underground culture. That’s probably a key, I think, in gender equality.

- Mitch Reed

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As a sensitive guy and an emotional person, I feel like I experience toxic masculinity quite a bit.

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I think it stems from the culture.

What is the biggest danger facing gender equality?

The danger of getting into the semantics.

I think a lot of places are facing election years and there are real dangers in some of the ways that politics are looking at LGBT people, women, trans folk. We’re looking at a return to policies that are archaic and we think that sitting online talking to each other is the best way to activate and make a change. We’re seeing, albeit slowly, that despite the yelling, things aren’t changing. We need to be connecting with people that have networks that know and share similar messages. I’ve learned a lot about women’s stories by being surrounded by strong women and, as a gay man, I think you get an interesting perspective on women’s lives sometimes.

In what way?

In the things that they’re comfortable sharing with you. I also come from a place where my mom and I would have deep and meaningful conversations just like this, often. My mother was a victim of domestic violence and a warrior of a woman, she still is. I always grew up confronting stories and topics. I remember my mother speaking at a women’s march about being raped. My mother also took those experiences and turned them into changing legislation and finding ways to protect other people and becoming a counselor and a psychologist. I think that mothers, in general, have a particular burden in the countries that I’m a citizen of, Canada and Australia. Women, and single mothers, in particular, have to find the balance between working, socializing, and supporting kids.

- Matt Hyams

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I try to be really thankful for that moment because experiences like that cause the opportunity to reflect on the sacrifices that people of any gender have made in their lives to support yours.

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In our society, the burden still rests on mothers to do it all.

What do you think when you hear the term "toxic masculinity"?

When people say toxic masculinity, I think they’re just coming up with another word for patriarchy. And, to me, when we’re talking about a group that has been violently dominant in our history, we can’t adopt a name for that behavior that doesn’t call them out specifically because then we’re doing a disservice to the people who have been victimized by those acts. Just like we’d be doing a disservice to eliminate the phrase ‘white supremacy’ because it speaks to what has happened. Patriarchy speaks to what men have done so I don’t think it would make sense to get rid of patriarchy or toxic masculinity or however you want to bag it. We need to make it about naming men

When you hear 'feminism,' what does that word mean to you?

I would have the same logic around the word feminism, that a historically subjugated group should be finding a collective identity and looking for power in that collective identity, and I think naming that collective world view is part of that. I completely agree with the existence of the word feminism, and it’s obviously not something that just women can be, of course, men can be feminists too.

Is awareness a form of advocacy?

To an extent.

I think we’re starting to reach a critical mass of awareness. We’re starting to get to a place where conversations like this will start to lack meaning simply because they’re not being followed with significant transformative action on the part of the people. I think that any classic revolutionary would look at what’s happening in the west and say that we’re edging ever so close to a lot of hot air and lack of action.

- Matthew Progress

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If we're benefits our ability to be controlled.

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The irony of us needing to come together is that it requires going deeply inside yourself.

What is the biggest challenge facing gender equality?

The first thing that comes to mind is the government.

If you really think about it and look into LGBTQ history, especially when it comes to trans, drag queens and cross-dressers, back into even the 1800s, there is a repetition. As soon as the trans and non-binary community starts finding their strength, their motivation, their voice, and the support that gives them a platform, the government steps in to take us down from the knees and shut us all up. There is nothing allowed outside the boundary between male and female.

When I say the government is the biggest challenge, there are examples. When there are attacks on the trans and non-binary community, the government next to never says it’s a hate crime. Also, we’re often being identified incorrectly. Those things are only giving people who are non-accepting of us the power to keep mistreating us like we’re nothing; garbage, disposable.

- Alex McKeown

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I came out as a trans man for the first time when I was 18 to my cousin who begged me not to, so I didn’t.

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When I was 26, I finally went to my mom and she said she always thought I was trans. Then I just came flying out like a fucking butterfly!

How are you navigating being a man in our changing world?

I am finding solace in being by myself. As a Leo, I used to run in big crowds and I used to like noise and tension—and don’t get me wrong, if I’m at a party I’ll still find the stage—but I am now my own best friend. It’s about being comfortable enough to say when I’m not comfortable. A lot of times in both Caribbean culture and male culture, we’re taught that emotion is frowned upon. For years, if I cried we never talked about why I was crying and I was told to “man up.” For me today, it’s okay to cry. I get to the root of what’s happening, and if not for me, then for others. Life isn’t just about individuals, it’s about interactions.

- A.J.

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What is the biggest challenge facing gender equality?

The biggest thing is being willing to listen. We have to be able to talk and come up with solutions together. Nothing gets done otherwise. We have to fill up a bathtub and have conversations because it matters a lot when we listen to each other.

Me, being a man, I’ve been through so much too. I used to listen to a lot of the fuckery but I’m shaped as I am today, right now, because I stopped listening to society. Society is not a good place. It’s a society that we’re trying to grow away from. We’re in cancel culture. But hold up—hold the fuck up—we need to talk about this. How long does it take to cancel someone? No time. How long does it take to think critically? To learn? It takes time. How much longer are we going to keep doing this shit?

That’s the dangerous part. We’re going to forget how to talk to one another, and then it’s really over. We have to do our job. Canceling people is not the job. We have to be able to have disagreements without disrespect.

- Chris

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"Men have to start treating women properly and respecting shit that they say.

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And as much as men need to respect women, women can’t cancel everybody."

What does "being a man" mean to you?

I think that sentence is super triggering.

I think that we’re in a place with gender, color, and political beliefs that have been so polarizing, especially in the last decade, and it’s created factions that are making any of the work that we want to do in the other bucket of climate, social justice, food equity, and poverty, extraordinarily difficult because we’re focused on some incredibly important issues, but we’ve taken sides and teams—whether those be red and blue across the border—and then created leaders within those, and then there’s fighting within those groups. There are so many layers of disconnection that we’re living in right now, and then we look to the other side of that and there are a million species that are at risk tomorrow. So how we get unified on anything is more the challenge. All the other issues will start to work themselves out if we’re in conversation, but if we’re not and we’re fully polarized, then there’s a problem.

When I hear, “male leadership,” I think male leadership has failed us dismally for a very long time and a lot of that comes out of a couple of core factors. One of those being fear and the other being imposter syndrome. I think people say: oh, “imposter syndrome,” that’s a nice little conversation, but I think it’s a huge energy that comes from this largely dominant white male situation in which we push each other in a really unhealthy way to have it all.

- Mark Brand

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How do speak to other men in your life about women?

There is a new artist named TOBi who just released his album. He’s from Toronto. The opening line of one of his songs is:

It’s hard chilling with [n-words] who only talk about women / and never about business / misogynistic until their sisters get involved / then it’s vengeance in the name of feminism, of course.

Those lyrics stuck with me because it’s one of those things where I've obviously been in bars and the guys are talking about girls that they’re sleeping with, and there are certain terms they use, where it’s like, you don’t need to say it like that. We want to hear you talk about the people you’re meeting in your life but don’t do it in a way that demeans them.

I’ve checked people on that and have been checked on it myself. I try to be really cognizant of it now. I’ll say I’m seeing a woman. I’ll say I slept over and leave it at that, and not go into details which a lot of guys do, I guess because a lot of what’s been broadcast in pop culture is that it’s OK to be that way. When you look at porn, the woman is the object and the man is imposing. It happens, it’s done, and then the scene ends. But that’s not how life is. The scene ends and there is still more after that.

- Nabeel Pervaiz

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"misogynistic until their sisters get involved...

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then it’s vengeance in the name of feminism, of course."

What do you think when you hear the term "toxic masculinity"?

Toxicity poisons conversations and situations but masculinity doesn’t have to be negative. It’s about what you do with it.

Why did you say yes to this?

On my worst day, I could be flatlined in a fistfight, or I could get my hand raised and have this huge weight off my shoulders in terms of all the doubt and questions that definitely happen as a human and as a professional prizefighter. I’m not afraid of the ring, the tub, or the conversation. That's how I look at life.

- Elias Theodorou

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Being a better partner is also my way of understanding women.

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Communication is very important.

What in your life has had a profound impact on the way you behave?

I’m trying to think of a moment but all I can think of is my mother. Her strength and compassion; her soul. When someone tells me that she’s “the other,” that’s just bullshit to me. I think, as a man, I strive to be her.

- Ricardo Temporao

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What does "being a man" mean to you?

As an indigenous man, I understand racism and colonial oppression, but because I’m a man within this society, I also benefit through misogyny that white people get through racism. There is a specific situation where I finally grasped that racism and misogyny are the same tools but they are used to oppress different people. It’s compounded. Black women experience twice the racism and misogyny than I do as an indigenous man. It’s coming to those realizations of how arbitrary gender roles are.

Everything goes back to capitalism, which is about control. As for gender roles, if you think of baking, it is seen as a woman’s activity until it’s a vocation and money is involved. A baker we see as a man within our society. Cleaning is a woman’s job but a custodian is seen as a man’s job. As soon as money and capitalism are brought into it, the focus changes. The gender norms and binary is complete bullshit. It’s made up and it’s wrong.

I started questioning: if my wife builds a house but uses pink tools where does she sit on your gender, feminine/masculine scale? If I watch wrestling while drinking rosé and wearing pumps, where do I fit? As you grow, you start realizing these different things.

What I’m learning now, is that everything is fluid. There are no definitions, there are only explanations. Women are water carriers and men are fire keepers, but if a man is thirsty he'll get his own water and if a woman is cold she’ll make her own fire.

- Ian Campeau

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Every single problem on this planet has to do with a lack of accountability.

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How are you navigating being a man right now?

Listening. That’s the first thing.

The second piece is acknowledgment, which is super challenging and requires courage. There is a fear for a lot of men. All of a sudden if you acknowledge it, you can’t pretend there is no inequality.

The third piece, which is the hardest and most important, is figuring out how to take action. You listen, acknowledge, then take action—but how do you do that? It can feel like action, misstep, action, misstep. You can’t be afraid to fail, to mess up, to be ridiculed. 

When I told a buddy of mine that I was doing this, he said: that’s a high-risk scenario for you because there’s a lens that is going to be applied to you that is very, very critical. So—good for you! And I was like...shit. But here I am.

- Steve Ballantyne

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What in your life has had a profound impact on the way you behave?

It’s going to sound so weird but there is a podcast I started listening to maybe four years ago and it’s called The Read, hosted by two black, queer individuals. They rant and vent every week about the struggles of being black and gay, but also the triumphs. Kid Fury, one of the hosts, is one of the bigger reasons for me coming out because he made me feel like it was OK to be different—and he was raised Christian and Jamaican too. The person I am today, I owe a lot of it to Kid Fury, which might be weird because I’ve never met him but he helped me accept who I was.

- Nathan Sitcheron

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What does "being a man" mean to you?

My mom raised me so she was the father figure in my life as well as the mother figure. She taught me how to be a man. I wasn’t close to my dad until much older. My mom taught me that being a man is the same as being a woman. It’s being true to yourself, being respectful, empathetic, and having good moral hygiene. It’s about understanding and perspective.

How can women include men in the feminist movement?

Educate your allies. Just because they’re on your side, doesn’t mean they’re saying the right things yet. We have to be looking for knowledge so we can come to a common understanding. We can’t face the battle if everyone is fighting it differently. We need to have the same message if it’s going to be heard.

- Terrell Morris

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How do speak to other men in your life about women?

I don't know if there's ever been a time when I've sat down with a group of guys and we’ve spoken about feminism in any direct manner. We’re all artists and we work with females all the time so there is just a level of respect that goes across the board.

I tend to disassociate myself from anyone who doesn’t respect women. I do come across them. Sometimes, it’s a tough thing. Sometimes you want to say something. I've been on the edge where I want to say ‘that’s ridiculous’ or ‘you don't need to do that bro, you don’t need to show me you’re the man by saying all this shit.’

But I keep my mouth shut and sometimes I wonder, especially now that I have a daughter, should I be saying something to these guys? Should I be saying something even if it's to the detriment of my career in some sort of way? I don’t know who these guys know. They could be powerful people. I’ve seen guys with big money and big egos, and I’ve seen what they can do when they get upset. Ever since my daughter was born though, it’s been I call people out? I don’t know the answer but I keep wondering, should I?

- Sean Jones

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Should I be saying something even if it's to the detriment of my career...?

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Ever since my daughter was born though, it’s been I call people out?

What do you think when you hear the term “toxic masculinity?”

It’s a phrase that was a truth that we didn’t know how to put into words until someone finally did. It was a big problem. I feel a lot of my identity actually came from my mother who saw a sensitive boy. I never heard the words “man up” from my dad but I did hear it from my mom. That and “you have to act strong or else the other boys will think you’re weak.” I got my green belt in Kung Fu because my mom wanted me to defend myself so I would be less afraid. But the only reason I had to protect myself was because of toxic masculinity, and at that time, it was coming from eight-year-old boys. Meanwhile, my dad would tell me that if I needed to cry, I could cry and that I needed to tell people how I was feeling. It was all about feeling. I guess that’s the benefit of having a Cancer as a father.

- Chris Muszka

What about you, Phil? Where does toxic masculinity fit in your form of identity?

Toxic masculinity is my life. I feel like the line of men in my life are the embodiment of it and it’s a very slow, painful breaking of that. My dad is gay but wasn’t out until he was 42, and when he came out, he and my mom kept the relationship going and were still sexually active as far as I know, which is a weird thing to talk about your parent’s sex lives.

Half of the way I was raised was incredibly loving and the other half was incredibly violent. My mom was complicit in the violence and I guess that came from fear. I don’t blame her. I can’t. I don’t think I ever will. There’s an onus on her at this juncture in her life to look at the part she played, but back then, I think she was a victim along with her kids. That said, the violence that my father brought to the family was taught to him by his father and mother’s pain—god bless their souls—and his hate for himself as a closeted gay man.

As the eldest of three boys—one of my brothers is gender non-conforming and one is as straight as it gets—we all hate him. And yet, we were celebrating his 60th birthday the other day. I think it’s because we also love him. Toxic masculinity is in my blood because it’s the only thing I know. I’m trying to love a man and have sex with a man, and live with a man and go to therapy with a man, and be a man.

I have an enormous amount of hate inside of me and that rage is at myself and not at the world and what has been given to me. I hesitate to say this as a cis white man but it’s a burden to dismantle this. I think there is a really valid point from someone on the outside who might be thinking, ‘what the fuck do you know about burdens?’ and that’s a necessary response, and yet, I feel it too. I don’t know if I would say all of this unless it was in this context where I was given the liberty to say it. I think the more I’m told that I should feel shame for being a man, the more toxic masculinity will prevail.

- Phil Van Martin

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