Men Who Take Baths

Shafeez Walji

Vancouver, 2017
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What better way to teach young boys about life than through sports?

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

Look at the way society has been run, it’s always been men that are the leaders in doing things or inventing things or being role models and I don’t know…"the future is female" means that it needs to completely shift. We need to see more women in leadership roles. I look at Kobe Bryant and I see him as a basketball player and a role model too. How do men start to look at females as role models? That to me is the future is female, which is also when masculinity means more than what it does now.

What does being a man mean to you versus what you’ve been told growing up that being a man is?

I grew up around a bunch of women. My dad was there until I was 12, but then my parents got divorced, and he didn't end up being there so I only had women around me. When I was a kid, I struggled with not having a father or that male role model in my life, so I think at that point I always kind of longed for it. Fuck the concept of being a man. That’s my honest answer. I’m a human before I’m a man. It doesn't matter if you’re a man or a woman, it’s how we treat each other. The social concept of what being a man is to me is fucking stupid.

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You deal with anger by fighting or hiding and crying at home. You don't talk about it.

How do you raise boys into men who view women as equal?

I think as a father figure, raising boys to understand that being in touch with your emotions is an important part of being a human being, and emotions are not associated with something “feminine.” A lot of men block out their own humanity. They become what society tells them they’re supposed to be. I think from a father's perspective, being able to teach both your son and your daughter that being in touch with their emotions is important. But how often do you listen to what your parents say? You also need other people in your life that champion that same message. So for me, when I look at kids joining sports, you need to see true leadership. If it’s basketball, it can’t just be about basketball. It needs to be about learning to be a better person through that sport. 

I remember being in karate and the instructor was always saying “man up.” I hated being there. I would always complain and say that I didn’t want to be there because it was either you had to be tough enough or you’re not cut out for it. I wasn’t cut out for it. What better time in my life to give me a different perspective? 

I also think having women step in and be in leadership roles for boys will start to change things. But that barrier comes down to society thinking that a woman can’t teach the boys basketball team. The San Antonio Spurs have a female assistant coach, and that’s the first woman coach in the league. At least that's a step in the right direction and I think more sports need to take that stance. What better way to teach young boys about life than through sports? I think it starts with that leadership and how that leadership expresses equality.

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Fuck the concept of being a man. That’s my honest answer.

How can women include men in the feminist movement?

How do we get people to get to this point, where you’re asking us these questions at an earlier age? We need to have more conversations like this. How do we avoid the need for a conversation like this because as kids we grow up with a different mindset? 

There was a video I watched about kids in an elementary school in Africa learning about rape statistics. The kids were 7 or 8 years old, and they were participating in a self-defense class for women but young boys were part of it too. They were learning how to protect women and how to support women, alongside the women learning to protect themselves.  

I’ve been lucky enough to find certain people in my life, most of them women, who have made me feel stronger as a man or as a human. So many men are suppressing these emotions and missing out. You deal with anger by fighting or hiding and crying at home. You don't talk about it. How do we get people to talk about it? We talk about it!

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What made you say yes to doing this?

I really like what you are doing with Girls Who Say Fuck and I believe in it. I won’t lie I was nervous about it. I’ve had these conversations so many times but I’ve honestly not taken a bath since I was a kid. Your email asking me to do this actually changed a lot of my perspective and made me feel like I’m part of something bigger than myself. If I were to say no to this, I don’t want to say it goes against who I am, but it doesn’t challenge me to keep becoming a better person every day either. I find it’s my own inner challenge to be able to have this conversation in a really vulnerable setting. And now I’m literally naked. 

There are a lot of women in my life who have given me strength and made me understand who I am, and this is such a small thing for me to do to try and help that conversation move forward. I called into work today because this is more important to me. This conversation needs to be had. I feel like I have a lot to share, and to not share would be a disservice. 

Hopefully, this encourages other men to start listening to this message. Just to start listening. If more men have these conversations, maybe in a group setting when we’re all out for beers, and this comes up in a manner that’s not degrading to women, we’re getting somewhere.

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