Men Who Take Baths

Steve Ballantyne

Toronto, 2019
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I feel like I know how to get power so to consciously not choose it is uncomfortable.

What does "being a man" mean to you?

It’s an intimidating question. I can only speak as a white male who was born here and has my experiences, but for me, being a man has always been about strength. I don’t know if I even got to choose that but that’s what the message has always been. I don’t say that from a place of pride. Even the ice is an example of this incessant need to be like: I AM STRONG.

Right. You wanted to fill the tub with ice because you would be withstanding an ice bath but you had to surrender to a bubble bath?

It’s part of it. The other part is that I’m an entrepreneur and I’m a marketer and I don’t want to do what everyone else is doing, and then also the beautiful piece about ice being an important part of my journey.

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You can’t be afraid to fail, to mess up, to be ridiculed.

Can you tell me why ice has been important?

I think as a white male today, there are a lot of things that need to happen to us and from us that are very uncomfortable, and I think part of the masculine journey is getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. One of the best ways is to get men to jump in an ice hole in the lake. Giving up power is incredibly uncomfortable. The type of conversations that need to happen with women and people of color is very uncomfortable. I think the instinct is to feel like you've done something wrong.

I’m so intrigued by something you just said, that it’s uncomfortable to give up power. What does that mean?

I feel like I know how to get power so to consciously not choose is uncomfortable. It almost feels like I’m programmed to seek power, to be in a power position, and to hold that position.

I think the instinct is to feel like you've done something wrong.

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.