Opinion

Preview: The Toxic Masculinity of Tactical Survival Gear

In the wilderness, it isn't cheap, paracord-wrapped hatchets and trenching tools that we need to survive. It's each other.

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If, like me, you’re a man who likes to hike and you have access to the internet, a website has probably tried to sell you some kind of “survival tool” recently. Most likely, it was very sharp, and had a compass and three firestarting tools built into it. There’s a whole solar system of these products, and a whole survivalist mode of masculinity that orbits around them: Increasingly, it seems like late-stage capitalism wants men like us to see ourselves as unable to trust anything but our own strength, pitting ourselves against nature and the remnants of society with nothing but our “EDC” tactical pocket tomahawks to help us survive.

If you’ve ever, you know, actually been outside, you don’t need me to tell you how off the mark this is. Marketers like this want us to believe we should be the Road Warrior when, by and large, we are people who like to go camping and sometimes click on targeted adverts on Twitter while we wait for our barista to make us a fancy coffee. We do not need more axesaws, or sawaxes, or tactical shovels with included axe and saw. The fact that there seems to be a whole subset of the outdoor industry dedicated to selling me items that are at once a terrible tool, a useless navigation aid, and an unconscious parody of masculinity is something that should really cause us to reflect on the way that our toxic ways of looking at gender can infect the way we relate to the outdoors.

Now look: I’m a guy who likes doing “guy stuff.” I drink whiskey that comes in plastic bottles, and when I drink too much of it, I talk about my feelings which I otherwise keep similarly bottled. I shave only when I have to go to meet a real adult, and sometimes I go into the desert in my pickup truck to shoot at paper bad guys with my friends. But even I think this man vs. wild shtick is getting ridiculous.

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