Traditional masculinity: ‘toxic’ until you need it

Yet another example of toxic, white masculinity out oppressing the women folk.

A female ABC journalist teaming up with a doomsday prepper in the Australian outback might sound like the premise of a rom-com, but as the journalist concerned discovered, beneath the stereotypes is a harsh lesson for inner-city elites. quote.

I’d been planning to fly home to Sydney after a month exploring the outback with a good friend. I couldn’t wait to be reunited with my beloved — my shower. But just hours before my flight, my friend received a call from the prepper, who she’d met on a previous adventure…I’m not convinced it’s a world I want to live in. But in a few days, that all changes. end quote.

Mark Steyn remarked, after reading a lot of women’s romantic fiction, that “you get the strong impression that the Sensitive New Age Guy just isn’t cutting the mustard”. After all, much romantic fiction is littered with supposedly toxically-masculine heroes such as lumberjacks, truck drivers, cowboys and bikers. Not to mention the hyper-masculine fantasies of “shifters”: buff, gruff heroes who moonlight (pun intended) as werewolves or “werebears”.

But while this might seem (and often is) silly escapism, beneath the fluff is a harsh reality: far from the traditional Australian stereotype of the rugged bushman, ours is a pampered, urbanised culture that would struggle to survive if the power was suddenly cut off. It’s not just Australia: James May has lamented that a generation of British men are incapable of even such basic tasks as changing a tyre or re-wiring an electrical socket.

At a gut level, the women who read romantic stories of rugged, dependable cowboys seem to get it. Our non-fictional ABC journalist soon gets it, too. quote.

It was day four in the catastrophe-caravan when my scepticism transformed.

[…] An elderly couple…rushed to tell us a family were stranded in a remote carpark.

When we reached the carpark, the kids were starving. They’d run out of water and were bracing themselves for a night in the bush.

As I performed my important role of “torch holder” in the Wolf Creek-esque carpark, I suddenly got it: preppers exist because the rest of us are critically underprepared. end quote.

I’ve seen this in action, too. My basic first aid training and orienteering ability, courtesy of a youth in Scouts and Air Cadets, and later, time as a volunteer firefighter, have apparently seemed like magic to bystanders. Just as my son’s intuitive ability to zero in on mechanical faults often flabbergasts me. I grew up with a compost heap, veggie garden and a few chooks as just a fact of life: US congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez thinks “food that grows from dirt” is “magic”. quote.

My survival skills extended to holding a torch. I couldn’t reboot their car, let alone scavenge bush tucker for dinner. Back in the city, I’d somehow managed to kill a plant specially chosen because it only needed watering every three months.

As my prepper friend worked away, silhouetted in the torchlight, I realised preppers are just a variation on the “Aussie bushman” — perhaps a dying trope in our urban era, where the “unkillable” fern is my nursery’s fastest-selling plant…So, who should we really be mocking? Definitely me, and probably you too… end quote.

The protagonist of Don Delillo’s White Noise advises that, “in a disaster, follow the right-wingers”. But the ABC journo quickly discovers that, far from some wild-eyed far-right-winger, her prepper mate is just the classic Aussie bushman. quote.

After the Wolf-Creek carpark rescue, my prepper friend had transformed in my mind from loveable weirdo to bush hero.

We spent hours in the golden outback light, blanketed in red dust, as he taught me how to fix a car, bandage a snake bite and survive a collision with a wild bull.

As soon as I got home to Sydney, I raced to buy torches, jumper leads and first-aid kits […] end quote.

As our cossetted ABC friend has learned: it’s all very well for inner-city elites to sneer at preppers and rural types, but, when it hits the fan, “traditional” masculinity ain’t gonna seem so “toxic” after all.