A Scientific Inquiry Into The “Wilderness Collective”
3:55 pm, February 4th | by Colette McIntyre
Gentlemen, put down your copy of Details — we need to talk. It has come to my attention that some of you are having a bit of a crisis of masculinity. Normally I wouldn’t intervene — this kind of stuff is between you and Bob Vila — but after seeing a video for the Wilderness Collective, I decided this can’t go on any longer. Your Ron Swanson-fueled aspirations of becoming a rugged macho man have to end. Frankly, they’re embarrassing.
The Wilderness Collective is like Outward Bound, but instead of at-risk youth, WC is geared towards the button-downed, Noir-smelling, pomade-using men of the world. Wilderness Collective wants to take these men, tell them that their fathers were right and that they are sissies, smack them in the head with the handle of an axe, throw them down a cliff face into a pack of rabid wolves, and then pick them up, dust them off, and hand them a bottle of Knob Creek wrapped in candied bacon. In their own words:
In an age of eroding masculinity where men are depicted as weak, blundering, misguided and shallow, men need to be ever more intentional to carve out time for camaraderie, introspection, and growth. WC is not just adventure for adventure’s sake, but rather a chance to take ahold of the truth that there’s something about the wild that unlocks the greatest potential in us. There’s an honesty and depth that surfaces when we are a world away from the everyday–around campfires, above the tree line, immersed in the wild… It’s in these spaces that courage is drawn out, character is developed, and we sharpen one another to rise up to be who we truly want to become. In the end, if you’re going to tell a story, tell a good one; let’s be men that seize our opportunity to give back and shape younger generations to be strong men worthy of respect.
Ah, yes! The cure for “eroding masculinity” is adventure in the wild! In order to reclaim your manhood, you must wrestle it away from a bear while holding a live fish in your mouth. Be sure not to get your Sierra Designs 60/40 Parka muddied! Ha ha! Joyous! Let us stand on this mountain top and smoke cigars. Feel that, ol’ boy? No, those aren’t the symptoms of a heart attack — that is testosterone coursing through your veins! Come, enjoy this craft cocktail with me! (#RoughingIt)
Oh, you don’t have made-to-order gin and tonics when you go camping? Did Teddy Roosevelt himself not fell a lion and then enjoy an artisanal cheese board? Along with “off the grid camping accommodations” and “support vehicles”, your Wilderness Collective adventure includes “a private chef” and “film crew documenting the entire adventure.” I’m not sure who created the Wilderness Collective but it is clear that he was reading far too many back issues of GQ and Chuck Norris memes for his own good. In a video on the WC website, you see a man literally throwing an ax into a log (brawn, brah!) and then, in a scene that would make a Boy Scout hang his head in shame, a different adventurer lights his campfire with a blowtorch. According to Wilderness Collective, you can shoot your elk and eat it over a bed of organic arugula and truffles too.
The fetishization of masculinity/survivalism predates the Wilderness Collective. Just a few years back, the media was hailing the advent of the “metrosexual.” It was becoming socially acceptable for men to go to the spa, talk about gourmet coffee, and wear tighter t-shirts; there was such a thing as Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. Gender boundaries were blurring and it seemed as if staid ideas on sexuality and gender roles were going to change. Then — panic arose. Men were being “feminized”. Rugged individualism was being lost. Where were the John Waynes and Malboro Mans?! The Wilderness Collective participates in this type of fear-mongering, trumpeting itself as the remedy to crises of masculinity with motorcycles and whiskey. Interestingly, the program also includes the tupe of luxurious, “feminine” delicacies that are said to cause those anxieties in the first place, like artisanal treats and designer hiking boots.
Look, if we went camping, we would be psyched to have grapes and gin on hand. But let’s not pretend that sleeping outside with your bros (comforted by most of the trappings of modern life) is going to teach anyone how to “be a man.” Lindsay Lohan had a harder time at Camp Walden. Look guys, don’t be so hard on yourselves; just because you’re not a Canadian bushworker or a miner in Virginia doesn’t mean you’re not still a man. Like Mark Darcy said in Bridget Jones’ Diary (don’t pretend that you haven’t seen it): we like you…just as you are.