C2C, Skyline and Toxic Masculinity

General Palm Springs area.

C2C, Skyline and Toxic Masculinity

Postby Wildhorse » Sun Sep 30, 2018 1:00 pm

I suspect that the popularity of C2C is connected with toxic masculinity or hegemonic masculinity.

Risk taking, demonstrating toughness, and achievement seeking are expected of men in cultures that are marked by hegemonic masculinity, such as ours. Without that pressure, I suspect that far fewer people would take the Skyline route or undertake C2C as a day hike.

The same is probably true of through-hiking the PCT or AT in which self-reliance is so important.

I suspect that failures associated with toxic masculinity greatly increase the occurrence of rescues. I suspect, at the same time, that toxic masculinity is part of the attractiveness of participating in SAR missions.

In my experience with hiking and other trail use organizations, I saw an emphasis on risk-taking, competition, toughness, self-reliance, conquest, and achievement. I saw much anxiety over social status associated with this emphasis. These traits and accompanying anxiety were common. An interest in wild lands and concern for them was not.

I wish this were not so. Our lives could be so much healthier and so could the land. What would hiking be like without the toxic emphases and anxieties?
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C2C, Skyline and Toxic Masculinity

Postby Ellen » Sun Sep 30, 2018 2:57 pm

Howdy Wildhorse :)

One of the reasons I go into the wilderness is to "get away" from toxic people, news, etc. While watching some folks racing past on Skyline, one of my mountain sisters noted wryly --"No one has ever given me a medal at Grubbs Notch."

Another quote I like -- when a Baldy local is asked "Where are you hiking to?" he responds "enlightenment."

This isn't to say that I haven't occasionally found myself "competing" while on the trail. I blame that on my previous experience as an endurance athlete, especially road cycling. These days most of my "competition" is with myself -- I'll note my time on various hikes as a gauge of my fitness.

Miles of smiles,
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Re: C2C, Skyline and Toxic Masculinity

Postby Hikin_Jim » Tue Oct 02, 2018 7:48 am

I definitely have toxic masculinity. Yes, just sit next to me after three days of my no showering, and you'll pick right up on it... ;)

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Re: C2C, Skyline and Toxic Masculinity

Postby Ed » Tue Oct 02, 2018 8:56 am

I've seen too many high-performing and quite feminine women to view this as a matter of masculinity. And it is not a new thing. I can remember on some of my earliest peak-bagging trips in the Sierras hiking behind petite middle-aged women, with only their legs visible beneath their Kelty packs, chatting merrily away while I was experiencing hellish torture from my lungs and legs.

When I knew Barbara Lilley in the 1970's, her storied past was well behind her. Climbs at Tahquitz and Yosemite with Royal Robbins; climbs of the Mexican volcanos, Denali, St. Elias and Logan; watching two people fall to their deaths, one on Logan, the other on McAdie, a Sierra peak south of Whitney. When I knew her, she had lost some of her nerve on rock, but made me feel like a bumpkin on steep, icy snow.
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Re: C2C, Skyline and Toxic Masculinity

Postby cynthia23 » Tue Oct 02, 2018 9:41 pm

Good topic, Wildhorse. I agree that mountaineering in general, and endurance or intense hikes, have a lot of emotional/symbolic importance in our culture. I think it's expressing the anxiety that our historical patriarchal, agrarian, and relatively economically equal culture has experienced as we've transitioned to a highly technological society driven only by money as an ultimate value. Intense physical wilderness ordeals, like exotic vacations or physical fitness itself, are a form of status consumption--a way of signaling one has the education, leisure, and physical health to engage in these time-consuming, economically unproductive pursuits. Mountaineering, ultra-marathons, and the like, require a certain amount of money, and above all, a LOT of time--time to train and perform, as well as good physical health. Someone who is working two low-income jobs and taking care of a disabled relative can't put out the many hours a month of conditioning and travel required for long endurance hikes, let alone the cash. Maybe even more to the point, they don't WANT to, because their daily life ALREADY is an ordeal. And the data show now that the greatest indicator of being fit, non-obese, and healthy is your economic status--to be poor is to be unfit and unhealthy. So, in a way, a person who does 'ordeal' hikes may be making a kind of implicit statement about how their 'real' life is quite pleasant. Of course, they are also making a kind of statement about masculinity, but it's masculinity purely as a status symbol--Ed is quite right that some women also put everything into success at these wilderness ordeals. It's as if 'masculinity' has become a kind of neutral, non-gendered sign of financial success and social coolness, one which both men and women can and do strive to imitate. To 'fail' at a hike is to be very, very girly and thus uncool, and I agree that this sometimes drives the Skyline rescues.
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Re: C2C, Skyline and Toxic Masculinity

Postby Ed » Wed Oct 03, 2018 9:19 am

I am hesitant to over-generalize about people's motivations. To give you an idea of what it was like to climb with Barbara Lilley, see the below.

In the mid-1970's, four of us went to the Beartooth Mountains in Montana for a week: Barbara, RJ Secor, who was in his late teens at the time, and my first wife and I. Barbara was on a kick to climb the western state highpoints, and the main objective was Granite Peak, the highest mountain in Montana.

The first day we backpacked in, the second day we climbed Granite. It was a long day, starting before sunrise and ending after sunset. Cloudy, with thunder and lightning. On the way we ran into a group from Missoula, the only people we saw on the entire trip. They were roped, and when we scrambled around them they threw a few angry words at us. Later on we broke out our rope, for a stretch of about a hundred feet below the summit. To our amazement and horror, Barbara pulled a piton hammer out of her pack and whacked in a piton. By this time chocks had replaced pitons, and pitons, though safer, were viewed as the devil's tools. At the summit, RJ tried to climb the summit block to sign the register, received an electrical jolt, and climbed back down. I repeated the experience. We decided the base of the summit block was good enough. On the way back to camp in the dark, RJ let out a shriek. He had walked off a drop of several feet, fortunately no harm done.

The next day I was looking forward to a day of rest, in a beautiful spot. It was not to be. Every day Barbara rousted us out of our sleeping bags, because we had to bag a new peak every day. Mount Who Cares and Peak Never Heard of It. Up and down, down and up. Not even safe, because of the lightning nearly every afternoon.

The day before we packed out, Barbara and RJ had a route disagreement. RJ turned around in a huff and went back to camp. Around 3pm, we were toiling up a chute, with no visibility up or to the sides. Probably not far from the summit, but no guarantee that this route would 'go'. I took Barbara aside to talk to her. I said if she wanted to continue, we would stay with her. But surely that would mean a bivouac for the night. Rather than replying to me, she walked around in small circles, muttering angrily to herself. She was not angry with me, she was angry at the situation. Finally she turned around. Good thing. Around sunset we were looking up at a steep, long talus slope we had to ascend to make it back to camp. I remember pausing to stare up at it, thinking 'We have to do this, we can do it, but God I would like to sit down and cry and hope this situation simply goes away!'

That is what climbing with Barbara was like. In her mid-forties, well past her prime. Barbara was not internalizing anyone else's values, or playing to any audience. Barbara was Barbara.
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Re: C2C, Skyline and Toxic Masculinity

Postby Wildhorse » Thu Oct 04, 2018 10:09 am

Like Cynthia, I also think of much hiking, exotic vacations and fitness activities as displaying status anxiety or as attempts to signal or prove one's status, even superiority. This does seem to connect with toxic masculinity. I also see connections of all these things with narcissism, which apparently develops in part, through emotional neglect and abuse, as does toxic masculinity.

I have mainly been thinking about how the emphases and anxieties associated with toxic masculinity (and the related term hegemonic masculinity, as in the Wikipedia article) relate to the impact of hiking on the land and to hikers.

Much that one can find on the internet about the relationship between hiking and toxic masculinity deals with the harmful aggressions towards women that occur on the PCT and AT. These are serious enough in themselves, even while the total effects harm men and the land as well. I am exploring what it would be like to hike without the emphases and anxieties associated with the term "toxic masculinity." Much of hiking seems to involve those emphases and anxieties.

For example, the development of toxic masculinity involves the suppression of emotions that involve fear and helplessness. Showing mastery of the suppression of these emotions through taking risks and
accomplishing hard feats is a big part of hiking in many cases. But instead, for example, what if we went into wilderness without that aim or without pressure to suppress feelings of fear or helplessness. How would hiking be different? My first thought is that we would be less aggressive. I suspect, for example, that we would climb to fewer summits, that Skyline would get little use and the PCT would get less traffic.

Maybe, like the Baldy locals Ellen has observed, we would hike for enlightenment. As for an end to toxic odor that HIng Jim describes, I am afraid we have no hope.

Ed, I always enjoy reading your stories and analyses. I would love to have had such experiences and enjoy them vicariously through yours. I don't know what hiking may be like without toxic masculinity. I hope that such pleasures as you have known would not be lost or forgotten. No one really knows.

We live at an interesting moment. We are more free to affirm feelings that have been suppressed. We are more free in the heart of a city, at least. It is good to take that freedom into wilderness. It is in wild land that such feelings evolved. The feelings are a strength, one that we share with the other animals.
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Re: C2C, Skyline and Toxic Masculinity

Postby zippetydude » Thu Oct 04, 2018 5:02 pm

Odd topic. Unless there has been a crime spree on the PCT or a sudden infestation of the wilderness by wildly aggressive people (I guess they would have to be male) I have not found anything or anyone to be toxic (well, with the possible exception of hiking down wind of HJ!), aggressive, or even particularly self-centered. When I meet people on the trail, be it Skyline, or in Yosemite, or even in ultramarathons, I have observed that the general population may be more driven than couch potatoes, but they are also more than helpful and very willing to give of themselves to help out a fellow hiker/runner. The term "toxic" has generally been employed to refer specifically to overly dominant, aggressive behavior. Has anyone here been subject to such behavior in the wilderness? I have not. Several of the people I have come to know on this board have competed at very high levels, love the wilderness, and show no signs that I can see of "toxicity". I'm a little confused...

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Re: C2C, Skyline and Toxic Masculinity

Postby Hikin_Jim » Fri Oct 05, 2018 1:33 am

zippetydude wrote: (well, with the possible exception of hiking down wind of HJ!)

What are you trying to say? ;)

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Re: C2C, Skyline and Toxic Masculinity

Postby Ed » Fri Oct 05, 2018 8:25 am

One of these fellows was in my backyard last night. I did not see him, but I smelled him. The dogs treated it to a barkathon.
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