“Bro Culture” and the Thru-Hiking Community
Theres been a lot of talk recently about “bro culture” on long trails and in the outdoor community in general. Last week, I experienced it firsthand on the Pacific Crest Trailand the outcome wasnt what you might expect.
In the trail town of Tehachapi, I stayed at a trail angels house with two other female hikers and seven male hikers. Late at night we were all packed into the hot tub, drinking beer, and telling jokes. One of the guys started telling a story in which he described someone as a c*nt. My stomach churned at the use of the word but I didnt say anything. Ten minutes later, another male hiker used the word again, so I decided to speak up.
I just want you guys to know that when you use the word c*nt derogatorily, it makes me squirm, I said. Could you please not use it around me? The first guy who had used the word looked taken aback and didnt respond. But the second guy, a hiker from England, immediately had a comeback. We use the word d*ck to mean jerk, dont we? I thought about explaining to him that I didnt think that was a fair comparison because of the power differential between the words, although I agree that both words are degrading. But since he was clearly drunk, I didnt go there. I hear you, and if you didnt want me to use the word d*ck derogatorily, I wouldnt, I replied. But thats not what were talking about. Im asking you to please not use the word c*nt. It really makes me uncomfortable.” He started to argue with me again and I began to lose my patience. Look, we dont need to have a discussion about this. Just please dont use that word in my presence. In response, he laughed and started chanting the word in a singsong voice.
He was probably trying to use humor to diffuse what he saw as an uncomfortable or awkward situation. But there was nothing I could do but get out of the hot tub. I couldnt continue to have a conversation with the guy. He was clearly in no state to listen.
As I grabbed my towel and went into the house, I overheard another male hiker say, Thats toxic masculinity, dude. Later, I learned that the hikers who remained in the hot tub had a long conversation about what happened. The British guy apparently felt badly about upsetting someone but didnt understand why it was such a big deal because, in his country, the word is a common slang word. Another hiker explained to him that if someone tells you that something youre doing is making them uncomfortable, regardless of whats considered acceptable where youre from, the respectful thing to do is to stop doing it.
Over the course of the next hour, three men approached me separately to apologize for the drunk hikers behavior. I was touched by their solidarity. Then, the next morning, I was headed into town for food with two other hikers when both of the men simultaneously brought up the incident. I just want to say that Im sorry about what happened last night, one of the hikers told me. The other guy said that witnessing that interaction between me and the drunk hiker was illuminating for him. I think I might come off as offensive like that when Im drunk, he admitted. I want to be more respectful and careful from now on.
Finally, a few hours later, the British guynow soberapproached me. I know that I deeply offended you last night, and I regret being so insensitive, he said sincerely, looking me in the eye. Im sorry.
In the end, the interaction in the hot tub wasnt good. But the responses of the other male hikersand, eventually, that of the drunk man himselfwere. Standing up for what is true for us isnt always easy, and its unfortunate when we are met with dismissal or disrespect. But uncomfortable interactions are necessary for progress. They are a good indication of how far we have to go as a culture, but also, of how far weve come. Im impressed and moved by what I perceive to be an increased openness to hearing and honoring womens experiences, both in the outdoor community and in the wider culture.
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Glad you spoke out, and glad to hear about this outcome (if not the interaction itself). Happy hiking!
So glad you spoke up in what was obviously a very uncomfortable situation. I hope girls everywhere see this and are empowered by your strength and your convictions to do whats right. OneWay
You should have hit them upside the head. As a male, a brother and a husband it is not acceptable.I spent 3 years in the Rhodesian Army and we would have smacked any male that swore in front of girls/ladies. It’s ok when you are shooting shit with other blokes… but boys have some respect for yourself and the people you are with. Well done for speaking up.
Dirk Jacobsz, can you tell us more about your time in the white supremacist Rhodesian Army???
Ok, long day of hiking, a few too many drinks and a nice relaxing hot tub is no reason to be a jerk!
I almost decided not to do my SOBO hike of the AT starting in July because of people like you describe.But I figure everyone can do their own thing AKA Hike you own hike but just be considerate of those hikers around you.
We hiker trash are a very small community indeed so lets strive to respect and help one another as often as we can.
Take care and happy trails!
Just wanted to say that the British guy lied. The word c**t is not a commonly used slangword in the UK and the vast majority of British people wouldn’t use that word on a regular or even semi-regular basis. I would say it’s classed as one of the really unpleasant swear words used in the UK. I just don’t want people to think the British use that word as a common slang word.
I want to echo Holly’s comment and reiterate that that word is just as offensive here in the UK as it is on the PCT. I am glad the chap in question reflected on his behaviour and was willing to learn from being challenged on it.
Props to you for saying something. Thank you. To the guys involved…I am proud of you saying sorry and owning up to being inappropriate. It is small decisions like this that change entire cultures. HIKE ON!
The word only has power because you don’t use it and keep it taboo. Start using it and it will lose all it’s potency. Never the less there are many nations of the World where the word c*nt is used affectionately as a term of endearment such as “here’s me mate Mick, he’s a good c*nt”. Russell Means, the Oglala Lakota activist for the rights of American Indian people, once said “I don’t care what you call me, it’s how you treat me that counts”. Hear Hear!
Looks like it’s not just USA where you can’t say Jeremy Hunt. Perhaps the best medicine for the sick who believe more in words than actions is some lighthearted wisdom from Kevin B Wilson’s magnus opus: https://youtu.be/iwBR0qwHZBA
Im going to assume that Eric Blair is a white man?
Im a woman. I use the word c*nt. Ive had people, both men and women, use the word c*nt around me and havent been bothered at all.
But Ive also had a man approach me and explain to me that a c*nt is a woman who is so stupid shes not good for anything except to be a hole to house mens d*cks. Then he asked me my IQ.
I think we can all agree, that is one hell of a pick up line. But it still left me with a pretty bad experience attached to the word c*nt.
I still use the word, sometimes. I dont get upset when other people use he word around me, but I wish I didnt get that gross feeling everytime I hear it. That one guy kind of ruined it for me.
Some people use bad words in a friendly way, or in a way to exaggerate annoyance or any number of non-offensive reasons. Some people use them in a deragatory way intended to hurt their victims. You cant be responsible for how people use words, but you can be sensitive to the fact that a lot of people, most people, have been attacked by words that have a whole history of violence and hate behind them.
People dont need an offensive word to get somebody. You can use any combination of inoffensive words to get the same effect. Offensive words are just a short cut. They make it easy.
I wouldnt argue that everyone should stop saying all offensive word stuff at all times. But I dont think the answer to people being offended by words is to use them MORE. Thats like shooting someone whos been shot until it doesnt hurt anymore.
Use words! Use whatever words you want! But if someone has been hurt by a word youre using, and theyre brave enough to ask you to stop, be a decent human being and stop. Keep it to yourself. Dont respond instead, by telling them they just havent heard it enough.
You have my respect for speaking up. Speaking up gives others the opportunity to grow too.