Posts Tagged ‘hunting and gender

Man, Hunt

» April 29th, 2013

Hunting in America has long been a way to achieve a kind of instant manhood. Throw on some boots, grab your piece, pick up a case of beer, hop in the truck, and head into the wilderness. Just add water. Stir. It’s an accessible solution, and one much needed given the ruthless assault on masculinity these days. Not only do men no longer bring home the bacon, but even taking out the trash has been outsourced to a gender neutral global underclass (in my case, my kids). We need a key to manhood fantasy land and we need that key to be cheap and well greased and unregulated. Too bad the manhood fantasy so many of us have chosen to pursue requires birds to be plucked from the sky and other innocent creatures erased from the landscape as if they were moving targets in a video game.  But how do you think the West was won, compadre?  By singing kumbaya and making love? Dream on.

It wasn’t always this way. In the colonial era (of British America), manhood was in fact diminished by hunting. It was diminished because hunting was a sure sign of failure—failure to plan ahead, failure to have enough food in store, failure to domesticate. More to the point, such failure made you look like a savage, and everyone knew what a savage was because they’d seen those daubed up Redmen humping all they owned through the wilderness, arrows and houses and babies on their backs, no better than the beasts they chased with such shameful vulgarity. To hunt was an admission of failure. Colonial Americans were notably poor shots. Indians laughed at their marksmanship. This is true.

The transition from desperation-hunting to manhood-rescusciation hunting is a topic that awaits its historian.  But what I’m especially eager to know right now is why women have gotten swept into this historical cascade of testosterone-driven brutality. Spend a little time on this website and you’ll find so many logical and cultural looped-de-doops that you’ll need an airline sickness bag. In any case, let it be declared: women now hunt. A lot. Their powder’s as dry as it has ever been.

Forgive my crass generalization here, because it is indeed very crass and I should definitely know better but I can’t help it.  I’ve always sort of valued woman for being closer to their inner sense of empathy, or at least better trained by civilization to express that empathy with, you know, feelings. So when I see even the accoutrements of hunting—the trucks and the cammo and the jumpseats from which they shoot—create barriers between explosive female empathy and our desperate need to live more emotionally-atuned lives, I no longer know whose shoulder to cry upon.

Photo cred: Owen McWilliams (taken at the LA County Museum of Art, March 2013)