I don’t like putting labels on everything. But, since our society likes to do that for everything, yes, I’m a survivalist and prepper.
I’m also a feminist.
Not “feminist” in the 1970s sense of the word that people associate with bra-burning, unshaved legs, and rejecting everything feminine. But rather the true definition of feminism: that men and women should be granted equal rights and opportunities.
As a feminist in the survival/prepping world, it is hard not to get infuriated sometimes. So often I see women dismissed as inferior, weak, and pretty much useless (except for maybe helping procreate the next generation of humans after society has completely gone to shit).
Women are talked about as “needing protection” and as “excess baggage” that will slow men down.
What’s even worse is that the macho viewpoint of what “survival” should look like often gets promoted as the “best” or “right” way to approach survival. Anyone who suggests differently is likely to be shut down as ignorant.
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Prepping is a Male-Dominated World
I probably don’t have to tell you that prepping is a male-dominated world. It’s hard to find stats but, according to In the Rabbit Hole, 70% of preppers are men.
Joining prepper groups online or reading comments in forums or websites will also show that men outnumber the women.
Most of the websites about prepping are also dominated by male voices. There are some great women-led prepping blogs, but these are few and far between.
Men Have a Very Different View of What Survival Will Look Like
Across those male-led prepping websites, you’ll find some common themes about what prepping/survival should look like. You are told to take an approach which is:
- Lone wolf
- Kill or be killed
The tone is so bad that, as one commenter put it, those “macho” preppers seem “gleeful” at the prospect of getting to commit violence against the desperate, starving non-preppers who will try to take their supplies.
This viewpoint isn’t always very realistic.
At Primal Survivor, we’ve spoken out against the “Lone Wolf” mentality many times. We aren’t the only ones who think that taking this macho approach to prepping is a bad idea.
Yes, Women Do Approach Prepping Differently
Men overwhelmingly focus on the protection/provider aspect of prepping. It’s not that there’s something “wrong” with thinking about protection. It’s just that this shouldn’t be the end-all.
By comparison, women tend to focus on different aspects of prepping.
As Gaye Levy, notes in her Vice interview,
“Since the beginning of time, women have been the caregivers of society. In many cases, women are the maintainers of the home, so they are the ones that are going to internalize the need to ensure that their family … stays safe and healthy if there’s a disruptive event in the world.”
So while the men are busy worrying about physical safety, it is the women who are taking care of the daily necessities like cooking, cleaning, and basic hygiene.
This is a GOOD thing. Different approaches to prepping mean a more thought-out plan, more flexibility, and more adaptability.
Yet women’s voices are still being silenced, ridiculed, and dismissed in the prepping community.
Women Are Badass.
I shouldn’t have to prove that women’s voices deserve a place in the prepping community. That we aren’t just “extra weight” to be “cared for.” But, after all the condescending experiences I’ve had, I think it’s worth noting that…
Women handle stress better
Studies have found that women are better able to handle stress. It may have to do with how women react to the stress hormone cortisol. (source)
As one article writes in response to the research,
“Physically speaking, men are still stronger than women, on average, But if you’re talking about mental toughness, maybe in certain circumstances it’s women who have the edge.”
Women are better decision makers
Not only are women better at handling stress, but the high levels of cortisol in men could negatively affect their critical-thinking abilities. Men are more likely to make bad decisions under stress than women.
A separate study found that men have more neural connectivity within one hemisphere whereas women have more connectivity between hemispheres. The implication? That women are better able to “facilitate communication between the analytical and intuition.” Or, in layman’s terms:
“Men could be wired to take action while women may tend to be better suited to carefully analyze a problem.”
Women work better as a team
It’s no surprise that male-led prepping websites tend to glorify the lone-wolf mentality. Studies show that men prefer competition and avoid cooperation.
This wouldn’t be worrisome, except that we humans have survived and succeeded as a species based on our ability to work together. :/
Oh, and women Are biologically “tougher”
We know that women live longer on average. But a major study has found that women outlive men even in disaster situations.
For example, the research found that:
- Women slaves in Trinidad outlived male slaves
- Women survived famine in Sweden better than men
- During the Great Famine in Ireland, life expectancy of women was higher than men
- Even newborn girls were better able to survive than boys
And Are We Really That Much Weaker Physically?
Yes, men are generally physically stronger than women. Yet, research is showing that the view we have of ancient people – where the “weak” women stayed in the huts cooking while the men went out to hunt – is incorrect.
Anthropological evidence shows that women did the same physical work as men.
And, as the female journalist reporting on the study notes,
“When I gave birth to my son, I did the most physically demanding thing a human can do. Yet I am considered the weaker sex.”
Yet Women Survivalists Are Constantly Dismissed or Underestimated
I personally have had my skills second-guessed by men multiple times. And it’s annoying to be asked “aren’t you scared?” for doing things like camping alone (I’ve never once heard a man get asked that question).
Just in case you don’t believe that women are dismissed/undermined in the prepping world, just take a look at pop culture. (I’m aware that reality TV is not a good gauge of reality – but these examples show the chauvinistic approach to prepping which dominates).
As Anna Leszkiewicz tactfully points out in a rant at The New Statesman, a particularly annoying example is The Island with Bear Grylls.
In the third season, men and women were dropped on separate sides of the islands. Immediately, the women established a leader, set up a camp, and found food. By the end of day one, they were surviving comfortably.
The men? They were struggling from the get-go and starving.
This wouldn’t be so infuriating if the men weren’t making comments the entire time like,
“Can you imagine your missus out here?”
“She wouldn’t do ten minutes out here mate, unless there was a five-star hotel.”
“It is so physically demanding. A woman’s not equal on physicality. So I don’t think a woman would be able to do – they wouldn’t be able to do what we’ve done.”
“Men are better at physical stuff: lighting fires, hunting, moving stuff. Women can multitask allegedly… but anything where it’s a physical exertion, then, naturally, a man’s gonna have the edge over your normal, standard woman, basically.”
It gets even more infuriating when the men meet up with the women.
The women share their food with the starving men. Instead of being thankful (or helpful!), the men complain that the camp isn’t tidy enough. They ignore the women’s accomplishments and start to exercise their egos by micromanaging and belittling the women.
This isn’t the only example from reality TV. After a few seasons, the producers started wondering why the women always seem to do better on Naked and Afraid.
“It was surprising to everybody involved that the steely determination of the women is just unparalleled. We certainly haven’t come up with the answers for it, but it is recognized that, overall, the women seem to be more badass than the men.”
Machismo Gets You Killed
When looking at differences in life expectancy between men and women, researchers come to some interesting conclusions:
Testosterone – the male hormone – is associated with reckless behavior. Not only are men more likely to consume alcohol and tobacco, but they are more likely to exercise bad decisions that get them killed. (Source 1, 2)
When it comes to survivalism, there is no place for recklessness. As Megan Hine (the woman who keeps Bear Grylls alive) says, “that sort of behavior gets you killed.”
Megan also says that female survival experts approach situations differently. And the atmosphere tends to be more supportive.
Men, Be Open to New Perspectives.
As Survival Mom notes about all the disparaging comments she gets online,
“There are people in the survival/prepper niche…who have a fixed version in their minds of what survival is all about. There’s an approved template they are convinced is the only right way to survive. I know better.
There are thousands and thousands of variables that will impact the survival of an individual, a home, a family, and it’s foolish to believe that just because you have followed your favorite survival guru’s books that you are impervious and have some sort of Cloak of Invulnerability. No one has that and no one ever will.”
I’m not saying that women are “better” than men. Nor am I saying that women are more likely to survive a SHTF situation.
Women certainly have their weaknesses. On average, we are not as physically strong. We have a hard time speaking our minds. And women can be downright b*tchy – especially to other women.
But these weaknesses don’t negate our strengths.
Just like how companies with female managers are more successful, teams with female members will be more likely to survive. Diversity means more creativity – and that is crucial for being able to adapt to whatever situations arise when SHTF.
So men, please stop telling me what my place is in the post-apocalyptic world. Stop thinking that you’ll need to take care of all of us and “lead” us through the darkness. Instead, you might do better to check your own ego and listen to the women once in a while.
We would like to invite all Female Preppers over to our new Facebook Group – Primal Survivor Female Preppers & Survivalists Group.
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I’ve also noticed the majority of preppers are males. I agree you need a combined force of male and females alike. The underestimated women with more than likely be the death of the dumbass super macho preppers. I can see some women will definitely lure them in with a “black widow” like approach and loot these guys gear afterwards.
Surviving and thriving under adverse conditions requires recognizing those conditions and your own abilities and strengths. And weaknesses. You won’t do well if you insist on seeing the world the way you’d like it to be instead of the way it is. I think that’s the problem most male preppers have – that and their collateral insistence on trying to apply their social and political views to . . . everything.
But the world is not like the Cos-playing preppers and loony wolves believe. They won’t get to far espousing violence and racism and selfishness.
Wonderful article. I must be looking at survival wrong from the start. I want to protect my wife, but I also need her. It’s funny that most male preppers seem militaristic but miss the fact about team work. I can’t imagine going through a SHTF scenario without my wife by my side.
Love the article. I used to go camping alone with Mr. Snake Shot and Mrs Sharpie (not the Marker, for extended periods of time both CONUS and OUTUS. Always did better than the men by being a competent woman.
I am now nearly 70 and getting up and down can be a bad tempered dog but still get to camp alone (my husband is on O2 and need a CPAP.) but only for a couple days. You can take the girl out if the wilderness, but cannot take the wilderness out of the girl.
“If you want to go fast go alone.
If you want to go far go together”
— Old Saying (probably from a survivor)
Just remember; the reason that you have some of the rights that you have is because of us 1970s feminists. I don’t understand the need to degraded us as a group. We were a very diverse bunch of women.
Yes, good point! I didn’t mean to sound condescending unappreciative of the early feminists. Sadly, “feminist” has become a bad word in our culture and brings about all sorts of negative connotations. But that’s a discussion for another time and place.
Great article and so, so true. But my question is why do you care? Don’t give them the power to bother you with they’re 19th century mentality. Let those male preppers (and it’s not all of them) who think they’re the be all to end all live with their fantasy.
When push comes to shove YOU know, as most women know, that our “team” mentality will beat ‘em every time. Yes, we are physically weaker but we make up for that in our problem solving abilities and knowing that it might take take two of us to do something a single man could do physically but we can do it and we will! Those who recognize that neither gender is better than the other and as a team we can do great things – they’ll be the ones who thrive and survive! The rest, well……good luck!
I also agree with Gail, why do you care. I have served with and trained many females in the are of self defense and find them to one of the most fierce and vicious creatures on the face of this earth (as it seems to be in nature). Do not see your feminine side as a limitation, rather see it as a tactical advantage to the poor creature (MALE) who by his nature would dismiss you as weak/unimportant. In stead use it to your advantage to draw them in. Any female prepper worth her weight in training and determination should be seen as an asset to the group not a toy or lesser body. As far as strength you might be correct but I have found most females to have a greater stamina and fierce drive to protect their home/family and friends, and are capable of handling situations even in the face of adversity and violence. Lord protect a person who comes between her family and friends with violent intent. Stand tall appear weak and let the suckers find out the truth the hard way.
Bravo! Well said!
What is important is in a team we are stronger than men as we will do it together. They maybe can pick up something heavy. We together can pick up way more than man
I’m male. I retired from the air force after my twenty. The commanders I had the most respect for were both female. I would rather have a root canal without anesthesia than get either one of them mad at me.
There are no lone wolf military units. Individual soldier, sailor, marine or airman but a unit is a team of at least two. If I got to choose my team mate, I’d choose a woman if possible. Maybe females are not as strong physically but, I’ve seen women keep going hours after all the ‘men’ quit.
Males who call females excess baggage do not deserve the title man. In my experience, it’s more often males who are the lay-about, do nothing cry babies who would die without a woman, or someone, saving their stupid asses.
Besides, what real man would want to survive without a real woman partner?
its not that there are more male then female preppers.
Man just shout harder so it seems there are more of them.
It’s not just the men shouting louder – it’s also the “crazies” who are giving preppers a bad name. I feel like a lot more women preppers and survivalists are starting to raise their voices though! 😀
Exactly- the reason this article is important is because we need a “seat at the table” as women. We can’t ignore it when the culture we belong to tries to chide us for envisioning a more realistic SHTF, both on a community-scale and within our own marriages.
Thank you for writing this. I’m always thrilled when I see women preppers. There needs to be more of them. That’s more people to help out your survival group.
Any “man” who belittles his wife or girlfriend has a fragile ego that needs constant stroking. He’s got a big mouth desperately trying to hide his inner coward by picking on someone he believes to be “weaker” than him. Stronger men see right through the bullshit. That’s exactly the kind of shit thatll get him killed in SHTF. A wannabe macho guy who doesn’t work well with others.
Yes, we need more female preppers. And we need more male preppers with outlooks like you 😀