I didn’t realize there was a term for the position I held for almost two years until I listened to one of the Dirtbag Diaries podcasts this morning. The term is “Mountain Man’s Girlfriend” and the way it makes you feel is shit.
I will allow that there is some comfort in the position, perhaps playing into age-old gender role castings means a strong outdoorsy man is comforting in the overwhelming yet nonchalant masculinity he can enfold you with. Because I have found myself with a wildly distinct lack of female women in my life I can look up to or grow with in outdoor settings (a damaging and unbelievably universal phenomenon with women in the outdoors), I cannot confirm the extensive prevalence of women that find themselves a Mountain Man’s Girlfriend, but I can assume.
Being a Mountain Man’s Girlfriend makes you an appendage of him, an accessory, a cute tag along. In essence, you are invisible. Your accomplishments, dreams, desires, and actions are not even noted or considered because his love for the mountains is automatically more authentic than anything you could present to the contrary. This role is easy to fall into because it is so inherently expected by the Mountain Man, and those around you (even your friends! Wtf!). There is no space or time to assert your personhood because it has already been taken before you open your mouth or pitch a tent. I somehow still find myself slipping into this role whenever I hang out with the Mountain Man Ex despite the fact that I am objectively and subjectively more – wild – than him. Despite the fact that I have my own definitions of who I am and a strongly rooted sense of self. Despite the fact that I know wildness is not a competition I choose to play and the Mountain Man Ex is not someone I want to play with.
It should be clarified the Mountain Man is not some archaic rendition of the patriarchy from yesteryear, in fact the whole outdoor community is quite progressive. Their progressiveness, which I love and enjoy often, hides the underlying misogyny and racism evident in all corners and sports of the dirtbag culture (*of all progressive sectors of society and groups* but yeah). The Mountain Man is loving, roots for the gals, and “pushes you so hard because he knows you can do it”. You guys are in a partnership, except every trip feels like his trip and the condescending “support” undermines your abilities. The Mountain Man definitely does not think he is sexist, and maybe he is better than most every day. But then, the mountains come, and the outdoors changes things. Somehow the outdoors is the problem and the one of the best things I have every found.
I do not think it is possible to change the Mountain Man and I am tired of him getting all the attention, and that is why I care about the Mountain Man’s Girlfriend. One day I hope we smash it down, knock apart gender cages and the crippling of personhood, because the outdoors is the only refugee I think I have.
Keep thinking bout this:
That podcast episode – The Shorts–Double Vision
People really do care – Camber Outdoors