So I stumbled upon RobGreenfield.TV a while back via my favorite social network, Diaspora*, and navigated around some before coming across this article:
As of today it has been one year since my last shower. Yes, I know that sounds crazy and a year ago I would have agreed with you. I was a regular showering guy for the first 26 years of my life. Well, maybe not every single day, but just about.
So how does a regular showering guy end up going 365 days and counting without taking a shower? It started with a long bike ride across America to promote sustainability and eco-friendly living. I set a bunch of rules for myself to follow to lead by example. The rule for water was that I could only harvest it from natural sources such as lakes, rivers, and rain or from wasted sources such as leaky faucets. And I kept track of exactly how much I used too, with an aim of showing just how little we need to get by.
I made it through the 100-day bike ride without taking a shower and for me that was quite the task in itself. But everything had gone so well that I decided to continue my showerless streak. I set a goal for 6 months and when that day passed I figured I might as well go a full year without a shower.
So here I am now, one year later, to tell you story of my year without a shower.
I might as well bring this up right away. You think I’m really stinky right? […] When I say that I haven’t showered that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t bathing. I swam almost daily in places like this:
But I learned that by living naturally I didn’t need cosmetic products anymore. I just used some soap, toothpaste, and essential oils and found that to work real well. This compared to previously using colognes, deodorant, shampoo, lotions, and all sorts of other products full of chemicals. And guess what? I had no lack of friends! […]
I learned that the average American uses about 100 gallons of water per day. But I was able to use less than 2 gallons per day on my bike trip. That’s just 8 Nalgene water bottles. (This was not including the natural water and leaky sources that I bathed in.)
Most importantly I learned to really appreciate every last drop.
I mean, this is all amazing and inspiring and great stuff! I think 100 gallons of water per person per day is a downright shameful amount of water for anyone to use, and everyone* ought to be seriously critical of their water usage.
But this just reminds me of a comment thread on Diaspora* that turned sour when someone started telling me that being “truly healthy” and “truly sustainable” meant that I shouldn’t need deodorant, toothpaste, medicine, or any modern convenience whatsoever. He didn’t want me taking antidepressants because they’re “poison”. (And clinical, chronic depression isn’t?) Anyways, long story short, I got agitated and told him to get out of my post because he was failing spectacularly at solidarity.
But it got me to thinking a little bit– why are characters like that know-it-all on Diaspora*, and this Rob Greenfield person, always men? And why does it never occur to them that the people they are talking to aren’t all men also? And that, maybe, in not being a man, things are just a little bit different? When this happens–and let’s face it, it’s almost a constant in our society–whether it comes from a man or a woman or someone else, it’s called androcentrism.
One of my favorite guilty pleasure shows right now is the Legend of Mick Dodge. I love that program because Mick, a wildman of some 20 or 30 years, doesn’t give a rat’s ass about television, celebrity, drama, and even likes messing with the camera crew following him around. This winds up having the effect of reminding the viewer that they are, in fact, watching a TV program and not there themselves; which, to me, is an amazing “fuck you” to the whole reality format of the show, and the genre itself. But one of the things I realized after watching a handful of episodes is the complete lack of women in Mick’s world. None of his off-grid friends are women and none of his apprentices are women. It’s a total sausagefest. What gives?
I really mean that as a rhetorical question, because I know exactly what gives. Patriarchy and sexism, to put it bluntly. It’s all in the collective social consciousness: bushcraft, “roughing it”, is a man’s skill; peeing outdoors is par for the course for a man, weird and gross for a woman; men are allowed to be dirty, ugly, and hairy, while women who are un-manicured are often considered subhuman; and so on.
But there are other things at play when I hear healthy men preach about how amazing it is to be free like Rob or Mick.
Show of hands: how many of my female-identified or female-perceived readers would be OK scrubbing down, in your street clothes, via leaking fire hydrant in the middle of New York City, like Rob Greenfield did during his bike trip? I know I wouldn’t. I would be worrying about my safety, to be honest. What more obvious invitation for harassment could there be on a NYC street than a young perceived-woman, completely wet, sudsing down in public on a hot day?
Or how about: how many of my female-identified or female-perceived readers would be OK skinny dipping near a trail, alone, like Rob did during the same trip? I would never, in a million years, do that. The worst-case scenarios are just too real for me to risk it.
The other guilty pleasure show I watched last year, Live Free or Die, featured only a single woman out of a total of five subjects; is it any coincidence that she was also part of the only married couple on the show that lived in a proper house? She and her husband were roughing it, to be sure; I don’t believe they had much in the way of electricity or running water, and money played a very small role in their day to day lives and exchanges with neighbors. But, given the four different lifestyles featured in the program, it should come as no surprise that a woman would only be found in the safest of them: with access to a male partner, a house with doors, and a life that didn’t necessitate wandering the wilds, far from any reliable aid should something, or someone, become a problem.
How come this reality, the reality of being women and perceived-women, is never acknowledged by bushcrafters and advocates of rewilded living? The realities of emotional and physical violence (perpetuated by men), the realities of having having a uterus and needing birth control as a safety measure, and the realities of living up to (and often failing because of hypocrisies inherent to these tropes) what a woman is supposed to be?
And yeesh, that’s not even touching on what happens when a male stranger can’t immediately recognize your gender, or worse, thinks he’s been tricked. That is a very dangerous place to be, and has resulted in many an assault and murder of a trans person**.
So what do Rob Greenfield and Mick Dodge have in common? They’re men, and as such, are granted certain protections by that fact while out on the road or in the wilderness. And I think some of us would like to see the likes of them openly acknowledge that a little more often. Or better yet, use their popularity to do something about it.
With that, I’d like to end this post with a quote by Sylvia Plath:
Yes, my consuming desire is to mingle with road crews, sailors and soldiers, barroom regulars—to be a part of a scene, anonymous, listening, recording—all this is spoiled by the fact that I am a girl, a female always supposedly in danger of assault and battery. My consuming interest in men and their lives is often misconstrued as a desire to seduce them, or as an invitation to intimacy. Yes, God, I want to talk to everybody as deeply as I can. I want to be able to sleep in an open field, to travel west, to walk freely at night…
*In developed countries
**Mostly trans women of color; may you all rest in power