Steven T. Wright at Vox.com is troubled that there is a community of men talking about manly things. From Meet the men obsessed with carrying all the right stuff
The Boy Scouts in particular have been praised and criticized in equal measure for promoting a vision of rugged manliness that is inextricably tied to this idea of readiness, as reflected in their longtime motto, “Be prepared.” But while many admit that traditional Western concepts of masculinity certainly contribute to the popularity of the subculture, /r/EDC users like Sean S. (who asked that we not use his last name) stress that your personal choice of carry is ultimately a very intimate decision that says more about a person and their vocation than the community as a whole.
That said, not everyone is entirely happy with the community’s stereotypically masculine overtones. Although several subjects pointed to their mothers’ seemingly bottomless purses as inspirations for their EDCs, others, like Kevin Diale, feel that the subreddit can be somewhat hostile to women. “When you see people post problems that they bump into as a woman, like not enough pockets on pants, you get folks who crawl out of the woodwork and wave a pair of niche work pants marketed to women and try to invalidate them,” he says.
While he frames his concern in standard feminist terms, it is obvious that what keeps Wright awake at night is the fact that so long as competent men exist his own inadequacy is obvious. He opens the piece with an unhappy memory from his childhood, when his father presented him with a pocketknife. For normal boys this is a treasured memory. But Wright recounts the moment with shame and derision:
We were searching for an appropriate knife for me to take on our hike up a nearby mountain, just in case something terrible happened. As we sifted through the pile, my father said that when he was my age, he carried a pocket knife with him everywhere he went. I pointed out that would probably get me expelled from my middle school, but he just laughed. “That didn’t stop us. We wanted to be prepared for anything. You should carry it with you when you can.”
Wright contrasts his own rejection of his father’s healthy masculinity with the experience of an Every Day Carry (EDC) enthusiast. Instead of viewing a gift from his father with shame disdain, the EDC enthusiast warmly recalled a similar moment:
The concept of treasuring the seemingly mundane objects that you carry every day was inculcated in Hayes by his father, who gave him a wallet that belonged to his own grandfather as a symbol of his entry to adulthood. As a former Boy Scout, Hayes was more than familiar with the concept of “readiness,” so when he stumbled upon page after page of carefully posed shots of high-end gear like flashlights and folding knives, he felt right at home.
It is interesting to see the way that men like Wright’s objection to men who value tools and weapons has changed over time. Ten years ago the standard claim was that men who were interested in and owned guns and knives were betraying a lack of masculine ability. Real men don’t need weapons, went the argument, so men who have them must be inadequate. This is a foolish argument, as Doug Marcaida explains in the video below:
But now men like Wright don’t even bother projecting their inadequacy onto more masculine men. Now they come out and openly complain that other men are being too manly, not only for having an interest in weapons, but for having an interest in tools in general.
This shift is especially interesting because in most of the US the legal tide is strongly moving in favor of carrying weapons. It is not only easier to legally carry a gun in many states now, but restrictions on knives have been rolled back as well. As a result, a surprising number of states now allow carry of switchblade knives.
Of course not all jurisdictions are addressing the question in the same way. I suggest that the men of Vox.com would feel much more comfortable if they moved to the UK: