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...And I feel fine.

It's Armageddon Week on the History Channel.  With the awesomeness of a new decade (no pedantic arguments please, we all know how much everyone loves round numbers) and the looming approach of 2012, it's just been a free-for-all of survivalist crazy and fun times predicting what it would be like if we all died from Hamthrax or a Solar flare, or giant volcanoes under Central Park.  Bob and I have been happily watching all the fun "what if..." programs, but I'm seeing something that started with Bear Grylls and is only continuing with all the "It's Armageddon, What Are You Going To Do Now?" programs.

They're for men.  Women, apparently, are useless, and will not survive unless they're kept in cages and only brought out to be breeding stock and homemakers once society has been put back on its feet by the big manly mansome men.

As an autonomous being with a mind of my own and girly bits, I object.  After The End Of The World As We Know It (known as TEOTWAWKI in the thriving survivalist blogosphere), women have absolutely no guarantee of having a manly mansome man around to protect them, not to mention the fact that most women are somewhat unwilling to trade their body for protection, even though there's a lot of men who are hoping for that very thing.  So, here is Laura's Supplemental Guide for Women Who Are On Their Own Post-Apocalypse.

Most survival guides will have lists, suggestions, and useful ideas that will work for both men and women.  As a woman, you'll need to streamline your emergency bag, and make sure it's not too heavy for you to carry, but all the other preparedness ideas will work for you as well as the men they're aimed at.  The difference comes after the disaster, and when you're well and truly on your own.

First, let's talk about the whole rape thing.  It's going to be a big consideration in your encounters with other survivors, especially if they don't have any women around.  Thanks to the culture of rape apologism that exists today, many (if not most) men have grown up with the idea that they are entitled to women's bodies, and if they really want a woman, especially in non-standard situations, the full and enthusiastic participation of the woman involved is not really important.  In short, men are going to want to trade their resources for your body, and may feel entitled to do so over your objections. 

(Men, if you're offended, get over yourselves.  You cannot honestly tell me that you believe in a changed world, that women will not be vulnerable to men who feel totally entitled to fuck them, when this is the day-to-day reality of the world we live in right now.  Besides, this survival guide is for the wimminz.  Go watch/read all the other guides which are directed at you, and ponder the fact that none of them will talk about the risk of rape for women survivors*, because they're written by men for men.)

(Also note that any protest or offended screeds in the comments section will be deleted.  I'm not writing this to offend you; this is the reality that women will live with in a TEOTWAWKI situation, on top of all the other risks that everyone will share.  Chew on that for a bit, instead of getting pissed at me for pointing out an uncomfortable truth.)

Back to survival.  The risk of rape is not a reason to give up, nor is it a reason to trade your bodily autonomy for the supposed protection of men, it's simply something to be aware of in a post-disaster world.  Since you aren't going to be able to fight your way out of a bad situation (and, let's face it, most men won't either), your best bet is stealth and speed.  You need to keep your head low, move at night or twilight, going to ground during the height of the day.  Since you probably don't have the upper body strength of a larger man, your survival pack is going to need some special equipment.

You have a survival pack, don't you?  It can come in handy even today - say you get stuck in the snow, wouldn't it be nice to have maybe a heating pack or two, and the ability to make hot tea? A book to pass the time, warm dry socks, and a energy bar or two wouldn't go amiss, either I bet.  Bob and I both keep emergency packs in our cars.  In the event of a world-changing disaster, a properly packed survival bag can support you for quite a while, and if packed in a backpack, is eminently portable even for relatively unfit people (backs are strong).  Check out resources on-line for some good suggestions.

The special things they're not going to talk about are the ones I want to cover here - most survival lists will include things like tampons (coyly called "feminine hygeine"), but fail to consider that a woman might be on her own.  This isn't really surprising, since most survivalists are a bit right-wing women-belong-in-the-kitchen types, and the idea that a woman might be setting out without male protection doesn't even cross their minds.

(If it did, it would probably give them the vapours.)

So - special woman stuff. 

First, you need a pair of flexible reinforced palm gloves.  Search for ones that will allow you a lot of fine motor control, fit snugly (so they don't slip off at a crucial moment), and have leather or tough synthetic palms.  These will save your life if you have to climb a rope or grip something tightly.  A lot of the suggestions made in survival programs involve a lot of climbing.  It may take more time, but you always want look for other options, since most women lack the upper body strength to pull themselves up on a rope.  However, sometimes you will have no choice, and a rope will be your only way through/out.  Get a lightweight rope and pre-tie loops large enough to put your foot in spaced along it, and you can use the loops like a ladder, your legs pushing you up, rather than your arms pulling.  The rope will need to be longer, so make it as lightweight as possible.

Next, find yourself some close-fitting, comfortable, dark clothes - pants, light top, heavier top (for cold), socks, hat, shoes.  Your shoes need to be sturdy but flexible - think rock-climbing combined with hiking.  Buy them half to a whole size larger, and get cushioned insoles and soft wool (or polar fleece) socks.  Your pants (you won't need a skirt for a long time, if ever) should be tough and reinforced at the knees and seat - think lined wool, horse-riding, motorcycle-riding.  You want them comfortable enough to run, jump, climb trees, and crawl through small tunnels in.  Wool means they can get wet, and they'll still keep you warm.  The tops can be anything, as long as they're not too bulky and you can stretch in them.  Think knit silk, cotton, and light wool.  Get a beanie/wooly knit hat.

All your clothes need to be dark brown or black or green, to keep you from being seen.  They also need to be as gender-neutral as possible, so anyone seeing you from a distance won't be able to tell your gender right off.

You want to keep one or two easily concealable weapons on your body at all times.  If you choose knives, make sure you know how to use them.  You're better off with a small flexible nightstick or something like that.  Knives and tasers can be used against you, guns run out of ammo (and ammo is heavy), and mace isn't foolproof.  Something small that masquerades as something else is best - why not combine two useful items in one and get a metal flashlight that can double as a weapon?

An extra you might consider is a voice-changer; if you make contact with people by phone or radio, it is in your best interest not to let people know you're a woman on your own.  A lone woman broadcasting that fact is catnip to every human predator in hearing range, and puts you at risk.  Even if rape isn't on their mind (and men who consider themselves good guys admit anonymously that they rape - though they won't call it that), a woman will likely be seen as a weaker, more easily overcome target, and your resources will be at risk.

Finally, get yourself a pair of good binoculars.  A woman on her own is going to need to be ten times more cautious about approaching any settlement or group of people than a man, and here is where you are actually likely to do better and be safer than a man who relies on his strength or charm to get out of a bad situation.  Your binoculars will give you all sorts of information from a safe distance, and you want to spend at least one day observing without being seen to get an idea of what you're getting into.  Look for things that don't seem right, and trust your instincts.  You'll be on your own, so no second-guessing that first impression.  If it doesn't feel right, move on without being seen.  You'll save yourself a world of trouble.

A woman has some advantages over a man**.  We generally are smaller/shorter, and so more easily concealed.  We fit into smaller spaces (our heads are smaller, and anything you can fit your head through, you can get the rest of you through), we're more flexible (our pelvises move more), we need less calories and water to survive, and we are tougher than we look - especially when there isn't a man around to be charmed by our adorable helplessness.

(I'm going to get in trouble at the next women's meeting for admitting this, but it's true - we sometimes let you men do stuff so you can feel manly.  We can do it ourselves, but you guys pout when you feel left out.)

At some point, especially if you can't make contact with a friendly group, a woman on her own may consider making a Devil's bargain and offering her body in return for resources and/or protection.  Understand that there is no dishonour in this choice - your survival is the most important priority.  But here, as in all other choices, take your time deciding whom you're going to approach.  Observe groups or individuals from a distance for a few days first, and let their behaviour while they assume they're not being watched be your guide.  Men will put on a great act to convince you to throw in your lot with them, but you're better off on your own than in a situation where you might be gang-raped, abused, sold, or otherwise ill-treated.  Loneliness is better than slavery.

Before TEOTWAWKI, it's a good idea to get on with the book-learnin' - learn about native plants, what's edible, what's useful, figure out how to hot-wire a car, change a tire, do basic engine maintenance - to give you a good background if you do find yourself on your own.  You'd be surprised how many of these skills will be useful today - changing a tire and basic car maintenance will keep you safer on the road, and knowing native plants will help you if you like hiking or camping (poison ivy is sneaky).  you don't have to embark on a mad fitness regimen, but being able to walk a mile at any pace*** is not a bad idea.  increasing your back strength will have immediate benefits, and help you with a backpack kit if the need arises.  Quitting bad habits *like*smoking*cough*cough* will allow you to be clearer-headed - it's hard to pay attention to your surroundings when you're jonesing for a cigarette.  Women, despite some silly men's ideas about our weak little lady-brains, have the ability to multi-task well, and the more you know, the better off you will be at any given moment.

As a woman, you may not have the physical strength to match a Navy SEAL, but it's not muscle power that's going to get you through a bad situation, it's your smarts.  A clear understanding of the special risks to women caused by a breakdown in societal mores will keep you alive.

(I want to state this again, because it's not being said elsewhere:  Many men will see this breakdown as an excuse to rape.  Men, I can feel your indignation, but you need to get the fuck over it.  Other sites may be squeamish about stating the truth, but I'm not, and world statistics back me up.  Women, you can do everything right, and still be assaulted.  Do not blame yourself, blame the men who think that their "needs" entitle them to the body of a woman.)

You can laugh at survivalists, but keep in mind that many of the basic suggestions have immediate use, like the car emergency pack, knowing how to clean spark plugs, or increasing stamina.  I don't really believe that the world is going to end in a massive disaster in 2012, or even in my lifetime, but having food stores at the farm is helpful if I lose my job for a bit and don't have the money for groceries.  If we're snowed in and one of us gets sick or hurt, having medical supplies on hand when the nearest hospital is an hour away is a good idea.  And knowing how to change a tire is handy.  Even if the zombies never come, I'm not doing myself any harm by improving my health and knowing the native flora and fauna. An emergency pack can help in a localized disaster, like Katrina.  You don't have to be paranoid, separatist, or a cult leader to be prepared for possible power outages, snow, income loss, or zombies.

In the end (or even the Beginning of the End), the survivalist skills are life skills.  And that can't be all bad.

*Yes, men get raped too.  I'm tired of it being pointed out to me like I'm not aware of it.  But men, even ones who would not call themselves rapists, automatically assume a woman is available to them, which is not the case for men.  In both cases, however, I'd like to point out that almost all rapists are still men.

**This is ableist, by the way - the assumption of all survival writing and programming is that the people surviving are able-bodied.  This whole post, like all the survivalist movement, comes from an ableist viewpoint.  The difficult truth is that people with disabilities are going to have a harder time surviving in a post-apocalypse environment, but it isn't impossible, and anyone who assumes that someone in a wheelchair (to pick the ovbious thing that most able-bodied people think of when they think "disabled) or otherwise differently abled won't be able to take care of themselves is simply demonstrating their inability to think out of the box.

***Um, yeah.  There's that ableism again.  I'm just pointing it out.


( 40 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )
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Jan. 7th, 2010 02:31 pm (UTC)
A quick note on clothing. A sports bra will tend to compress one's superstructure. When combined with a nice loose opaque top (not so loose as to be liable to catch on things) it will go a long way to giving you a nicely androgynous profile. This will work even at quite close range, especially if you're wearing a hood or scarf that disguises your hair and lack of beard.

A women, even well into her 40s, can pass as a teenage boy quite well to the casual gaze.

In any disaster, the most essential piece of equipment is your brain. Keeping your wits about you, believing that you're capable of taking care of yourself, combined with a good all round knowledge of the basics (food prep & safety, basic first aid, local geography, et al.) will generally give you a head start on the majority who'll be running round like headless chickens.
Jan. 7th, 2010 05:05 pm (UTC)
Sports bras are generally also more practical to wear day-to-day if you don't know what situation you're going to be in. I'm a nursery nurse, so in a day I do a lot of lifting and carrying and bending, and a sports bra is infinitely more comfortable and practical. [Also, the babies can grab and hold it through my shirt without pulling it all astray]
Jan. 7th, 2010 02:46 pm (UTC)
"With the awesomeness of a new decade (no pedantic arguments please, we all know how much everyone loves round numbers)"
Agh! You've outflanked me, lol! Why does everyone not find round numbers just as lovable at the *end* of the count? (And there was and is no Year Zero, so which decade got short-changed? <- meant to be rhetorical)

...under Central Park! Hadn't thought about that one... I used to have dreams about volcanoes cropping up in unlikely places, like the back yard. (They were teeny, baby volcanoes, though, very well-behaved and with natural gas jets like kind of like bunsen burners just in case anyone needed to use them for something practical.)
Jan. 7th, 2010 02:50 pm (UTC)
And there was and is no Year Zero, so which decade got short-changed? <- meant to be rhetorical)

First one. :) We've been good ever since. And if it's good enough for the Y2K computers, it's good enough for me.

"Cooking with Volcanoes: Your Backyard Guide" does have a nice ring to it, though. Hee!
(no subject) - virginiadear - Jan. 7th, 2010 03:06 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 7th, 2010 02:54 pm (UTC)
Please tell me you have read or are either planning on reading Y: the Last Man, the 'Apocalypse' of it being that all the men die (except, obviously, the protagonist). I'd love to get your take on it.
Jan. 7th, 2010 03:19 pm (UTC)
Haven't read it. Personally, my favourite is The Screwfly Solution, by James Tiptree Jr.
Jan. 7th, 2010 03:48 pm (UTC)
Having food stores and being fit enough to do a lot of walking certainly came in handy for those of us caught in the blackout a few years ago (I had a 2 hours plus walk home and a 7 flight climb to my apartment, all with an antibiotic-resistant strain of strep throat- I'm still amazed I made it home). I also found that a working radio is good too- I was the only one in my family who had one with batteries, and it was one of the only ways to get information for up to several days for some people.

A car kit is a no-brainer- I also have a fully stocked first aid kit that lives in the trunk as well (and thankfully, so far I haven't had to use it yet!)
Jan. 7th, 2010 04:00 pm (UTC)
SM Stirling's "Dies the Fire" series is a fun read. Basically, "something" happens in the world, and no electricity, gunpowder, or higher-order steam functions work.

This of course means living historians have quite the "leg up" over some other groups...

But it also gets one in that "prep for this" mindset.

For instance, having a mountain bike easily accessible is not a bad idea, if one needs to travel distances.

Jan. 7th, 2010 04:59 pm (UTC)
Call me a brand lover if you will, but I cannot recommend a good pair of Doc Martens enough. I've had the pair I'm wearing now for five years, and they still don't leak, the soles are still sound, and I only have to clean and wax them once every couple of months to keep them in good shape. In summer, they breathe and they're pretty cool, in winder I can walk through ankle deep snow and ice without wiping out or freezing, and I regularly go hiking across the moors in them. When new goods won't be readily available, durability needs to be a primary concern.

Also, reusable sanitary pads. Use them, wash them, re-use them. Even if you just keep them somewhere for emergencies, it means that 1, you don't have to leave the kind of waste that says 'hi, woman here' and 2, you don't have to spend long foraging hours looking for them.
Jan. 7th, 2010 05:22 pm (UTC)
See, this kind of thing just isn't covered in the survival blogs, because men go all faint when considering women's bits. A cup or reusable pad (for those that need them - I had a scouring thingy several years ago, and don't) is much smarter than carrying a huge box of tampons. But you won't see that kind of discussion, nor the best clothes/shoes to have on hand, what is best for women, who have much stronger legs proportionally, or anything.

One does suggest razors for women, because heaven forfend we just let the hair grow. :P
(no subject) - tattooofhername - Jan. 7th, 2010 05:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - lifeofglamour - Jan. 7th, 2010 05:42 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(no subject) - attack_laurel - Jan. 7th, 2010 05:47 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Jan. 7th, 2010 05:58 pm (UTC)
"If you choose knives, make sure you know how to use them."
My biggest worry for MOST (note I did not say all) women at the end of days is the squeamish factor. Yes, a lot of women would kill to protect their children. Fewer I think would kill to protect themselves. That bit of psychological conditioning would have to be overcome... Especially if you are having to do it up close and personal with a knife.
Being the natural pessimist that I am, and being raised in the environment I was, I can honestly say that in a "kill or be killed" scenario, I really don't think I would have trouble using a knife on someone.
Unfortunately, a club does not guarantee you will immobilize and hurt someone long enough for you to get away, or that they will not come after you again. And again you have that conditioning of having to be close enough physically to hurt the person.
Yes, you only have a limited amount of ammunition with a gun (as much as you have in your clip) but it removes some of the mental issues with being close to someone, and if you know how to operate it, you can injure them badly enough that it's a lose-lose situation to come after you again if you don't cost them their lives the first time around. So for a lot of females I think the gun might be a better option.
Just making an observation, mind you, based on the females I know and their psychology.
One other thing about cigarettes... Yes, I smoke. But I guarantee you the day Armageddon arrives I will quit. Not because of the jonesing for the tobacco part, but because of the smell. Ditto for all scented anything (deodorants, shampoo, detergents, soaps). We would fall back on the more basic survival instincts and senses we have, and smell is the first and foremost, for both predators and prey.

Jan. 7th, 2010 06:02 pm (UTC)
Individuals are free to make their own choices about how to defend themselves. Most women have not had the training with knives or guns to be able to use them comfortably (note, I say comfortably, not adequately. It's familiarity and ease with a weapon that makes you fast), and I would include myself, even though I own guns. I'm somewhat pragmatic myself, I believe that the way out of a fight is not to get in one.

(no subject) - evil_fionn - Jan. 7th, 2010 06:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 7th, 2010 06:13 pm (UTC)
Another random thing I thought of - get a pocket-sized 'medicines and drugs' guide. It's all well and good being able to raid a pharmacy for supplies, should you need to, but it helps to know exactly what you're getting.
Jan. 7th, 2010 06:37 pm (UTC)
Total non-sequiter - I'm waiting to see a show called "Bear Grylls Grills Bears", a sort of survivalist cooking show in which he utilizes only endangered species as entrees. I especially look forward to Panda Jerky.

I'm going to hell, aren't I?
(Deleted comment)
Jan. 7th, 2010 06:50 pm (UTC)
You are welcome to it. :) Bob and I were discussing it last night, as we looked at "Armageddon Man" climbing down an elevator cable, and I pointed out that I could not do that. :)
(no subject) - sskipstress - Jan. 7th, 2010 07:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Jan. 7th, 2010 06:57 pm (UTC)
One of my major reasons to participate in the SCA is to keep my survival gear in good shape and myself in practice for its use. Short of a chronic survival situation, those things really help - and the skills cannot be taken away from me.

If it was that bad, I think the very first thing I would try to do, as a woman, is find a lot of other women to gang up with. I would be very hesitant to trust ANY men, for the reasons you state, unless it was a community situation where the women were not being mistreated - and I was armed at all times.

Even camping out, by myself, I try not to make it obvious I am 1) a woman, and 2) alone. But I always take have measures in place for self-defense, and am wary and sleep lightly, because, yes, living in a society where violence against women is the accepted norm.
Jan. 7th, 2010 09:47 pm (UTC)
One does wonder what is the likelihood of periods becoming sparse/light in a survivalist situation? Have they done studies on the women participating in Survivor, or are they all put on birth control that keeps it at bay for the duration of the show? Less food and resources would logically mean that the body would waste less energy with full flows, but who knows.

Again, has anyone looked into this? Good thing tampons are relatively light in weight. ;)
Jan. 8th, 2010 12:32 am (UTC)
Have you seen Discovery Channel's take on survival in an armageddon situation? It's called "The Colony" and has both men and women on it.
linkage: http://dsc.discovery.com/tv/colony/colony.html

That is a well thought out list - the husband and I have considered 'go packs' for years (since we got our HAM licenses) - time to dig those ideas back up.
Jan. 8th, 2010 07:56 am (UTC)
I see you've had several comments about reusable menstrual pads instead of tampons. In an apocalypse situation, that might help, but it would be difficult to wash them and dry them.

Silicone menstrual cups (Diva Cup, Mooncup, and their ilk) are likely to be much easier to keep clean. You can wipe them clean, for one thing, and just boil them between uses in a very small amount of water.
Jan. 8th, 2010 04:38 pm (UTC)
People asked about re-usable pads, so I provided. Lunapads also sells the Diva cup. In all situations, washing is an issue, as clean water is not always available. However, studies have found that all bacterial agents cannot survive even a minute of boiling, so even the dirtiest water can be made nominally safe for washing. There's other ways to clean, of course.

I think whatever makes people most comfortable is the most important - someone not used to a Diva Cup would not be happy having to pick one up and personally, I have a very shallow pelvic shelf, and could not keep such things in (back when I need to think about menstruation).

I think in a survival situation, I'd keep a small number of tampons and thin pads on hand, because they are useful for other things, including wound dressing (since that's what the disposables started life as). Trading isn't out of the question, either. :)
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - Jan. 10th, 2010 08:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
Jan. 9th, 2010 12:10 am (UTC)
I think my plan for an actual apocalyptic scenario (as opposed to a temporary disruption, which I like to think I've been dealing with in one form or another since the Blizzard of '78) is to figure out where the location of maximum destruction is, and be THERE, and hope for it to be over quickly.

This plan brought to you by the Nuclear War Nightmare, which I had last night in frightening detail after not having dreamt it for at least 20 years. And I wasn't even watching the History Channel. When I lived in the Boston area, the plan was the roof of MIT, because although I was closer to Hanscom AFB, I didn't think they'd let a civilian just wander onto the base with missiles incoming.
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