The Girl Behind the Gun

By Taylor H.

Walking through the woods in a bright orange vest and a gun in hand is not commonly known as an activity that women participate in. I will never forget the day that I tracked down my first animal and pulled the trigger for the very first time. I experienced a variety of emotions that day. At first, I was overwhelmed by excitement and adrenaline, which then turned into feelings of achievement as I was extremely proud of myself for accomplishing something that most women do not have the opportunity to do.

So why is it that the word ‘hunter’ is often associated with men? Why is it that more men are involved in hunting than women? Is it because of the stereotype that girls are kind hearted and could not hurt a fly? Is it because we are taught that men are responsible for providing for their families? For many years now women have been integrating themselves into the world by challenging the typical gender roles and stepping out of their comfort zones.

Hunting is an activity that traces back to when the cavemen walked earth. The culture of hunting is known as a hegemonic masculine sport (Keogh, 2006). In the past, men would go on hunting trips to bring back meat and fur to keep their families fed and warm. Meanwhile the wives were assigned the responsibilities of gathering berries and looking after the children. To this day, it is still common for the man to go to work while the woman stays home to care for the children.

A study has shown that there are three types of constraints that decrease the likelihood that a woman will hunt. The first one is referred to as intrapersonal. Some women believe that they do not hunt because they have never been taught to do so. The second factor is referred to as interpersonal constraints. Some women believe that they do not take part in hunting because they are afraid of what others may think or say. And the final factor is structural constraints. Some women may not be able to take part in hunting due to certain domestic responsibilities such as cleaning, cooking, and taking care of the children (Keogh, 2006).

Women may have their battles in this male dominated activity, but over the years it has slowly become an activity that women are taking part in. The data have shown that female hunters have increased by 3%, and that hunting gear is 30% directed towards women now (Keogh, 2006). Many of the women who do take part say that they do it for their family, by bringing home healthy food. They also explain that they make it a family activity by bringing their children along. Furthermore, some women participate for the social aspect of it. When explaining why they hunt, some women explain that they do it because it makes them feel powerful and in control. They also feel proud when someone sees them dressed in camo and ready to go into the woods (Keogh, 2006).

The confidence that myself and other women receive knowing that we can engage in an activity that is mostly engaged in by men, is huge. Just because I may wear heels and paint my nails does not make me any less capable of pulling a trigger and supplying food for my family.

Reference

Keogh, S. (2006). Pink camouflage: Reshaping the gendered nature of hunting in the twenty-first century. Society & Leisure 39(3), 1-20.

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8 responses

  1. Taylor, your post provided some in depth analysis of why women don’t hunt as often as men, and encouraged me to think critically about my views on women participating in hunting. Being from a small, rural community, the culture of hunting is embedded in our town’s identity. Listening from the stories of my peers, the women who partake in this sport go out with their fathers, brothers, grandfathers, and uncles at a young age to learn the ways of how to hunt. Although I know that pink camouflage exists, I have never seen it worn by any of the women in my community. In fact, I remember in the sixth grade, a girl in my class was wearing a t-shirt with a pink camouflage pattern and one of the boys teased her saying that pink camouflage was entirely useless for the real sport of hunting. Gendering hunting by marketing women’s gear in pink hues, seems to apply the assumption that the sport is juvenile and impractical for women, when in reality men and women should have equal abilities in hunting.

    The activity of hunting doesn’t appear to be gendered in my hometown community, except for the fact that often the men in their lives act as the teachers, guiding the women how to hunt. In the broader society, I have noticed that hunting is a male dominated pastime, and media rarely depicts female hunters as they truly are. My female Facebook friends who do hunt, often proudly post photos of themselves in their traditional camouflage gear, usually muddy and make up free, beside their fresh kill. Their proud smiles of accomplishment is a commonality that is shared between each of the women in the photos. These same women are mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, girlfriends, etc., however they don’t let their favoured pastime interfere with their idenitity of being a caring, feminine, and capable being. There may very well be a shift in how hunting is perceived by different genders in our society, and we happen to be the generation that reinforces the change of perspectives.

    Tamsin, F.

    • I love this post! I wouldn’t call myself a faithful hunter, but I do buy my licence and go when I can, usually with my father, my brothers, or other friends (but they are always guys). Never have I once went hunting for a ‘girls day’. It sounds funny even saying that, but it shouldn’t.
      I own a gun, have shot tons of guns, harvested animals, cooked them, eaten them, and am proud of that. There is such a stigma placed around girls who wear camouflage, take and post pictures of hunting, or actually harvest animals, they are seen acting as posers or intruding on the male dominated leisure activity and are judged.
      It makes me happy to see that someone else feels the same way about this as I do!
      Great post and happy hunting 🙂

  2. Great post Taylor!

    Although I don’t do it nearly as much as I would like to, I am also another girl who likes to venture through the woods and hunt.

    While reading your post the one thing that kept coming to my mind is the constant put-downs that women receive for wearing pink camouflage and the idea that wearing pink camouflage is associated with hunting flamingos. I’m not a pink camouflage person myself, but that doesn’t mean that I’m against it.

    The whole idea of colour-oriented camouflage is basically for marketing purposes – companies have to make their money some how right? While pink camouflage may be a marketing strategy for companies to “sell” hunting to women and girls, have men ever considered that green or white camouflage was produced with the same instinct – “Buy our camouflage – green camouflage will make you invisible to the animals in the trees and white camouflage will make you invisible to the animals in the snow!” They know that a lot of the animals we hunt are actually colour blind right?

    I agree, women are just as capable of pulling the trigger as men are, and just because I am a girl does not mean that I have any less ability to provide for my family and enjoy doing so!

  3. Excellent post, Taylor!

    As with multiple other sports, hunting is a very male dominated sport. Progress is being made, but is it enough? You provided the statistic that 30% of gear is now being customized and targeted for women. At first glance, the rise in women’s hunting apparel appears to be a positive thing. However, if you think critically about that statistic, what defines women’s hunting gear as being women’s – mainly the fact that it is pink (which also defeats the purpose of wearing camouflage to begin with). Except for biological differences in body types and shapes, between men and women, does their hunting apparel really need to be different?

    There is an undeniable rise in females represented in the hunting community, which reinforces that females too can be strong and be the providers. However, I believe there is still room for improvement within the female hunting community. Although it is now more accepted for females to hunt, a stereotypical male task, they must make up for their femininity while hunting by dressing pretty – hence the demand for the pink camouflage clothing. Generally, most female hunters portrayed in the media, such as Eva Shockey and Tiffany Lakosky, are heavily sexualized and wearing a lot of makeup. This demonstrates to young female hunters that it is acceptable to hunt and perform this stereotypical manly task but you must look good doing it and you cannot be “too manly”.

    In conclusion, I agree with your article. The pride and adrenaline rush associated with hunting are unlike any other, which should be accessible for both males and females. However, I believe there are still many gender norm barriers that need to be addressed, which will allow women to feel more accepted and empowered within the sport of hunting.

    Megan C.

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