It was the beginning of September and I was in the middle of push spreading a hopper of granular fertilizer around a yard. My husband and I own and run a lawn care business. We were working in a small subdivision and there was a group of contractors working next door. I waved to them as I pushed the hopper back up onto the trailer and one of the guys approached me.
“I have a question for ya.”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“Do you really do all of that stuff you post about? Or are people just handing you the animals and fish and stuff to take pictures with?”
I laughed, a bit taken aback. Was he joking? He hadn’t cracked a smile yet.
“All of those pictures are of animals I’ve hunted and fished myself.”
“Oh. Well good for you. I was just wondering.”
I’ve thought about this incident many times. If I was a man, would he have asked me that question? Would it be questioned at all that I enjoyed hunting and fishing? I doubt it. Yet, he hadn’t asked me out of spite or to be mean. He genuinely wanted to know if I was the one bringing in the harvests that I did.
A few weeks ago I read the article by Cindy Stites regarding gender bias in the outdoors and it got me thinking about my own experiences. I too have worked in a male-dominated industry for most of my life; both in lawn care, as a volunteer firefighter, and at a sawmill.
I’ve felt I had to work harder to prove myself as a woman in a man’s world, but I never felt I was looked down upon or a lesser to my male counterparts. My experiences in the outdoor sporting world have been similar as well…or so I thought until I read Cindy’s article.
It made me wonder if I have been overlooking a few things and just letting it roll off my back. Let’s be honest, at one point or another you’re going to get a comment from a man who is surprised that you like to hunt or fish, or can’t comprehend that you know what you’re doing.
In these situations you just have to keep your head up and let it ride. To be fair, seeing a woman in camo or shopping on her own at Bass Pro or any other outdoor retailer is still a relatively new thing for a lot of people.
I look forward to the day when I can shop for a gun and not be offered something in pink or am told what I’m looking for isn’t right for me. These instances aren’t as common as they used to be though. Perhaps we’re beginning to see a change?
I want to state that in my experience the men I have hunted and fished with, or spent time with in a hunt camp have all treated me as an equal. From hunting with my husband and family, to meeting up and hunting with guys I had only ever interacted with online – sounds sketchy I know, but I did my research and was very cautious – to spending two weeks in the Colorado wilderness with two buddies of mine, I personally have had experience hunting with a variety of men.
Not once have they made me feel uncomfortable. Not once have I been disrespected by any of these men in any way, but I know that’s not the case for everyone. I decided to do a little research of my own before I wrote this article.
I reached out to some female outdoor groups on Facebook about the subject and asked a few questions on my own social media pages as well. What I received was a wide variety of statements from both males and females; so let’s get down to the nitty gritty of this article.
I’d like to begin with a few comments I received from women when asked if they believed they were treated as equals to men in regard to the outdoor sporting world.
“This is a hard answer for me. It’s not a direct yes or no. Some men treat me equally and don’t expect me to know everything to be seen as a true sportsman and others look at me like I’m some strange alien when I say I hunt or fish. Others make cheesy and provocative comments while some talk to me with complete and total respect.” – Brittany
“Growing up being the only girl with three older brothers and my dad being one of my best friends, I’ve always felt like I could hang with the guys. Their friends were/are like brothers to me as well. I think most men are just “fascinated” or “surprised” when I tell them that I hunt/fish and I really don’t understand that.
That reaction actually really annoys me to be honest. They aren’t disrespectful, but just that initial “shock” that they have gets me. Like, why wouldn’t I be just as capable as them? I have trophies to back it up and that really just trips some of them! I think the majority of male hunters I’ve spoken with find it interesting and cool that I hunt and we have enjoyed swapping hunting stories.” – Emily
“A gentleman came into my place of work and asked what’s been new with me. I told him that my boyfriend and I were leaving Thursday to go turkey hunting/fishing in Tennessee. He said, “He’s gonna do what?” I repeated, “WE are going turkey hunting and fishing.” He said, as serious as could be, “Well what are you gonna do?” … I’ll just be back at camp reapplying my lipstick, cleaning the camper and making sure supper’s ready for my honey when he gets back from his long day in the woods. (eye roll emoji) – Whitney
“Perfect example to me is I’ve gone to the store looking for camo and found LITERALLY the same top, one in the men’s, one in the women’s section. The women’s had pink stitching and cost $25 more, for the same thing.
When I was getting into archery and testing bows the guy helping me told me I should get an Eva Shockey because it would have colors I would probably like more so that’s the one they recommend to women. I was trying to decide between a Hoyt or a Matthew’s. I don’t choose my gear based on what will be cute and girly.” –Rachel
Women also shared stories with me about not being allowed to attend hunting camps, terrible experiences with outdoor retailers, stories about sexist experiences on guided hunts, the lack of options for women’s gear, and mean comments they’ve received online from men. One woman even told me a horror story of being sexually harassed by a man she was leasing property from.
I took a poll in the same women’s forum asking if they thought they were treated equally to men when it came to the outdoors and the results surprised me. Despite some of the horror stories I mentioned, out of 104 women who responded, 48 (nearly half) selected “yes” to being treated as an equal, 18 voted “no”, and 38 women responded “both,” meaning they felt they were treated equally and differently at various times.
Now, here are a few comments I received from some of the men.
“My wife and daughter both hunt and are sport shooters. Many people make the assumption they know less about the sport because they are women. Women appear to have more respect as a sport shooter than a hunter. Large retail stores tend to be the worst.” – Darryl
“Depends on what you mean by more/less/equal. Are we talking about sponsorships or hunts or how women are treated when they go on hunts? My wife hunts a lot and I respect her a great deal as it relates to the sport of hunting, but she and I are definitely treated differently when we go places.
That’s not meant to be all positive or negative because we have experienced both sides. We have just chosen to continue to give our business to those who provide both of us with respect when in the field or when buying products like bows for example. I think women have easier access to sponsorships than men do.
As a general statement, I think men are given more credibility whether merited or not, meaning that women have to “prove themselves” to garner respect more than a man would. On the other hand, women who have shown their abilities I feel are respected potentially more than a man because of the work ethic they have to level the physical playing field that biology has stacked against them.” –Jason
Other men voiced they didn’t think women were treated equally. In some ways they thought women had more opportunities, but in other ways they didn’t. A few had first-hand experiences of women being treated unfairly. I was happy to receive so many comments from the guys, the majority being very supportive of females who enjoy the outdoor lifestyle.
An issue that both parties continuously brought up was that they believe a small group of women in the outdoor community are giving a bad name to women who hunt and fish in general. I tend to agree that this may be fueling some of the gender bias in the outdoor community.
If you are involved on any of the social media platforms, you know the girls we’re talking about. These women are consistently posting images wearing skin tight or hardly any clothing, hunting or fishing with a different outfitter in nearly every post with an animal or fish, and offering various brand giveaways and discount codes on a regular basis.
The ones who show the most skin nearly always have the largest following and, unfortunately, this means more people are seeing their content. More people are identifying these “outdoorswomen” as the norm, and it’s creating a negative image for the majority of females involved in the outdoors.
Many women agree they have to prove themselves first in order to be taken seriously or treated as an equal to their male counterparts. When the majority of posts men see in their feed are of women posing half naked with a fish, or nothing but females posting about different products they’ve been paid to create content for; it’s hard to say that I blame them.
I may have spent the last eight years working lawn care, but I also have a degree in marketing. One thing we all learn in the marketing department is that sex sells. The whole point of advertising is to get attention. Women involved in the outdoors with a decent online following average about 80% male followers, and 20% female.
This is an ideal target audience for outdoor companies. The goal, when it comes to advertising, is to grab the potential consumer’s attention. If your attention is seized by an image of a scantily clad female with a particular company’s product, whether you are aware or not, that company has achieved their goal of improving brand awareness.
Depending on the following each of these influencers have, businesses offer everything from free products to monetary compensation for their collaboration on these online platforms. Businesses want and need influencers with a big following.
The greater the following, the greater the influencer’s reach. Some of these influencers are great role models and highly respected in the outdoor community. Some…not so much.
Should we hold businesses accountable for which influencers they choose to sponsor? As the consumer, your pocketbook and whether or not you choose to follow that company’s page can be the deciding factor.
Another question: Are these women the ones to blame for the content they create, or is it the people following them and “liking” their content? Men, let’s talk about your participation in all of this.
Most of you believe a small group of women are making a bad name for the majority of females involved in the outdoors. These are the girls previously mentioned who post half-naked photos and selfies on a regular basis. However, if you were to click on these females profiles, you’ll notice that the majority of their followers are men.
You’ll notice the majority of people who “like” their content are men. You’ll also notice that a majority of the comments, many including heart and fire emojis, are from men.
YOU are the leading factor in which of these influencers gain the notoriety. Right now you’re telling girls they need to show some skin in order to get followers and likes.
Don’t get me wrong, I know many women in the outdoor community who have large followings and I have much respect for them. They truly have a passion for the outdoors and I’m happy to call a few my friends; but there are some who obviously do it for the fame it brings them and by clicking the “like” button you are ensuring that more people discover their pages and posts.
With every “follow” you are handing these girls a first class ticket to insta-fame. It’s no secret that a female posing with little clothing gets many more likes than one without.
It was recently voiced by the manager of a well-known female angler on an outdoor podcast, “No one pays attention to women who fish fully clothed.” It’s time that changed. Men, I’m asking you to start considering where your actions are leading when it comes to selecting which photos you comment on and like.
Hold one another accountable. Either that or stop complaining about females who have no real knowledge of the outdoor industry gaining sponsorships and free hunts from various companies.
Ladies, I’m not bashing all women who post pictures in their bathing suits. I have some bikini-clad photos on my page. Women DO fish in bikinis from time to time. Typically for me it’s when I’m on a boat or surf-side at the beach. I fish fully clothed depending on the weather or how long I might be in the sun.
I’m also no professional angler, I just enjoy fishing and the outdoors. I’m not saying you shouldn’t post a bikini pic. What I am asking some of you to do is stop sexualizing yourselves and constantly posting images showing off your figure and body attempting to pass the images off as you being “outdoorsy.”
Let’s be honest, unless it’s early season archery or you’re hunting somewhere down south you’re going to be looking more like the little kid in A Christmas Story than Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider. It is what it is.
You cannot and will not be taken seriously by anyone in the outdoor world if all you are posting are the pictures and images I’ve described; no matter how competent you are as an outdoorsman.
So where do we go from here? I know there are men out there who will never view me as their equal. I’ve been told to my face women should be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen cooking for their men. (This was not mentioned to me as a joke.)
I’ve had men online tell me my catfish noodling pictures are fake and that somebody handed me the fish; but I’ve also had men come to my defense on the same post. One thing we all tend to agree on is that a few females in the “industry” are making it hard for other women involved in the outdoors to be taken seriously.
The majority of us want change, but how do we facilitate it when there seems to be so much stacked against us? If you Google “all female hunting show” the first link that pops up is “For Love or Likes.” The second is “Hottest Women of Hunting.” Knowing a few of the girls who’ve been on this show, I can tell you it doesn’t portray the skill set many of them actually have when it comes to hunting and fishing, nor does it cast them in the best light.
What is this teaching outdoorsmen and how do you think it’s affecting young women looking for role models? So what can we do? We can make a difference by not following, liking, or commenting on these girls’ pages that are making a mockery of women who actually love to hunt and fish.
Begin seeking out and following females who are good role models for other women, and men even, in the outdoors. Stop purchasing products and hunts from businesses that are supporting these women.
It needs to be mentioned the same goes for the men. Not all of you are upstanding role models for the outdoor community either, but that’s an issue for another day. We can make a difference. We can be advocates for change. If we all become more aware and speak up about these issues, people are going to start paying attention.
Allison Hunter Voges grew up in the outdoors. Some of her favorite memories are tagging along on a quail or squirrel hunt with her father, or fishing with her grandparents and cousins out on the pond.
After college she took up archery and found a real passion for the sport. Shortly after picking up her bow she asked a friend to take her on her first whitetail hunt which fueled her enthusiasm for the outdoors.
These days you can find her out hunting and fishing every chance she gets; whether it’s in her home state of Indiana or somewhere else in the US.
Allison is the author of a children’s book entitled Chasing Deer, about a child’s first experience bow hunting whitetail. Her goal in life is to inspire and encourage youth to get out into the great outdoors