A commenter on my last post, David Yamane, seemed unhappy about the content I chose to write about, and had some suggestions for me:
“Why don’t you post about how sick you are hearing about how gun culture hates women? I actually heard a talk at The Tactical Conference by Kathy (Cornered Cat) Jackson, in which she draws on research about women in STEM to give gun guys suggestions about how to get women involved in gun culture.https://gunculture2point0.wordpress.com/2014/07/09/the-cornered-cat-kathy-jackson-on-what-women-want/
You should let her know how grateful she should be that male dominated gun culture allowed her the time and space to share her views!
I know that you are probably sick of hearing about Kathy Jackson already, but since you seem pressed for things to write about concerning guns, why don’t you read Kathy Jackson’s comments about women in the gun community since she draws on research about women in STEM fields to show that gun guys are NOT embracing women.”
I will take his advice and write about the issue of Gun Culture 2.0 and women.
I don’t know Kathy Jackson, The Cornered Cat, I have never met her, nor have I read her book. Although, knowing that it is available as an audio-book, I’ll have to give it a try. So for the purpose of this post, I’m going to have to rely on his assessment of Jackson’s book. So please forgive any error as hearsay.
I can accept Jackson’s differentiating between being a guest in Gun Culture 2.0 and belonging in Gun Culture 2.0. Now Social Justice has taught me that I should never question a person’s lived experience, and truth be told, I don’t know what she has experienced, but allow me to bring up a few things from my lived experience.
First, a quasi gripe about Gun Culture 2.0. I fully consider myself to be Gun Culture 2.0. I don’t hunt, and have no interest in it. I like black rifles with 30 round mags. My gun ownership is the product of an interest in self defense and political support of the 2A. Much of Gun Culture 2.0 has been influence by military culture. This is in part do the number of veterans of the War on Terror who have continued to shoot recreationally after their service is up. There is also the feedback from the video game industry, where shooters want the real life version of their favorite gun from their favorite Call of Duty game. The most popular firearms sold today are semi-automatic facsimiles of military arms. Tacticool is a word that has entered the lexicon to describe a civilian rifle that has be accessorized to look like something carried in Black Hawk Down. The word “operator” gets tossed around a lot. One cannot go to a gun range, gun show, gun store, or anywhere else in the gun world without it being a 5.11 tactical pants and Blackhawk rigger belt convention. A substantial portion of Gun Culture 2.0 has an aesthetic that could best be described as Blackwater chic.
Quite a number of new small gun companies have sprung up advertising their founding by ex-military. The stamp of ex-military has become so important to Gun Culture 2.0 that some people are willing to lie to benefit from it.
No disrespect to our veterans, but this frustrates me. I never served in combat. I never cleared a house with my M4 pattern rifle. I have no operational experience. I am an engineers and a good one at that. I know heat treating, GD&T, fluid dynamics, heat transfer, finishing, manufacturing, and everything else it takes to make a gun work. I may not know how to stage an ambush but I do know how to take aluminum and steel and turn it into one of the finest firearms money can buy. That took years of schooling and is not something taught in basic training or AIT. The problem is, who in Gun Culture 2.0 wants to buy an AR or a 1911 from some fat engineer who sits behind a desk with gigabytes of test data to show how good his gun is? Gun Culture 2.0 wants to buy an AR or 1911 from some ex Navy Ranger F16 door gunner who designed his weapon EXPLICITLY for killing Taliban. It makes me understand (but not condone) faking military service to get your fledgling gun company off the ground.
All of this goes double when it comes to firearms training. There are a lot more firearms trainers today than there were in the past. That is a good thing, it means more training available for all. But many of these trainers hype their ex-military status as a bona fide. I am not a woman, and cannot claim to know how a woman may feel but I may have experienced similar feelings of not belonging when I am the guy who shows up at the training course in shorts, carrying a .38 snubbie and not in 5.11, drawing a Glock from the latest in kydex wonder-concealment. I go to these courses to improve my ability to defend myself in a home invasion or if I am caught in the middle of a convenience store robbery. However, some of them seem to be “let’s pretend you are Delta Force” weekend retreats.
I think one thing that would make Gun Culture 2.0 more welcoming, not just to women, is a demilitarization. I am a shooter. I love shooting. I’ve been a gun nut since the first time my dad took me shooting when I was six. Just because I never shot a Taliban in the face with it, doesn’t mean I don’t know how to use my rifle, or that I am a wannabe or armchair commando, or anything else you want to call me.
Second, guns have traditionally been a guy thing. I believe that they will always be a guy thing. No, I am not saying women are not welcome or that I think any less of them. It’s just a matter of reality. I doubt there will ever be equal parity of the sexes in gun culture. I don’t believe that that is inherently wrong. There are many things that are guy things: cigars, motorcycles, off-roading, car racing, etc. Yes, of course we should be sensitive to women in our midst. Overt sexism is ugly, I don’t like it when I see it. But we are never going to completely purge the “guyness” from gun culture, and don’t ask us to.
Again, I am not a woman, and cannot claim to know how a woman may feel but I may have experienced similar feelings of not belonging when I go into a yarn/bead/scrap book/fabric/craft store with my wife. When I drop her off for a “stitch and bitch” night at the local knitting store, the other ladies welcome me, but I can tell they are all wondering if I’m going to sit and stay and pull out my own pair of needles. They are happy to try to teach me to knit (there have been offers), but I know I will take a long time to really become one of them. I am not offended. I accept that I have wandered into a sphere of women’s culture and that’s OK.
I want more women to come into shooting. I want more people in general to come into shooting. We in the community are extending ourselves to women the best way we know how. I have seen plenty of lady’s nights at the local indoor range or ladies only CCW classes. I have also seen ladies only motorcycle training courses among other things. I have never seen a “daddy and me” day at the local park or a guy’s night at the local craft store where I can have a beer and do a needlepoint of my favorite line from Conan the Barbarian. One act of making someone feel like an outsider doesn’t justify another, and I’m not suggesting that it should. I just want to give some perspective.
Third, of course I have seen gun shop employees who have been condescending to women when they (women) go into to guy a new CCE piece. But nearly every time, those same jerks have been condescending to me and other guys when we want to look at something other than the latest in Teutonic plastic fantastic that “starts with 4 and ends with 5.” I have griped about that before. My first rule about gun stores is: If I say “I want to look at X” and the person behind the counter says “Why? Let me show you a Glock/H&K/SIG.” Just leave.
There is an aphorism known as Hanlon’s Razor, which states “never attribute to malice what can adequately be blamed on stupidity.” There needs to be a corollary that states “never attribute to racism/sexism/discrimination what can adequately be explained with by somebody being an asshole.” This is something also seen in STEM, don’t take it personally.
Even if there are real individual causes of discrimination, don’t let that stop you. I can’t stand the asshole at the gun show with the Nazi paraphernalia selling copies of the Turner Diaries. I have been asked on more than one occasion at a gun show by a dealer “what can I Jew you out of?” I don’t give those bastards my money. I ignore them. I didn’t let those people drive me out of shooting. For women, if a guy at a gun range really is a sexist pig, find a different range or a different instructor. Show your disapproval with your dollars. For every one of them, there are dozens of us who are happy to count you as part of the group.
Fourth, Dana Loesch, who was the Beyonce of NRAAM 2015.
Fifth, Emily Miller, the smartest person on gun laws in America who is not a member of SCOTUS.
Sixth, Kirsten Joy Weiss, who can shoot better than you can.
Seventh, Lena Miculek, who can shoot WAY better than that.
Eight, Julie Golob, rock out with your Smith out.
Ninth, Jessie Duff.
Not just are these women shooters. They are also celebrities in the culture. They give talks and demonstrations and have hundreds of thousands of people read their blogs and watch their YouTube videos.
Tenth, the firearms industry itself actively reaching out to women.
Call me skeptical, but I really don’t see how gun culture hates women. Every indication is the opposite.
Not to overly criticize Ms. Jackson, since I didn’t read her book, but the synopsis seems to indicate her complaints fall very close to the idea of Social Justice microagressions.
“Sure the industry is bending over backwards to develop new products for women. Sure the industry is bringing very smart and experienced women on board as senior management. Sure, shooting ranges and firearms instructors are hosting women’s only events to make women feel more comfortable. But Dillon Precision’s calendar still features beautiful women with guns; and Billy Bob, the owner of Billy Bob’s Guns, Live Bait, and Overalls Emporium called me ‘sweetheart’ so gun culture hates me.”
I think no.
I’ll agree that we have a little bit more to go towards incisiveness, but give us credit were credit is due.
I read Miguel’s comment and it got me thinking. There is something I didn’t take into consideration that may address our difference in opinion: age.
I don’t know how old Ms. Jackson or Dr. Yamane are, but I can postulate. Ms. Jackson claims on her website that she’s been a shooter for 15 years and married for 25. Well, this year is my 15 year high school reunion. Ms. Jackson got married when I was middle school. Assuming she got married after college, that would put her in her lat 40’s at a minimum. Dr. Yamane got his B.S. in 1991, putting him in at about the same age.
I can appreciate how their views on this issue may be different.
I look around me at work, and it shocks me that I am one of the oldest people in my group, not in management, at the ripe old age of 32. The people I work with, the people I shoot with, the people I hobnob with are in their late 20’s early 30’s. We are as much raised in Gun Culture 2.0 as we were raised in Web 2.0 or with cellphones. Women in shooting is nothing new to us, they have always been there. Our sisters were taught to shoot along side us. There have always been camo clothes for women and girls available at the local sporting goods store to us.
When some old gray beard Gun Culture 1.0 says something dismissive of women, the response of us is “yeah, sure, whatever gramps” and then our wives and girlfriends out shoot him on the range.
This is the same issue I have with criticism of STEM by the way.
“Blah, blah, blah, women aren’t in enough faculty positions of management, STEM is sexist blah, blah, blah.”
Whatever you say bucko. Being management or faculty is what happens late in your career, not the beginning. Those women entered the workforce when the math I was learning was One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish and VCR’s still roamed the earth. The girls I know and went to school with are just as competent as the boys in engineering. They were recruited into the same programs. They grew up in a climate were there were outreach programs dedicated to bringing women and girls into STEM. When you look at how THESE girls are doing in their careers, they are on par with the boys in most fields and doing better in others.
There is a generation of difference between our experiences, literally. The trials and tribulations of the first wave of women in mainstream shooting won. So when I hear “Gun Culture 2.0 hates women” it just rankles me.