Growing up, most of my friends were boys. Until I started working as a ski instructor, I had very few female friends. The girls and women with whom I was most aligned were always, like me, tomboys.
Because I shared so many of the same interests, I have almost never felt uncomfortable around males. I was rarely excluded from any activity I wanted to pursue. Except for baseball. VeeGee Wynn, my only female cohort from age 8 through 11, agreed it was totally unfair that we were not going to be able to grow up and play in the major leagues. Then, Little League was organized and we suffered our first expulsion. That was not on the part of the boys with whom we had been playing because we had earned our way onto the pickup teams. We were not allowed to play by misguided adults. Even writing about it this morning, I feel a bit of the anguish that has morphed into disdain for the organization.
Still, I have not experienced the feeling of being unwanted that many women seem to find. I am not negating their experience, just explaining that I have never shared it. (Except for Little League.) However, I accept that I am an anomaly, and I recognize that those other women have valid points of view.
Currently, I am involved in three male-dominated activities: skiing, fishing, and the world of guns. The one thing they all have in common is that those who enjoy them are mostly men. A problem for all three is that the general population is mostly women.
I will grant that it is not unusual for a man and woman to go into a ski or gun or fishing establishment, and encounter a clerk who immediately focuses on the man and is dismissive of the woman. This can elicit either annoyance or amusement, depending on the way one wants to react. I’ll also admit to being insulted on occasion. But, more often, especially if I were the one initiating the excursion, both my husband and I find it entertaining.
No matter how intimidating it might feel to begin to delve into such an activity when you might be the only woman around, it soon becomes obvious that the men you meet are eager to assist. Ski, firearms and casting instructors and guides almost all admit they prefer to have female students and clients because women listen and pay attention and do not think they know everything.
Yesterday, the South Berwick Rod and Gun Association hosted our annual Introducing Women to the Shooting Sports. We have now introduced more than 300 women to the world of firearms.
When I began the program near the turn of the century, all my instructors were female. At the time I was the Maine Coordinator for Second Amendment Sisters. The primary focus of our group was “self-defense is a basic human right.” Four of my SASisters from Massachusetts made the 3-hour each way trip to teach at my first three events. Even at those early Introductions, our shotgun segment was taught by men from the club.
My modest little program of .22 caliber pistol instruction was severely altered by the men in my husband’s gun club on the night I asked them to host it to provide insurance coverage. When I explained what we would be doing, they immediately and enthusiastically agreed. However, they persisted in suggesting additions. “We have little shotguns we use to teach the Boy Scout troop we sponsor. They would be great for the women to try!” ” You don’t want to limit it to handguns. You should have rifles, also.”
Thus, a completely new program was devised. The one glitch we had was the original title, Introduction to Shooting for Women. You know you have made a mistake when you snicker either mentally or out loud whenever you say something. After a couple of years of making asides that, ‘no, we are not shooting women’, I changed the name.
My diligent, wonderful Four Horsemen no longer make the arduous trek to Maine. After their third trip, I found members of the club who agreed to share their expertise. Then, I became acquainted with Bob Mackowski, who was an NRA Instructor Counselor at the time and has a cadre of NRA qualified instructors who volunteer their time and guns to eagerly teach these new shooters. Men from SBRGA pitch in to act as Range Safety Officers, set up and clean up the clubhouse to accommodate the 3-hour Safety Program that begins the Introduction and the lunch following the next 3 hours on the ranges.
We had not finished this Introduction before we were planning a follow-up Women Only Basic Pistol class, as well as making improvements for next year’s Intro. If men are trying to keep us out, they have a funny way of going about it.