I recently was asked by a friend if I knew of any good “women’s rifles.” I turned to him in disbelief and, according to him, shot him a look of death. Well, of COURSE I did—though I’m pretty sure it was a look of “death” mixed with laughter because it seemed so out of the blue—you didn’t just ask me that, did you?!! What the #$%* is a women’s rifle??? Pink? So I asked him, probably phrasing it just like that, and he said, “well, you know, shorter stock, maybe lightweight” and so I replied, “So, you’d like some recommendations for a lightweight rifle with a shorter stock, then.”
Well, my rifle is lightweight, but has whatever standard stock comes with it, which I would assume is usually the same across the board unless you specify different. “So you have a men’s rifle?” (Is he just doing this to totally mess with me at this point?) “No, um, it’s my rifle, therefore it’s woman’s rifle, technically.”
My rifle was a birthday present from my husband, so I don’t know how much it cost, but it wasn’t picked out by him. I read up on rifles (Gun & Ammo, thank you, Dad) and I saw an article about a rifle that basically hit the mark on what I was looking for—mainly an extremely lightweight rifle that still shot well for its weight and was available as a .308, which Scott and I had decided would probably be best for me considering the uses I wanted it for. I thought the rifle was way too out of my league, and Scott did some research, found the “step down” rifle wasn’t much different in weight, and decided to get it for me.
I don’t think I conveyed that part of it to my coworker well. He’s looking for a rifle for his girlfriend, and I should have said, “Well, what does she want?” since it seemed, from the way he talked, that he was going to pick out the gun for her. I hope I totally misinterpreted, because that doesn’t seem the best way to go, from my perspective. What sort of hunting does she do, what sort of guns has she used, what does she like shooting, what are her strengths and weaknesses? To me, anyone, male or female, should think through these things before they make a big purchase like a gun. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always happen.
Alaska can be a weird place when it comes to gender stuff. You’ll find a lot of women here that do anything and everything and can hold their own when it comes to roles that are more traditionally male. But there is also a strong culture of women staying home, taking care of the house and home, while the men go out and work, play, and adventure. It seems to me that the newer of generation of women are more likely to want to get out and “adventure” with the guys, but the second you show interest, you have countless men around telling you what to do, how to do it, where to go, etc. And therein lies some conflict. Because it’s great to get advice, and more often than not, there are a lot more guys with experience doing the “outdoorsy” stuff around here than women. You don’t want to knock advice just because of the gender of the person giving it to you. But on the other hand, as a woman you really have to flail around and just figure it out yourself. The way guys do stuff is not always the way women do it—or should do it. It seems to me that guys come up here, and are inexperienced, and just go out and muck around and eventually figure out ways that work best for them. Women don’t, as much, and probably for many reasons, too many to explore here. But women up here often ally themselves with a guy—a boyfriend, a guy who wants to be the boyfriend, the guy who just like showing others (especially cute single ladies) what hunting is about, the guy with a boat. That alliance is not always beneficial. The woman learns how that guys does it—but that may not be the right way for her. It is really hard finding your place in a guy’s world when it’s already filled up with a bunch of guys! I say this as a woman who loves hanging with guys, who is involved in (far too) many activities that are traditionally male-dominated, and has learned a lot from the awesome men around her.
Sometimes I just want some space, some peace and quiet, to figure things out on my own. I don’t need you to stand behind me in case I drop the tool. I don’t need you to tell me where to shoot. I don’t need five guys telling me five different ways to start a chainsaw when I’ve already tried all five and NONE OF THEM WORK FOR ME THANK YOU. In fact, I need you to back off, and not offer up any help when I haven’t asked for any. I’ll listen if you speak, because that is polite, and I want to be a good learner. So just DON’T SPEAK. And yes, after having these issues for years, I want to make some space for other women to muck about in without having to have a male voice telling her the right way to do it. It may become my new mission.
So the next time a guy asks me for gun advice for his girlfriend, now I know I should just say “Have her call me!” because that would have been a lot easier, and a lot more informative for her, than the painful conversation I had today.
Me, and a borrowed, genderless rifle, a few years ago.