I danced because that it was girls did. Tupperware containers full of Barbies dominated my side of our basement, each clad in pink; their unnatural forms yearning to abolish any sense of self-esteem I may have had at the time. I went to girl scouts and learned how to make s'mores. We sold cookies but did not much else. My younger life was dictated by the confines of society which informed my impressionable young self that doing anything aberrant would automatically ostracize me from my peers. I wanted to fit and be "normal", so for a while I went along with what I was supposed to do. I mastered 1st position, did pirouettes, and memorized whole dances. (And to my complete discredit, I did not do it well. I have absolutely no rhythm. Every fiber of my body will do exactly the opposite of what I tell it to do when given the task of stringing a couple of steps together.) I like it enough, at least I vaguely remember sort of liking it and getting mad when my dad fell asleep during my end-of-year recitals. But after a couple of years, dancing's allure started to fade. This general absconding of feelings coincided with the year that my brother started playing hockey.
Once I saw my brother glide over the ice and strap on his behemoth goalie pads, I was hooked; immediately, as in right now, I wanted to play. I started skating lessons while I was still dancing. With school, hockey, dance, and the ever important 7th grade societal engagements, my schedule got a little hectic. So my parents gave me a choice; either play hockey or dance.
I remembered sitting back and enjoying the epic battle the two waged in my head. Dancing did its steps in front of a packed house as hockey skated shark circles around it, waiting for the perfect time to pounce. The latter eventually pummeled the first to the ground, stabbing its little dancing shoes multiple times with the blade of a skate. It took my innocent little mind about a day or so to realize that hitting people was a lot more fun than dancing next to them. So I told my parents that hockey was what my anti-conventionalist person wanted to do.
In the years that followed, I had to face a lot of scorn for my choice. I was picked on and lost friends over my decision. Girls in my school did not play hockey. They were cheerleaders and soccer players; perfect skinny things who smiled all the time and not truculent in the least. I was the lone "weird" one who was largely ignored by the mainstream of the school, except of course those who loved me for the person I was. Bet even those friends refused to take part in my sport; only one such friend came to one game, only to leave mid-way through; complaining of the cold. Even though my legs and backside grew to obscenely muscular proportions (J-LO has nothing on what I had going on back then), I have never been happier with any other choice, except of course when I started hunting.
Staring hunting ran the same course that hockey did. I received (and still get) the same disbelief when telling people what I do as when I walked into a rink; my hefty equipment bag following in my wake. Months ago, Mike and I were visiting a friend's camp site in Little Valley, NY. On the way, we noticed an amazing archery shop. Given that I had my bow with me, I wanted to try out their range for a spell. The amazing staff notified me that a birthday party was scheduled at that time but we could shoot until the festivities started.
The 3D range was pretty standard, save a couple of interesting targets (read: fish, owls, moose, and a gigantic black bear). I threw my arrows in the holders and began shooting. After about twenty minutes, a gaggle of pre-adolescent boys trooped in. Oblivious for the need of concentration in such a sport, they raged war with the room until their parents put the fear of god into them. Annoyed as I was, I continued shooting. Just a second pior to letting an arrow go, I heard one of the boys telling his companion, "Girls don't shoot bow.. do they?"
Overhearing the comment, one of the mothers told everyone, very loudly might I add, to be quiet and watch how a "professional" shoots. Obviously, I'm far from a professional but correcting her would incite the brood into louder activities, so I went along with the title. After minutes of shooting, the boys started calling out targets to hit. After each connection, cheers erupted and I knew that each of them finally concluded that yes, girls do shoot bow.
I've had to work against this type of stereotype my entire life which does not seem to be ending anytime soon. I figured that with the influx of women hunters, most hunting companies would take notice and begin to create hunter friendly garb. Unfortunately, just as with the boys who do not believe that girls shoot, companies suffer temporary amnesia concerning women and their need for functional, tough hunting clothing.* Because, after all, we don't hunt.
Shopping for hunting apparel is one of the most frustrating activities that I've come in contact with since my passion for hunting started. I generally try not to stand on my soapbox but this issue has become more and more apparent, especially with the oncoming turkey season. I will be embarking on my first turkey hunt and while I'm excited, I'm a little disheartened, as there is no turkey hunting apparel that fits me. Overall, I do not understand what runs through outdoor apparel creators when making things for huntresses. The legs are long or the waist is tiny, the fabrics are paper-thin and the models they use clearly have never seen the inside of a deer carcass. Luckily, a lot of what I need I can find in the kid's section. A lot of the clothing I wear comes from the children section, not only because it fits but also because there is one main thing that does not appear on any article sold.; the color pink. As we have seen, I was brought up with Barbies, dancing, and girl scouts. The baby book my mom has lovingly held within a bookcase back home is filled with pink; pink cigar wrappers, cards, feet prints, etc. For some reason that is completely beyond me, each article I have procured from a female hunting section has pink somewhere on it.
Now, if you follow this blog with some essence of religiousness, then you may be asking (and you are correct in doing so), "Don't you have a pink gun?" or "Haven't I seen you with some sort of pink camo on?". And to both of those questions, I can confidently answer, yes. The gun is a sabot slug gun, a present from Mike that is a fun gun to have, completely unpractical but enjoyable nonetheless. As for the clothes, of course I have to wear some pink camo. This is simply because if I refused to, I would not have any camo to wear. My favorite jacket has pink stitching (and had a LOT of pink ties which were all removed). But if I could find one comparable, rest assured, I would choose the non-pink one.
Shirts line walls of hunting stores, the women section, a pink nightmare illustrating platitudes like "I shoot like a girl" or "My boyfriend shoots better than your boyfriend". T-shirts like that are enough to force me into a idiot-induced coma but worse yet are selections for duck/goose/turkey hunting. Children's waders, and extra-small men's wear are the only options for this huntress. Each have their downfall, as children waders do not have a ton of thinsulate and the men's jackets do not fit properly, but it is my only option so I deal with it. I hope that this changes in the future, not only for my sanity but for future huntresses.*
So to aide in this movement, I have something to say to all the companies out there who believe that pink is necessary for all huntress apparel, made of flimsy material that can only be used for half a deer season, I say this:
I am not a Barbie. I am a hunter. I kill animals in order to eat them. I shoot a bow more than half my size that pulls back close to 50 pounds. My gun kicks harder than those of my ultra-masculine peers. I hunt deer, duck, goose, and turkey. And despite popular belief, I need real apparel to harvest them.
Hunting companies go on about kids being the future of hunting. But then can the CEOs answer this, if children are the future of this ancient passion, then how will they get a start if their mothers can't outfit themselves properly to hand down the tradition?
* A perfect example- Just a brotherhood?
**I know some of my sisters of the bow and duck gun have been working towards such a movement and they're awesome for it. Y'all know who I'm talking to..
***Note: I'm not a feminist. On the contrary, I think DU should pay for dinners and hold open my door. But this level of annoyance turns me into a huntress' rights activist.