An honest conversation about women, guns, and the industry

There is a conversation in this industry that needs to happen that is getting ignored. In the past week both Peter Barrett and Caleb Giddings have touched on it in their own ways, but my main concern is why it’s being ignored.

It’s a known fact that women are one of the fastest growing markets within the shooting industry. More women are buying guns, getting their concealed carry permits, joining the shooting sports, getting their kids involved, hunting, or whatever else it is they have chosen to do with their firearm.

Shelley Rae nighthawk

In a conversation with Kathy Jackson at last year’s Women’s Industry Dinner, she described how much SHOT Show has changed as this new market emerges. We are seeing fewer booth babes and more professional women, and many of us would like to see that change continue.

We are experiencing an interesting, though unsurprising, trend within our community, in that a majority of the attention is still given to women who lack impressive credentials but are willing to wear a bikini while holding a gun.

The real problem is not in the existence of these women, nor in their marketing value. If that’s what they want to be known for, who I am to question that decision? However, the ladies in the industry who are legitimate professionals fear calling out the bogus credentials that some of these women flaunt, because we’ll get called jealous, or catty, or any other numerous and less polite names that the Internet invents.

So how, as professional writers, bloggers, shooters, or promoters, do we differentiate ourselves from these women if our objective and legitimate criticisms are overrun with the misogynistic cries of “You’re just jealous!”? I am not concerned about who people choose to like for wearing a bikini and holding a gun. However, if you’re going to call someone a professional shooter, professional trainer, or professional writer you had best know what is backing that up. The dismissal of legitimate concerns and criticisms raised by female professionals simply because both the criticized and criticizing parties are women is not only sexist, but is stifling conversation that could help promote women who are not only attractive but also legitimate experts while minimizing meaningless credentials.

Shelley Rae
Managing Editor
GunUp the Magazine

36 thoughts on “An honest conversation about women, guns, and the industry”

  1. Exactly. Is it enough for those women who are professional and proven to continue to do what they do, in the hopes that someday there won’t be pressure for any woman in the industry to don a bikini and duckface for the camera? Or is that ridiculously optimistic of me?

    1. There will always be that pressure, after all, sex sells and has for a long time. The difference is whether or not we can ever be honest about it, whether or not people will ever be able to admit “I’m looking at this girl because she is pretty and she has a gun” rather than constantly insisting that women who have no credentials are “professional whatevers” to excuse it and then beating down anyone who says, “Uh, guys? She hasn’t done anything but look pretty?”
      The marketing practice itself isn’t the issue, the dishonesty about it is.

  2. Maybe instead of calling out the people with questionable credentials, call out the organizations that hire them? That way you sidestep the cattiness issue while discouraging the practice of bikinigunners.

  3. I think there is always going to be a certain amount of this in the industry no matter what. In other professions some amount of this exists. Men notice women are women before anything other feature and there will be some form of initial unreasoned pull towards gender based explanation of phenomena. It is what it is.

    Other than that, my initial inclination is to say to be as professional as you can, build networks with male professionals who can vouch for you (just as they already do with each other) and be prepared to be part of the same silly ego games that you already see between people in the training industry.

    Either way I hope you find a satisfactory solution for your issue.

    1. By the way, my first paragraph was not to in any way imply that this is acceptable or should just be accepted as the way it is. Just an observation that some level of it exists in every gender integrated profession.

  4. I would think that in this day and age, there are enough legitimate women shooter, trainers, and journalists that do not feel the need to disrobe to make a Glock more attractive, that the cattiness can leave the conversation. Can someone really say Emily Miller, Julie Galoob, or yourself, are jealous of the attention these folks get???

    Keep stepping up, speaking up, and questioning these things. At some point, the folks that do not want to address the topic and throw stones will fade into the background noise they create.

    1. ok, fine, but please don’t discourage women from disrobing for stuff!! LOL.
      I’m really just teasing…it sounded odd to me, so I commented above.
      Actually, a strong woman who can use her firearm as well or better than I is a great thing for me to see at the range. I’d appreciate it greatly if someone would get my wife into the shooting sports, cuz I sure as heck can’t!!

      Best of luck to you PROFESSIONAL lady types in the industry. I hope the bikini stigma goes away from this industry, but I in no way support a lack of bikinis in general ROFLMAO!

      Anyway, blessings and peace and everything good be unto you all!
      ~S~

  5. I maintain a policy on ASP that I don’t post the nekkid chicks with gunz meme. If a person can qualify with a given firearm then they can pose with it in whatever garb they choose and that’s great. Otherwise I am not interested. Thanks for this post!

  6. How about don’t buy their products? I like to see pretty girls in bikinis and I don’t know why that would dissuade me from buying something.

  7. Bah. I’ll take photos of Julie Golob & Randi Rogers in full Promo-Gear shooting at steel any day.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love the female form and have no issues with skimpy / nude photos, but when I see those, I’m focusing on the woman and not… whatever it is she’s hawking.

    If some companies find it increases their sales, so be it. Unless it’s an egregious thing, I will neither boycott nor support them for their choices. I don’t care for it, but not enough to get up in arms over it (pun completely intended)

  8. This same problem happened int the cable TV industry. It took some time, but you don’t see “booth babes” in the Cable TV industry shows anymore. Basically, the Women in Cable groups gained enough mass to really influence the industry, so sexism has fallen and channels like Hallmark and Oxygen have flourished. Even this past year the number firearm based companies owned by women has skyrocketed, so you are on the right track. Unfortunately, it will still take some time.

  9. I’m trying to think of examples of bikini models being presented as “professionals” or experts in any genre as opposed to booth babes or marketing fluff? Where is this actually happening? (Aside from the aforementioned ad, which is notable seemingly due to its anachronism)

    Admittedly I don’t read gun magazines other than the Rifleman anymore, haven’t slung guns across the glass for almost two decades, live too far away to recreationally go to big industry trade-shows, and don’t really watch much shooting tv other than the “Bane bloc” on the Outdoor Channel. I visit (basically) “Uncle’s blogroll plus some other blogs” regularly and subscribe to a few women’s youtube channels to keep informed so I can recommend stuff to female friends, but none of those ladies use sex to sell anything at all.

    The only examples of -meaningful- companies (as opposed to flash in the pan tactical gear start-ups) I can think of that feature unnecessary “teh thexy” off the top of my head are EAA, which has gotten a little better, and Dillon’s Blue Press, which is hardly mass-market.

    1. Seriously? She has done nothing in the industry EXCEPT be a bikini model. She is improving now, but who wouldn’t improve with the backing of a major firearms manufacturer?

  10. There is a bigger issue, and one that most female professonal shooters and writers ignore. Women will not achieve the position that Shelley is discussing until every single professional female shooter or writer refuses to be photographed with a weapon in a sexy pose. You have to have one or the other, because every time a real shooter poses in that manner, it completely obliterates any good done in these kinds of discussions.

    Women are THE emerging market, but I have yet to see a beefcake model holding a gun in an advertisement. You aren’t going to get professional male shooters to pose in a sexy, provocative ad, (and most of them would look terrible doing it!)

    You cannot have professional women shooters posing in a way that is anything but professional or you undermine the argument.

    Men like to look at beautiful women. Heck, men like to look at women period! But if you put a good looking pro shooter in ANYTHING but a professional pose, you lose.

    Professional women have to stop accepting that other women will always dress (or undress) for a paycheck, and start demanding that they be treated like the professionals they are.

    But you cannot allow provocative pictures of butts with holsters, or good looking professional women in tight T’s holding guns, etc. and make progress.

    If you want this to change, its got to start with the people it most affects!

  11. This is why I’m a big supporter of Michelle Viscusi. She got her spot on Team Glock because she is an Army vet, she was on Top Shot, (which is the same way Caleb earned his notoriety), and she has worked hard to market herself. She doesn’t have many match wins, but at least she was a high level gymnast at one point, so she knows what it takes to be competitive at something. I don’t think Glock could have picked a more deserving person, to be honest.

  12. This phenomenon works both ways!
    Unfortunately, the overt use of sex-in-advertising that has plagued the male dominated firearms community for many years has had an unforeseen consequence: I often feel like many of the women who are new to the world of guns are just paying attention to me because of my good looks… How can I get them to look deeper and see the value of my content and contributions to the community and not just think of me as a piece of meat??

    1. You need a wig Rob, a real Trump special to distract from the rest of the package. Your extreme virility is otherwise too obvious for the ladies to ignore.

      🙂

  13. While the human body can be a pleasant site, it is ultimately irrelevant when it comes to shooting. That being said, since we women are the fast growing market, And since I believe in gender equality, let’s see some well – oiled muscular men in kilt and shirtless “booth boys” with 6 – pack abs parade around. Because that just reeks of quality and skill.

  14. I find sex sells sex. In ads using the “sexy” female to sell a product, the viewer could not recall the product, but could recall the woman. I enjoy reading Julie Golob’s posts, Annette Wachter, Janna Reeves, Leanna Dierdorf, I hope I remembered that right), and the rest. They could all teach me something. I also notice that if I take a female friend to a gunshop, not many have a clue as to what is a good fit and launch into the fanboy spiel, and wonder why a girl wants a gun. That is something else that needs to be corrected. Just my opinion.

  15. I have noted that many of these gals aren’t making it as a “regular” model, so they try to branch out and be different.

    Really annoying actually to see a gal in a bikini and heels who obviously has little or no idea how to run or even hold a gun correctly.

  16. The pervasiveness of so-called ‘booth babes’ is in decline according to this article and the proliferation of women and guns continues unabated. Any company or business that wishes to grow needs to reach out to as many different groups as possible; While the scantily clad female feverishly clutching some colossal piece of hardware has delivered more than one drooling man to part with his cash, the fact is that for every man that can be manipulated by such images, many more women are repulsed.

    And it’s the women that are growing the market.

    It is true that sex sells; but scandal sells better. Put out a controversial picture and text and it will generate more attention than a genuine professional shooter covered in sweat and dust powering their way through a National or International competition.

    I think that as women become more aware of the shooting sports and concealed carry, their knowledge of what is and is not a professional competitor/shooter will grow and the impact of these stereotypes will decline.

    But criticize those false images and they will only become more prevalent, because ‘scandal’ sells.

  17. While there is quite a bit of crass advertising – “sex” might sell to men, but “pretty” does sell to women as well – at least in other industries.

    Professional is great, etc but a successful lady ambassador for shooting will also have to posses the feminity society desires for her age.

    (Happy pretty teenage girls with the slightly silly guns, well- dressed, slightly maternal ladies for the middle-aged, etc.)

    Some other aspects of engaging women in shooting would be changing the aesthetic of the weapons – not a bad thing, guns seem to be intentionally ugly these days, whereas pre-WWII designs tended to be quite graceful;
    And, reviewing training methods, probably based off sport psychology, to train around the differences in how to best teach physical skills to women v men , stress responses , etc.

  18. Darn, Shelley,

    I was excited as I thought you were going to discuss the answers and not just the question. I agree with your contention, but so many thoughts:

    -men and women are different. Remember the Overstock.com commercials with the sexy themed sale’s pitch to, I’m assuming, women? How does that make any sense? Does that style marketing work? Martin Archery seemed to have successfully defended the practice with Laura Francese.
    -booth babes. Ugh, detestable. I was heavily involved in archery/bowhunting including the ATA show. I hated that crap.
    -when working a bow manufacturer’s booth I encountered two young women with their own bowhunting show that couldn’t load an arrow into a bow and another with impressive “kill” photos who needed help drawing a hunting weight bow.
    -we MUST increase female participation, but what is the magic? I routinely ask women in archery and action pistol. The answer still remains a mystery to me.
    -in bow hunting/archery, review the resume of Judy Kovar and Laura Francese and see which one is qualified and which one is hired.
    -hell, I think research even shows attractive people are more likely to be advanced in career in general. Who will get promoted; short, skinny, pale, bald dustyvarmint or tall, blond, muscular Max Wins?

    This is a big puzzle with many pieces and I absolutely like to hear from the likes of you on the discussion.

    Happy shooting,

  19. It is a shame that so much attention is still drawn to women holding and posing guns wearing bikinis and similar outfits.

  20. I find no real need to advertise firearms or related components with any kind of sexiness. It is a real stretch: We are looking at a deadly instrument that has life saving potential; a tool used for competition; a tool for hunting; a tool for survival; and an object worthy of collecting for various reasons. I find no use for sex in advertising firearms. If I am looking for marketing to help me buy a product, tell me that some GM level shooter uses it…not some stupid bimbo in heels.

    I really hope the crass use of sex to sell firearms and components dies a quick death. My wife is a gun-nerd and can’t stand seeing the sexed up advertisements. We both want to know: what can this pistol, rifle, shotgun do that others can’t? Having scantily clad women does NOTHING to sell her on a product. If women are an emerging force in firearms consumption, companies are shooting themselves in the foot here. Big time. Pun intended.

    This article and subject are long overdue for some discussion. Thanks for showing some leadership here.

  21. My concern with the sexy guns ‘n girls image is how it can affect the enthusiasm of a new female shooter. When she sees real, every day women shooting, training, getting ccw – she thinks, “that’s attainable, that’s worthy, that’s useful”. When she is treated with respect (neither talked down to, nor glorified) and she begins to shoot – she may think “I can do this. I want to grow in this.” When she sees the tide turning and the need out there, she may think “I want to help other women discover this and grow with me. It’s worth putting myself out there.” And then she’s inundated with gun porn (some distributed by reputable gun, and ammo manufacturers) and booth babes and even some of the female shooters that she follows doing calenders and posters. Sometimes these female shooters they look up to, have good photos of them seriously shooting or just smiling with someone they met at a gun show – fully, properly dressed and devoid of come hither eyes or lips AND STILL they get the internet equal of cat calls, horn honks and street whistles. And she just wants to HIDE or hit something!… It isn’t the end of the world. And the tide will keep coming. And things will eventually change. And if she’s worth her salt, she’ll suck it up and keep going…
    Still, if you are a man in the gun community who respects and encourages female shooters (pro and newbie alike) please know how AWESOME and NEEDED you are to this movement. You may be that breath she needs to keep going. Thank you. I respect you. If you are a female shooter who struggles with this stigma (either because you are or aren’t a “gun babe”), please know how AWESOME and NEEDED you are to those of us who are following you. Thank you. I respect you. If you are a newbie female shooter, you are already awesome too. Seek the respect. It’s out there. Safe places (like Active Self Protection on FB where you can get info and encouragement without the typical BS). Conduct yourself with grace and honor – you’re needed too.

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