In the last few days, I’ve spent time in a couple of different firearm stores, a gun show, and at my local range, and at each locale, I have been overwhelmed with the negative attitudes I have received from male shooters.
One group of these males are the “Ladies’ Men.” These are the kinds of guys who try to use their gear and their “expertise” as a manner of impressing whatever women may be at the range. For these guys, going to the range is like picking up chicks at the bar. It’s a way for them to assert their masculinity in order to attract a female who has some interest in guns. But, I’m not at the range to find my future boyfriend. I have no interest in hearing how “manly” some guy is because he owns firearms. I’m there to shoot.
Another group of guys who are disrespectful to female range goers are the “Protectors.” These are the kinds of guys who express condescension in their interactions with female shooters. Their “advice” and “direction” comes out of a sort of concern for the “weaker sex.” The Protectors are the guys who tell women to shoot .22LR, for example. Their reasoning is that a female can’t handle a larger caliber and may either lose control of the firearm or break their wrist trying to manage recoil. Another example is that women ought to only shoot revolvers because they lack the strength to properly rack a slide or the intellect to operate a magazine. They automatically assume that females don’t have the same capacity to handle firearms as males. To them, they are helping to save women from themselves, but the condescension with which they go into an interaction immediately starts it off on the wrong foot. And the advice that stems from the mindset that females have less capacity to handle firearms than males may very well not serve to “help,” but instead hinder a woman from learning how to handle guns to her best ability.
Men may not realize this next phenomenon because they might be participants, but women notice the “Gawkers.” Sometimes, it’s the women who are wearing inappropriate range clothing (the shorter skirts or lower cut tops, for example) who attract them. And when a woman is dressed in such a fashion, I can understand how it can be distracting. However, sometimes I’ll just be wearing jeans, a tee shirt, and a ball cap and I’ll notice people congregating around me to watch. Sometimes, they’ll even leave their firing lanes to look over at what I’m doing. It definitely makes me feel awkward to have people watch me like that, but I can only imagine how much more uncomfortable that must feel for shooters who are even newer than I am. I don’t mind interacting with people at the range, in fact, I enjoy it, but these “gawkers” just stand around and quietly stare. It’s unsettling.
The last group is the worst, though. They are the “Salespeople.” They may not be an actual sales person. They may be a brand loyalist, or just someone who wants to sell you on whatever model of firearm they shoot. Or, if they are behind the counter, they’re trying to push a specific product because they have an agenda. And, generally, they’re condescending. My favorites within this bunch are the “Fashion consultants.” They’re the salespeople who want to sell me a gun because it’s pink, or it has pink grips, or it comes with matching accessories, as though I’m picking out a firearm in lieu of a Barbie doll. Problem is, I don’t care. I’m coming to the range to shoot. And if I’m looking to buy a gun, chances are, I’ve already done ten to twelve hours-worth of research before looking to make any purchase. That’s just my personality type. I prefer to go into an interaction with a solid knowledge base so that I can make an informed purchase. What kills me are the times when I’m shopping with my dad and the salesman will pitch something him to “get me interested in shooting.” The recommendation is often along the lines that he should pick me up some cute little pink .22, hinting that that is what would be most appropriate for me to shoot. What I like to shoot, and what I shoot best with is a 1911 in .45ACP. To have a male make those kinds of assumptions, without getting to know my level of ability or experience with shooting, is frustrating to me. I don’t think guys have to deal with that kind of mindset anywhere near as often as women. It’s a mentality that I encounter everywhere… at the range, on YouTube, at the gun store, and at the gun show I attended recently. It makes me feel as though women will never be considered equal to men at the range. Unless, maybe, we just dress the way I have at the end of this video…