More on Women and Guns

I’m surprised by a lot of comments on Bitter’s post about advertising we noticed advertising guns as “man toys.” A lot of people seem to believe we’re trying to join the Political Correctness gestapo, or something like that. There’s a world of difference between railing against any gender-specific advertising, and suggesting that maybe we ought to re-think some forms of gender specific advertising that damage the cause. We were engaging in the latter.

I’m convinced that one of our biggest factors that is helping us win both culturally and politically is because we’ve managed to narrow the gender gap on guns ever so slightly, but it is still too large. Here are some facts to consider when deciding whether classifying guns as “man toys” is beneficial or detrimental to the cause of gun rights:

So given that, is it really a good idea for people in the gun business to engage in advertising that alienates women along a heavily traveled highway? I think the answer is an emphatic “no.” I’m surprised there are so many people who disagree.

39 thoughts on “More on Women and Guns”

  1. Sometimes it seems most of what I have to offer is fifty-year flashbacks about things, but:

    This subject reminded me that back in the early 1960s I used to go deer hunting in a very “Appalachian” region of Pennsylvania, and stay with an old couple who had been born during the Civil War — they were both around 100 years old. Their grandchildren and g-grandchildren used to come over to help serve “the hunters up from the Big City,” in their falling-down house which had no electricity nor running water. Culture had not changed there much in a century.

    Anyway, I remember some banter with one of the younger women about whether she’d like to come out hunting with us. She and the other women put on a big show about how offended they were, since “hunting was men’s stuff.” All the natives made a big point about men and women having different roles, and that never should the twain meet.

    I’m thinking advertizing in an area like that may be very deliberately focused, culturally, and it might be a semi-serious cultural taboo to suggest women would even want to cross over into men’s territory. There is a lot of logic to appealing to women, of course, but I’m thinking that if you’re dealing with cultural gender identification in an area where it is very strong, it could be very bad for business. What you’d be dealing with would be a subset of the greater “culture wars” that otherwise work to our benefit, in areas like those.

    1. I’m thinking advertizing in an area like that…

      Advertising in an area like where? The ’60s? You’re right; if we run any ads in ’60s Appalachia, we should be aware of that.

      Someone who started her retail firearms career in the mountains of North Georgia in 1993. There weren’t any banjos. Promise. We even had indoor plumbing.

  2. It is unfortunate that anyone thinks that hunting not only is, or even ever was, “men’s stuff.” One of the great surprises from research in did for my books Concealed Weapon Laws of the Early Republic and Armed America was that hunting was not seen as “men’s stuff” on the American frontier. Many women hunted, engaged in target shooting, and there was nothing unladylike about it.

    1. In my admittedly limited understanding of history, gender roles in this country changed dramatically in the… 1890s on?
      That was around the time when “social reformers” started insisting that “a woman’s role is in the household (kitchen)”, and started getting laws passed to keep them there.

      1. Actually, a bit earlier than that. The notion of well-defined and separate spheres for women and men starts to develop in the 1830s and 1840s as more of the population ends up working in towns and cities. Men’s roles increasingly involve factory or office jobs, not farming and hunting; women’s roles, which had always been primarily domestic, but included sometimes heavy work on the farm, became increasingly defined by domesticity.

        Of course, some women did not have this option. Some needed to work outside the home because husbands did not bring in enough money, or the husband was dead or had run off.

  3. Would it be equally bad to attach onto these “Men’s Toys” adverts an 11×8 picture of a “Hello Kitty” AR-15? Or send such a picture to those legislatures who think making it a law that “real-looking” toy guns [i.e. non-gunpowder: BB and air/CO2 guns are not exactly toys] have orange tips so police can recognize them as not “real” firearms?

    1. Do you think that women who are in the market for a firearm want one with a Hello Kitty sticker on it?

  4. Your final paragraph begs the question. You currently have a sample set of one woman, not local (the target market even for interstate billboards, and the only meaningful market in terms of handguns) who finds the ads alienating.

    1. Well, I can’t exactly afford to engage a polling firm be scientific about it, but I would point out that a lot of non-locals pass along I-40. But think about it… if a car was marketed as a girl mobile, would you want to buy it? Maybe you would, but I suspect if cars were advertised only to women and branded for women, that would end up being a self-fulfilling prophecy.

      1. It’s a gun store. What firearms are passing travelers likely to stop and impulse buy while driving through Tennessee on the interstate? They can’t buy handguns (effectively enough to make it any sort of real customer base) and while I have been known to go to gunstores in cities I’ve visited I’ve never pulled off the interstate to visit one that had the money to advertise much. Advertising budget means big enough to not have the odd fantastic deal.

        And again, I completely dispute that “men’s TOYS” in any contextual colloquial read implies any exclusion of women.

        There’s an ATV place up here called 907BigBoyzToyz, I’ve never heard anyone suggest their name has kept women from buying from them.

        1. I’m not arguing that the problem is that this one specific store is losing potential customers. I don’t really care too much about whether one store in Tennessee does well or not. What I’m saying is that it’s sending the wrong message to women generally, that guns are a man’s interest rather than a woman’s interest.

          1. I think you are reading that message into the sign and the name and many, if not most, women would not.

            I almost think it pushes into patronizing or reverse sexism in fact, that a billboard playing on a colloquialism could have the larger effect of making an interested woman feel that, nope, guns are a “man thing,” I should stay away from them.

            1. Not really. Men are just as susceptible to being marketed to as women. Advertising and marketing doesn’t work on a rational level. It’s all about getting people to associate the brand with something your potential customers associate with positive qualities.

              1. Sure, but -this- store’s billboards realistically can then only negatively effect women who: a) see them and read them as exclusionary (not a given by any means), b) happen to be on I-40 (limited audience), c) are unaware of other non-exclusionary billboards or old-style advertising in the same or other areas (unlikely), and d) are somehow the “new generation” of shooters and yet are somehow interested in shooting to the degree to be effected by a passing billboard but are simultaneously unable or unwilling to find the multiple explicitly -inclusive- YouTube channels, blogs, web pages, books on Amazon and B&N, etc that people 40 and under actually use for real information gathering.

                If it is just a “local problem” it is so equivocal as to hardly be worth mentioning, if it is expanded to the “bigger picture” it is so minor and limited as to be unnoticeable in real potential effect.

                Unless we are going with “if it dissuades one potential shooter” as overriding the market decisions of individual stores in importance.

      2. The original re-release of the new VW Beetle wasn’t advertised/marketed as a “chick car”, but that’s exactly what it was.

        Advertising/marketing != reality.

  5. I think women are the biggest group we NEED to target. They are a key swing demographic, and we need to get them involved.

  6. I think it is stupid to ignore the woman segment. That being said, I have serious doubt that a gun shop that only serviced women would survive by itself. I could be a Neanderthal but that’s what I think.

    1. That being said, I have serious doubt that a gun shop that only serviced women would survive by itself.

      Probably not, because it is a male dominated hobby. That’s just reality. I’m saying that the movement needs to be welcoming to women rather than alienating. I don’t even really have a problem with gender specific advertising, provided the venue is correct. If a male gun ad appeared in some publication that was read by 90% males, that’s a very different thing than a highway billboard.

  7. One store billboard on an interstate hardly qualifies as “the movement“.
    “The Movement” from manufacturers to salesmen to shooting ranges has been very welcoming to women in what I’ve observed.
    I have driven cross country more times than I care to count.
    Not once has a highway sign changed my view on anything except where I might get some fuel, food or sleep.

    Just curious, did you notice this gender offense on your own or was it pointed out to you?

      1. That two individuals in a relationship agreed on something is hardly surprising. I’ve never been accused of being a feminist, but I don’t think females as a whole are as sensitive and fragile as Bitter seemed to imply with her claim that these ads represented hostility towards women.

        It seems that we can have women-only classes and events, but when one store puts out a few obnoxious signs it is somehow sending the wrong message for “the movement?”

    1. I’d also note that if billboard advertising wasn’t capable of influencing people’s perceptions, there’d be no market for it.

      1. We have different views on what ‘influenced perceptions’ means. You appear to give it long lasting qualities beyond the next highway exit. It has ‘life’.
        To me, it means “I can buy this here if I want to.”
        Past the next exit it is completely meaningless to me.

        Not saying either is right or wrong, just different.

  8. As soon as I read Bitters’ post, I said to myself “I’m not touching that with a ten foot pole”.

    It would seem that my discretion was well founded.

    I have never had an issue with anything that Sebastion or Bitter has ever posted. In fact, I consider it one of the “good” boards. BUT, I did see how that particular post could invite rankle, and frankly I had nothing constructive to contribute.

    Long live the 1st as well as the 2nd!

  9. I would also point out that (I believe) at least one if not both female Supreme Court Justices are Lesbian. Which probably makes them more Male in their opinions than Female, but that’s pure speculation……

    1. I don’t think you understand how sexual orientation works.

      I also don’t think there’s any such thing as a “male” or “female” opinion. Men and women can both like guns. That’s what this post was all about.

      And finally, if you think that homosexuals and other gender/sexual minorities can’t like guns, the Pink Pistols would like to have a brief word with you.

  10. All but 2 women in my wife’s office carry and when I went to get my carry permit the others in line with me were mostly women. While there are more men at my club shooting the number of women members is growing. One of my local gun shops recently hired a young women who knows a bunch more about all things guns than most guys I have met at other gun shops.

  11. I don’t think a single billboard on an interstate is going to destroy the movement. But I think it’s important to point out when the gun culture is portrayed in a way that’s unwelcoming to women. If we erased the gender gap on this issue, gun control would be deader than temperance.

    Advertising matters. It interacts with that lizard part of our brains that doesn’t make decisions on a rational level. That’s why I think it’s very important to avoid messages that send the wrong message. That this is a boy’s club is one of those messages.

    1. Realistically Sebastian it’s probably always going to be something of a “boy’s club.”. I don’t disagree that all genders, races, and ages need to be more involved in the political debate, but I think what you might be missing is that the gun shop in question is just trying to make a buck. Who will they do that with? The woman who owns one or two pistols for defense, or the man who has five different ARs with every gadget ever made attached? You can argue whether this is due to inherent gender differences or societal upbringing, but women (aside from a few examples) are probably not going to be spending thousands and thousands of dollars on guns, ammo, tac gear, and reloading supplies.

      I would certainly agree with you if this was an NRA billboard, but it seems like it’s just a mom and pop catering to their target demographic in the manner they see fit.

      1. I don’t deny it’s likely to remain a male-dominated hobby, but we shouldn’t market it as such or we are doing ourselves no favors.

        Our community will knife any gun maker in the back if it tries to “make a buck” at the expense of the community as a whole. A gun shop that endorsed a ban on private sales to make a buck would be torn apart as if by a pack of wild dogs.

        But if they endorse the idea that it’s a boy’s club, this suggesting more than half the voting population be excluded, that’s just fine? That’s my problem. There’s a difference between accepting the reality that males are likely to be more attracted to martial arts and weapon hobbies than women, and actively working to ensure that remains the case. I agree it’s reality, but that reality does us no favors.

    2. Feeling “alienated” and wanting to be “acknowledge”d because you aren’t a target demographic is victim-status seeking. Being ignored is not the same as being insulted.

      It is no good to the RKBA movement is it becomes like high school football and wrestling and basketball: first the boy’s teams have to allow girls, but no girls want to join, so the county can’t have football or wrestling any more.

      1. It’s not a matter of wanting to be acknowledged. I’m not saying gun shops have to market to women. But it would be nice if during their marketing to men, they didn’t use language that by its nature is exclusive of women.

  12. “Our community will knife any gun maker in the back if it tries to “make a buck” at the expense of the community as a whole.”

    Too bad that isn’t true when you substitute “political party” or “ideology” for “gun maker.”

    1. We do our best, but unlike gun makers, the political parties have us outnumbered.

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