What do women really want? Hint: It probably isn’t pink

PinkGunGearIF IT’S PINK, WOMEN WILL BUY IT

Being a woman in the firearms industry I am somewhat of an anomaly.  Not because I am a woman who owns a gun, (nearly half of gun owners are women now), but because I am a serious shooter and firearms instructor. As an instructor, I see plenty of pink range gear and guns. I am all for a woman rocking the pink gear if that is what she wants to do – but many of us don’t want to jump into the pink pool.

Recently, the topic of women’s shooting gear and guns has come up in several of my conversations. Men in the industry are often anxious to hear how they can more effectively market to women, so they take the opportunity to ask me.

GIVE HER WHAT SHE NEEDS (AND WANTS)

Last month the topic came up in a discussion I had with Travis Haley.  I shared my frustration with the current state of things and he offered another perspective – a legal liability.  While the conversation was a casual one and I do not have permission to quote Travis, he does raise some good questions.  Do pink guns appear too much like a child’s toy? Are we selling pink guns to women because they are pink and intended for a woman rather than selling her the right gun for her needs?

Today I had a conversation with a major Ammunition manufacturer about marketing to women.  He relayed a conversation he had with several prominent women in the industry last year at SHOT Show.  He asked them what they should change in their ammo’s branding to market to women.  Unanimously, these women said – “Don’t change anything!” This ammunition has a very masculine branding but the response from women was to leave it alone.  Why?  Because women want the same things men want in their gear. I will buy ammunition based on ballistics testing, intended usage and price point – not because there is a pink ribbon on the box.

SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY

Look at nearly any gun or sporting goods store and you are bound to find products that are “designed” for women. What sets them apart from the men’s products – mainly two features; size and color. The first difference, size, is completely valid.  On average women are smaller than men so this difference makes sense.  However, often my only option for a smaller size also means it only made in pink.  Apparently, the gun and shooting gear industry believes that women want all their gear to be Pepto-Bismol pink.  Did anyone do market research? Where there any actual women in Focus Groups before deciding to sprinkle sporting goods with a rosy shade?.

Women do want products that work for our needs.  If I buy cammo hunting gear, I want it to fit my female figure, but without neon pink pipping. Companies like 5.11 have done a great job in creating products for women without the Pepto highlights.  They changed what matters.  5.11’s new Women’s Stryke Pants are fantastic.  They are made of the same material as the men’s pants but have a better cut and fit for a women’s shape. They come in several colors – none of them are pink!

I am not sure why so many companies have jumped on the pink train but here’s my advice – Think Bigger!  I am fine with products made for and marketed to women – but for heaven’s sake, expand the palette. Give women a little more credit – we don’t buy only pink things.  In fact, many of us have developed “pink fatigue” and immediately recoil from it. If you want my business, step up your game.

Apparently I am not alone in my frustration.  For further reading, check out:

Is it Time to Put Away the Pink?

An Open Letter to Under Armour Regarding Pink on Camo

I taught you what? A lesson in parenting

 Whether you are a parent or not, you influence people every day. The question is - What are they learning from you?Have you ever wondered what your kids really hear when you tell them something? As a parent, we do everything we can to keep our kids safe.  Teach them to look both ways before crossing the street.  Fire is hot. Drugs are bad. But do we teach them to listen to their gut? To set healthy boundaries?  When to say No? Recently I learned my parental score in a few of these areas.

Scene 1

When my middle-school age daughter comes home she will often Skype with her friends and talk about their day.  Yesterday was no exception.  She was sitting at the kitchen counter chatting away with her friend, when I walked in.  Her friend was telling her that a boy in her class was asking her VERY inappropriate questions.  Graphic sexual questions.  “Would you ever…” questions.

I pretended not to hear what was being said and quickly retreated out of sight to observe how my daughter was going to handle the situation.  Yes, I continued to unapologetically eavesdrop. That’s part of my job as a parent.

As I listened silently, my daughter emphatically told her friend that she needed to block this boy online and avoid him in the halls.  If he approached her, she should confront him directly about how inappropriate his questions were.

Scene 2

Later that night, my daughter, husband and I were watching a TV show called Catfish.  It’s a show about online relationships where one person is often not who or what they appear and the host brings the two parties together to reveal the truth.  In this episode, a young man was essentially stalking a girl and being very obsessive. During the confrontation scene the young man was very socially awkward.  His mannerisms and body language made everyone on the show very uncomfortable. I closely watched my daughter’s reactions.  She winced and recoiled in places.  She was wide-eyed in others.

At the commercial break, my husband asked her what she thought of the whole interaction. Her response surprised me.

She recounted the young man’s behavior.

  • He didn’t read any clues about the girl’s refusal to meet him
  • He seemed clingy and didn’t read social cues
  • He would wring his hands and dart his eyes erratically
  • He was awkward and made everyone uncomfortable

After recounting all the reasons she was repulsed by this guy, she looked at me and said “You taught me how to see all that” with a “duh” tone that every teen girl has perfected.  I was taken aback. I don’t ever remember teaching her to look for those things specifically but she was certain that I had.

The conscience of children is formed by the influences that surround them; their notions of good and evil are the result of the moral atmosphere they breathe. – John Paul Richter

The Conclusion

As a mother of a daughter, I worry constantly about all the traps that young women fall into. Wanting attention, wanting to fit in, not speaking up for themselves, not setting healthy boundaries, etc. I have never sat down and said “here’s a list of behaviors to look for” but I have always tried to help her recognize how she feels in response to things. To be aware of her surroundings and things that didn’t look or feel right. Apparently she was paying attention.

Twice in one day, I saw my daughter respond in the way I had hoped.  She recognized inappropriate and uncomfortable behavior, then responded accordingly.  It’s moments like this, the trial runs, which help her to practice for the bigger events later in life. Refining these skills and testing her boundaries now will pay off later.  My hope is that these moments will help her recognize the erratic man who means her harm, the obsessive boyfriend or date that is too aggressive. I hope it gives her strength to ask for what she needs and walk away from things that aren’t healthy.

We can teach kids the obvious stuff but it’s the fuzzy stuff that’s harder.  Some of it is definable, some is more instinctual. Intentional instruction is more than a conversation. It’s not a list of do’s and don’ts.  It’s woven into everyday events.  It’s practicing a skill and building confidence. Teaching my daughter situational awareness or setting healthy boundaries is a series of conversations – every day.  It’s setting an example for her in my own behavior – sometimes, what NOT to do and admitting my failures.

Whether you are a parent or not, you influence people every day. The question is – What are they learning from you?

Nothing is so potent as the silent influence of a good example. – James Kent

Female Army Rangers – Is this really who we want to be?

army-logoThis week it was announced that for the first time in history, two women graduate from the Army Ranger program. That is no easy task so I have respect for anyone who graduates the program. But before we all get out our “girl power” shirts and sing “I am woman, hear me roar”, we need to a bit of a gut check. Do we really want women in combat roles? Is that who we want to be? Prepare to have some ruffled feather’s y’all.

When I was a young girl, my mother often told me I could be anything I wanted to be and I believed her. Being a “tom-boy” and being bit rebellious at heart, I often saw boundaries as a challenge. The more someone told me that a girl couldn’t do something, the more I enjoyed proving them wrong. It was a personal mission to be the girl who defied gender boundaries. I was the first girl to play on the middle school football team. First girl to join my high school wrestling team.

During my first wrestling match, something very interesting happened that has taken me years to fully understand. My first opponent was a young boy who looked scared out his mind. He pulled the referee aside and asked him if he could wrestle me like he does the boys. After all, wrestling is a very “hands-on” sport and you often grab each other in intimate areas, etc. He hesitantly joined me on the mat and when the match started, I completely dominated this poor boy. Not because I was a better wrestler, but because he had reservations about how he should interact with me. It clouded his judgment and ability to engage me like he would a male opponent. Then he had to navigate all the ridicule from his peers about being beat by a girl – oh the horror!

I still have a bit of that rebellious “tom-boy” (ok more than a bit) but I have come to appreciate the differences between men and women. I still work in a male-dominated industry, I participate in activities traditionally reserved for men, I shoot big guns and I drive a big bold truck. But there are limits.

This week’s newsfeeds were filled with praise for these women graduating but I think we are missing something very important.

Men and women are equal in value. Each is the unique creation and image-bearer of God. But that is not to say that we are created equally. The truth is that we are created differently – by design. In today’s world, Bruce can declare he is now Caitlyn but that doesn’t mean he’s a woman capable of bearing children. Rachel Dolezal can claim to be Black but that doesn’t change her DNA. Declaring that women can do anything a man can do, doesn’t’ make it a reality. Reality is composed of facts not perceptions.

Look the recent push for women to serve in combat roles – Female Ranger, SEALs, etc. In the pursuit of political correctness we have reduced the standards so women can be “equal” to men – it’s called Gender Norming (Let me google that for you). Women just can’t perform at the same physical levels as men and so we have changed the standard. What’s wrong with that?

They are called standards for a reason! Standards ensure that everyone has the same skills and abilities so that they can be called upon to perform at a certain level. Reducing the requirements so that women can graduate is a false achievement and endangers the rest of the unit. How many women can fireman-carry an injured 200lb man with a 70lb ruck and carry him to safety? None that I know of. This scenario is likely to occur and if she can’t perform at the same physical level as her fellow soldiers, she isn’t an asset – she is a liability!

Let’s assume that woman who is a genetic anomaly is able to pass the same physical rigors as the male candidates. Should she then be deployed with an otherwise all-male unit?

How are we going to handle issues of biology? No one wants to discuss it but it’s a reality that must be dealt with. Will she require special segregated housing because she is the only female? How are we going to handle the hygiene issues associated with menstruation while on a desert patrol? What about her significant strength and energy loss prior to menstruation each month? What if she becomes pregnant and must be taken off the line? That seems to have been a waste of resources invested in a soldier that is no longer useful.

Let’s assume we are ok with all the caveats associated with biology. What about our morality?

We used to be a country that protected our women as a precious resource. The bearers of life. The heart of a family and by extension, our communities. What does it say about us if we decide to send them into the line of fire? Are we prepared to stomach the realities of our women being captured by enemies like ISIS who show no mercy? Anyone remember PFC Jessica Lynch?  We were appalled at her capture but now we realize how fortunate she was to not have fallen prey to the enemy that roams that land today. Do we really want to be a nation that sacrifices our women on the altar of progress?

How do we ask the male members of the unit to interact with her? Does it change the dynamic of the unit? How do we deal with men’s inherent desire to protect women who are in danger? How do we minimize the risk of sexual assault or relations? Like the boy in the wrestling match, there are a lot of unanswered questions about how to navigate such an intimate interaction where lives are at stake.

Pretending there aren’t differences is not helping anyone. In fact it’s putting us all at risk. Our families, our soldiers, our national soul is at stake here. Who we are as a people hangs in the balance.

It’s ok for men and women to be different. It doesn’t make one weaker than the other. It doesn’t devalue women. The opposite is true, we find strength in our differences.

Is that really how you see me?

Have you ever wondered how other people see you? It’s likely they see you differently than you expect.
Perspective
This past weekend I travelled to Phoenix, Arizona. And something interesting happened.

The people I was meeting with are highly respected in the firearms industry. I have admired them from afar for several years and had a bit of a “fan girl” moment when I met them earlier this year at SHOT Show.

We had been talking for several hours about my plan to gain a foothold in the industry, when one of the gentlemen leaned across the table, looked me straight in the eye and emphatically exclaimed “YOU ARE BAD ASS!” followed by his reasons for believing that.

I laughed to myself, “Me? You must have the wrong person!”

Life is a constant duel between perception and reality. – Sony Long

Perceptions are a tricky thing and I am my own worst enemy. He saw me in a way I was unable or unwilling to see myself.

Now, working in the firearms industry which often prizes masculinity and relegates women to “eye candy”, I found myself falling into the same trap – I have to work twice as hard to gain credibility. I was measuring my success on a false premise – perception.

The comment, made by a man I hold in high regard, was a bit of a wake-up call. He had a perception of me that I hadn’t considered possible. In the end, I think we are both right. I am a bit of a “BAD ASS” but I still have more work to do. Don’t we all?

The reality is this: We are all a work in progress, never fully realizing our potential. But we should strive to fulfill the purpose we were created for, utilizing our gifting and not let the perceptions hold us back.