If you ask my friend Mitch what he’s been up to after a holiday, you don’t have to guess: he’s been hunting. Born and raised in rural southern Utah: what else could be expected? Just the way he describes how it feels to chase a mountain lion up a rocky hillside makes you wonder if you’re missing something unattainable in life (or that’s how I feel anyway). Mitch doesn’t know any women who love to hunt, and he doesn’t bring any women with him when he goes. He told me that women get tired, and then they want lunch and get bored following a 15-mile trail. He just doesn’t know any women who would have fun doing that.
I remember when he told me this I racked my brain trying to come up with a reason why more women didn’t hunt; all I could come up with was that on average women have less free-time then men, and hunting is very time intensive. So, I asked him if he’d be willing to stay home and take care of his children while his wife took a week long hunting trip, he answered “No, I would not watch the children while she went hunting because my wife wouldn’t go hunting…but I would be willing to let my wife take a week long trip to New York with her friends to go shoe shopping,” and then he repeated to me how he didn’t know any women who enjoyed hunting as much as he does. But why don’t women hunt?
Entertainment is a people thing. People like to do entertaining activities: that is a fact. But what women and men find entertaining can vary greatly. Looking at a few case studies of my own encounters, it can have interesting connections to power and authority. The purpose of this blog post isn’t to analyze or present facts about the condition of men and women and their leisurely activities, but rather to expound a few of my own experiences in the United States and take away what can be learned from them. So kickback, relax, don’t worry about the heady stuff and think about your place in relation to what activities you devote yourself to when you’re not looking up variables on WomanStats for your research.
In Wyoming (nicknamed both “The Equality State”) I have met one young woman, Cara, who loved to hunt. She lived with her aunt, uncle and her cousins and on the weekends they’d all go hunting together as a family. One of her best experiences she told me was when she shot her first buck. She explained nonchalantly how when she shot it, it didn’t die at first, so she had to get close and shoot it a few more times. She regretted it wasn’t cleaner. I’ve had a few men tell me the story of shooting their first buck, almost as if it were a passage of sorts into manhood. Cara is the only woman who has told me about her first experience with killing a buck; and of course she didn’t tell it as a passage into manhood, but rather as one into adulthood.
Cara grew up hunting and shooting a gun, but as explained by Mitch, not many women hunt. The hobby of owning and using a gun is really knowledge of how to use a tool of authority in our society. It has been shown that domestic abusers who also own guns are more likely to threaten their victim by cleaning, holding, or loading guns during arguments. Women who are the victims in domestic violence, usually do not own a gun. A gun can symbolize power. As such, guns are connected to pastimes considered masculine.
My sister Megan is part of the United States Air Force Reserves Officer Training Program (commonly referred to as the ROTC) at a university in Utah. For fun on the weekends her division informally goes shooting in the mountains, but somehow word never gets around to her and the other women. Megan has asked repeatedly to be invited, because she has little experience with handling a gun, and would find it useful to practice before basic training this summer. Shooting clay pigeons is how the men in her ROTC group bond and network with each other, but because she’s not “one of the guys” she’s not invited. The lack of social networking in this way may have repercussions in future promotions. Are women economically disadvantaged in other ways because they do not participate (or allowed) in culturally masculine hobbies?
In the rocky-mountain states men drive Toyota trucks, but about 30 hours to the east in Motor Town USA, (Detroit, Michigan) Toyota is taboo and Ford is the natural law. Where there are no mountain lions to conquer or elk to hunt, men dirty their hands in the engine of a car. My dad’s family is from a down-river suburb of Detroit: blue collar, where everyone works for (or got laid off from) some American auto plant. People know cars. My Aunt Darla once dropped off her car to a mechanic. He called a few hours later to give the appraisal for fixing it. After chatting with the mechanic for a few minutes, she handed the phone over to her husband. The price was brought down immediately by about $100. It’s assumed that every man practices amateur mechanics in their off time. The professional mechanics in Detroit are wise enough to not overprice men; apparently this one was not honest enough to not overprice a woman.
Does the tradition of American women not knowing how to tinker with their automobiles stem from the same ideology that kept them from gaining an education? Is it one factor keeping them economically disadvantaged? There are obvious connections between who has a certain skill or knowledge and who holds the physical and economic power. Luckily you have the skill of reading, and hopefully you read this for fun, and maybe learned a few things. These are just a few short examples I have noticed in my own life, focused specifically on guns and cars: two masculine defined past-times. So the question comes: When the hobbies and past times of people are gendered is there a correlation with who has the advantage in that society?