Dos and Don’ts for Talking with Women about Firearms
(With the world as sue-happy as it is, I have to state that this is for entertainment purposes only, and is not intended as any sort of firearms instruction. You assume full responsibility for your actions and any damages that may result from them, by reading you agree to these terms)
Women play a vital, albeit largely untapped, role in the gun rights movement. I am glad to say that I have spoken with many women who have had a wonderful introduction to firearms and have gone on to achieve many things in the firearms community. Unfortunately, I have to admit that I have talked with plenty who have had such a poor experience that they avoided firearms altogether.
Why? How can this be? What are we, as men or even as a community, doing that’s working against us?
To get to the bottom of this, I interviewed a broad range of women from anti-gunners to curious non-shooters, ex gun control advocates like myself and even firearms instructors. There are a variety of reasons why women avoid the firearms community. However, the reason mentioned most often related to the manner in which women are addressed by men.
Regardless of what excuses we have, the bottom line is they are avoiding firearms predominately because of the people holding them, not because of the firearms themselves. It is no secret that the struggle for gun rights is as much cultural as it is political. If firearms can garner social change to benefit women, it is a good thing.
The following is a list of simple dos and don’ts based on the above mentioned interviews.
-Stress safety. Stressing safety eases initial anxieties and helps to prevent procrastination, getting them out to the range sooner for their first experience.
Power can be scary, especially when someone is not entirely certain how to wield it. This is probably one of the key psychological reasons people enjoy firearms on an almost spiritual level. Through the firearm we can find an extension of our own power, and through learning to wield the firearm, we can learn to wield our own inner power and come closer to being our true selves in everyday life. Stressing safety can build a woman’s confidence towards embracing her own power.
-Assume they can. Never block a woman from growth because of your own preconceived notions. Whatever it is, assume that with proper training they can do it. Of course, in regards to firearms it is vital to start everyone off with a 22LR, one round at a time until they can handle semi automatic. Allowing the shooter to choose when they are ready for something with more recoil is obviously important as well. Not to mention demonstrating each firearm before they shoot it.
Starting in this manner and working their way up, I’ve seen plenty of women expertly handle 12 gauge shotguns and 45 caliber pistols, often shooting better than most guys I know. Assume they can, whatever it is, and offer help when they are reaching for a goal as if they are going to succeed.
-Treat them as equals. Just because you may not feel comfortable telling certain jokes around women, does not mean you need to completely change your personality or walk on eggshells. Women tend to pick up on whatever it is you are feeling and relate to it. Anxiety spreads like wildfire, however, thankfully so does a relaxed demeanor. Besides, I have had women tell me some rather raunchy jokes on many occasions, so suspend your opinion of them until you’ve actually gotten to know them.
-Ask more questions than you answer. Information gathering is probably the most important thing you can do in any situation, but especially with firearms. Instead of professing what she should do, try to discover what she hopes to gain from firearms and empower her towards those goals in a safe way. If you are trying equally as hard to get input from her as she is from you; you are working together. If it is one sided, then one person is working for the other, or at least that’s how it will feel. Keep it balanced and you will share a rewarding feeling of equality and acceptance between each other.
-Let them speak. So often guys, including myself sometimes, ramble non-stop for so long that sometimes ten minutes goes by before the woman even has a chance to speak. Pay attention to her body language. If she is dead silent and offering no affirmation (“Oh, okay.” “Really? I didn’t know that.” “Wow, that’s interesting.”) chances are she is stuck on something you said, and all of your subsequent ramblings are simply distracting her from understand what you said five minutes ago. There is no need to rush, and if everything you want her to know isn’t expressed in that one conversation, well; you get to have more conversations then, don’t you?
-Let them finish speaking. When a woman is speaking, even if you feel they are misinformed, let them finish what they are saying before explaining your perspective. This goes beyond respect. When you speak before they’ve finished their thought, they are still thinking about their thought and are not completely listening to what you are saying anyway, let them finish.
-Display that you were listening. After they’ve finished, let them know what you heard before you share your perspective.
“Okay, well if you don’t like three dot sights you can try xs sights, you just put the dot on the post.”
“I didn’t say I don’t like three dots, I said when I aim quickly I get confused which is the front sight for a split second. I almost wish the front sight could be a different color so I knew right away.”
“Oh, well in that case, trijicon makes yellow or orange rear sights with a green front sight, that might make things faster for you.”
“Wonderful, that’s more what I was talking about.”
It’s just an example, but you get the idea.
-Don’t pressure them. This definitely applies to more than just conversation, however especially with how you speak to a woman, never make anything other than safety set in stone. If they are more curious about shooting clays, talk about clays. If you do not know anything about clays, don’t pretend to, do a little research and then offer to take her somewhere where you can both learn about it together. Do not pressure them to be interested in what you are interested in. Do not pressure them to dislike what you dislike. Discover who they are instead of trying to forcefully shape it to your own desires.
-Don’t “girlify” them. I remember talking to a woman who had shown some interest towards firearms and for whatever reason I felt compelled to mention that she could get them in pink. I can’t remember her exact response, but it was something like, “what kind of rapist sees a pink gun and runs the other way? What if he gets confused and thinks it’s a toy?” It makes perfect sense, but I had immediately assumed she’d want something “girly” so don’t “girlify” them.
Of course, plenty of women do like pink guns, if they make some indication that they don’t like the way the guns look, you can get into all of that. The bigger lesson here is for you to not assume anything from the start. Let them tell you what they like.
-Don’t speak to them like you would a child. This has more to do with tone than anything else, talk to them like you would anyone else you respect. In the end, with the way the world is right now, a woman who is curious about getting into firearms is the most important person you will meet.
-Don’t talk to them like they are not intelligent. In the end, smart people know how dumb they are, it’s the idiots that think they have got it all figured out. If you want to seem smart, admit what you don’t know and find some common ground with her at the same time.
-Don’t assume silence equals agreement. Feel free to ask them how they feel about what you’ve said. Asking for feelings is more open ended and encourages them to speak broadly and offer more information about what they are thinking etc. If she has not said it out loud, avoid assuming you have psychic powers and instead ask for feedback. If she is slow to give the feedback, realize some people have different lives and have different reasons for being shy, be patient.
-Don’t use fear to garner obedience. Respect, some would say, is a mixture of fear and admiration. When you focus entirely on fear, a person can never respect a firearm. When you focus entirely on admiration, a person becomes a safety risk and also cannot respect a firearm. Find a balance. She does not need to be terrified to respect a firearm. In fact, she will probably be more dangerous in a state of fear. The same can be said for recoil management, she does not need to be terrified of the firearm destroying her shoulder, this will cause her to tense up and make the recoil hurt even more. Respect the firearm, respect the recoil, respect her.
-Don’t hit on them. Even if they are your significant other, let their first time with firearms be about the firearms and not distract from the safety aspects. If they are not your significant other, realize that any distractions are extremely counterproductive.
First off, regardless of what Freud may have said, a woman talking to you about your firearm isn’t secretly talking to you about anything else. Stay on topic. Secondly, women tend to get hit on daily, usually multiple times a day.
Look, I love fried chicken, but if five-to-fifty times a day someone offered me a free sample of fried chicken, eventually I would start to hate it. If there is an attraction, let her indicate interest on her own and then you two can go for a walk… to a local gun store to buy her first gun and get to know each other on the way.
While I’m sure the list could be expanded, this is enough to eliminate some of the most common and most alienating behaviors we exhibit from time to time, while strengthening the best of who we are. Review these dos and don’ts a few times, pay attention to yourself and others in your firearms rights group as they will be the most receptive to change and improvement.
If you want to address the behavior of someone outside of your group, put efforts towards adding them to your group first. Then, once they have become active, direct them to such information and encourage them to improve. If you do not have a rights group, it does not have to be a political action committee, it could just be a group of friends that try and get more new shooters out to the range, consider assembling one.
It is important that we make every effort we can to create a warm environment for women because without them, we will surely continue to lose the inches of this gun rights battle until we have lost every mile. We cannot focus on regaining rights already lost until a large majority of Americans feel positively towards firearms, and without women we will never get there.
This struggle is a way of life, so live well, be happy, and be welcoming of the novice regardless of gender.
Copyright 2013 Kephra Rubin
For tips on actually coaxing non-shooters out to the range, visit the link below:
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