As I’m trying to hustle through a solid workday in my home office, I take a break to check on things in the world of Instagram (lest it cease to exist without my oversight).
I came across some unsettling comments from trolls on the internet, directed toward a woman who is increasingly taking the hunting world by storm. I’ve followed her for a long time; she is genuine, hard-working, and has built her brand around being a knowledgeable hunter who empowers others in the sport.
A simple post to her IG story was misinterpreted and the keyboard trolls of the interwebs came out from the shadows to slay her with their degrading comments, calling her “a *expletive* joke” and accusing her of trying to poach hunting locations without “putting in the work like most public hunters do.”
This is just a taste of what I’ve seen her share about predominantly male hunters making assumptions such as 1) she doesn’t know how to do XYZ, 2) she allows men *with larger brains and aptitude for physical ability* to do the work for her so she can prance to the tree stand and enjoy the fruits of another’s labor, 3) she is “just another pretty face with no brain,” 4) she is [fill in the blank].
I typically don’t rant unless something weighs so heavily on my heart, BUT this infuriated me. To the point of tears welling up (yeah, I’m sensitive). And we see this type of bullying. Every. Single. Day. Especially on the internet where people hide behind their screens, carelessly throwing hurtful word-daggers that they would never say face-to-face.
As a woman in the outdoor industry, and non-confrontational by nature, I’ve tended to remove myself from these “proclaiming women’s place in the outdoors” arguments. I refused to add to the narrative, because frankly, I felt as if addressing this way of thinking validated it as truth.
I admit, I can be naive. I’ve been fooled and deceived. I’ve been dismissed and overlooked and doubted, whether because I’m a young woman or I’m of no elite status. I’ve believed in the best intentions of people. I see the good, the glass is half full. And unfortunately, I felt that as long as I ignored this topic, I would deprive it of the energy it needed to grow.
This is unacceptable. Shame on me for not standing against this type of behavior. While women should not have to justify their right to be whoever they want in any industry, I refuse to sit back and accept that anyone has the right to shame another human for the way they choose to live.
We all talk about how much the outdoors has impacted our lives. How our dearest memories take place in the wilderness; around a campfire, on the water, with our families. Then, we make it so terrifying for anyone who is “new” or inexperienced to ever consider trying to pick up a fishing rod for the first time or to learn how to track and harvest their own food.
We alienate those who aren’t like us. We shame those who try to be like us. We bully those who do it differently than us. If we continue to behave this way, we slowly diminish our opportunity to recruit and empower new outdoorsmen who care about preserving and protecting our wild places. And conversely, we increase the number of people who decide the outdoors “isn’t for them” (perhaps because we made them feel that way) so they have no will to fight for it.
I may not be an expert. I may call things by the wrong name. But I’m proud to say I’m always learning. I’m trying new things and failing all the time. And guess what… it’s perfectly okay to not know it all, and to be new at things, and to fail at them! But I’m sick and tired of hearing the old “is she worthy to hold a fishing rod” test, scored based on what she’s wearing, how she looks, or some other irresponsible perception.
Other’s pursuits and how they approach them; these things are none of my business and none of yours.
I’ve never been naturally skilled at sports or physical activities, which is why I never became a professional wakeboarder (a very short-lived dream) or a pro basketball player (like every stranger in an airport asks me), but give me a keyboard and I’ll knock your lights out with my words. This is the one strength I can use to try and combat this unfortunate truth. So here goes…
If you’re one of those people who believes it’s okay to dictate how others live their lives, I encourage you to consider the founding principles of our country and re-evaluate that belief. Here are two in particular:
Individual Liberty: each person is born with freedom from arbitrary or unjustified restraint.
All Men are Created Equal (and if you try to argue that this doesn’t apply to women, we are no longer friends): There is no natural class of rulers among people, and everyone is born with the same unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
I challenge us all to be kinder, not condemning. There’s enough hate in this world without trolling strangers on the internet.
For anyone—woman or man—who is out there facing opposition, fearing judgment of “not knowing XYZ,” or just being bashed for trying to step outside their comfort zone and learn something new, know this: You owe no explanation.
The best thing you can do is remove the negativity from around you. Remove the comments, block the keyboard trolls, never read the negative reviews. Put your head down, keep your eyes on your work, and do whatever the hell it is that sets your soul on fire.
And in case anyone hasn’t told you this: You’re welcome here. Just as you are. The outdoors doesn’t discriminate; the only requirements are respect and responsible sportsmanship.
*Deep breath, exhale*