When colleague Jim Shepherd, godfather of the Outdoor Wire family of news wires, announced in 2010 he was consolidating the Womens Outdoor Wire with the other wires (essentially eliminating it), the only surprise was that it took so long.
This was only the most recent women-centric outdoors publication or organization to meet its demise. Bass n Gal (the magazine and the organization), NRA Womens Outlook magazine, BASS Womens Bassmaster Tour, Womens Bass Fishing Association, et al flashed, splashed, and crashed in relatively short order.
Most attempts to cater to women with outdoor interests share similar patterns---and fallacies---based on stereotype: dumbed-down content, a recipes section, and everything from camouflage to cling wrap offered in predictable pink.
The reasons for failure of women-centric outdoors offerings are myriad and include cool reception by the target audience, and lack of advertiser/sponsor support.
There is no doubt women are a growing contingent in hunting, fishing, and shooting sports, and some manufacturers address this growing market with accurately tailored products. Smith & Wesson was one of the first with its Ladysmith line of handguns designed for shooters with smaller hands; men with smaller hands welcomed the guns, too.
A few years ago, a startup called She Safari (now She Outdoor Apparel) introduced a line of outdoors clothing for women. Women are anatomically different from men (vive la difference) in ways other than size, and She recognized and addressed this. If the growth of its booth size at the SHOT Show over the years is an indicator, She Outdoor Apparel is riding a wave of success.
Every successful womens outdoor product with which I am familiar is designed for function, not form. If it fits and works, women will buy it. If it is merely "feminized" with insipid "girly" trappings or reads like something out of a daycare how-to manual, women stay away in droves.
Although much more is involved than merely slapping pink paint on existing inventory to create a women-centric product, some manufacturers have successful done just that with everything from pink-themed camo patterns to pink guns. Women who purchase these products seem to use them to send a message: "Im a woman, Im here, deal with it."
Indeed, in my experience and observations, women neither desire nor appreciate condescension, getting talked down to (or over), or special treatment. They do not want us (men) to take their fish off the hook or load their guns for them. They do not want information spoon-fed to them, or be expected to know more---or less---than anyone else of similar experience. Outdoorswomen want the same things men do: quality experiences, gear that works, and fun afield.
Paraphrasing a line from Jurassic Park regarding Tyrannosaurus rex: Women do not want to be fed; women want to hunt.
Before launching into this landmine-laden topic, I sought to ensure I was not full of something one is usually obliged to avoid stepping in. I talked to Peggy Tartaro, executive editor of Women & Guns magazine. Published by the Second Amendment Foundation, W&G is the oldest magazine of its type, this year celebrating 24 years in print.
Peggy not only franked my observations about outdoorswomen and women shooters, she provided some insight into why so many related genre womens platforms fail---too specialized.
"Women & Guns addresses an area that is both vertical and broad based," she said. "Not all women have a hardcore interest in guns, but most women are interested in self defense, and that is a large component of our focus."
In other words, the target audience is large despite the vertical component.
Many men are anglers, but not all of them are interested in competitive bass fishing. Fewer women are anglers, and fewer still are interested in competitive bass fishing.
The secret, then, seems to be the philosophy we follow at Texas Fish & Game: Provide good content, accurate information, and compelling photography within a vertical genre such as the outdoors, and they will come. Do not address women disproportionate to participation, nor exclude them. Show it and tell it like it is, without unrealistic or over-hyped "Omigod! Women are hunting and fishing now!" treatment.
I have enjoyed sharing fishing boats and hunting grounds with the women in my family. My youngest daughter could out-shoot me from age seven, and my wife inevitably out-fishes me, but times afield with them are always golden and the most recounted on chill evenings around the fireplace; perhaps more a testament to my lack than their excellence, but in either case, it illustrates that their participation is an asset rather than liability---bruised male ego notwithstanding.
If you are a man in whose life the women gravitate to the fields and waters, do not try to feed them; let them hunt for themselves.
And if you are a woman unsatisfied with tethered goats, please remember that some of my best friends are lawyers.