By Shari Spivack
When I first came upon the opportunity to preorder the book Chicks with Guns by Lindsay McCrum, which was released this month, I wasn’t sure what exactly to expect. I am always beyond excitement to see a book that portrays women gun owners in a positive way and gives me information about my fellow female gun enthusiasts across the country. Do not be fooled by the playful title of this coffee table book however, it contains portraits of 78 women gun owners from around the country. The women portrayed are as diverse as the guns they favor. The range of ages presented runs from the very young to women who have enjoyed decades of shooting — each with deep connections to gun ownership that began as early as the cradle and as late as mid-life.
There are fifteen to twenty million women gun owners in this country and, as the forward to the book states, photographing females with “ostensibly deadly weapons” challenges our preconceptions of the feminine or maternal role. The book breaks the masculine versus feminine barrier of gun ownership and showcases how commonplace and integral a connection to guns can be for many women across America. It is noted that when McCrum began the project, she began with mainly hunters and competitive shooters, however, the end product shows that there is a vast and varied population of women who own guns for pleasure, sport and defense — something woman gun owners already know. The photographer did not exploit the story that each photograph would tell about its subject. Each woman is artistically presented, with her gun, in an elegant manner, one that reflects the personality and gun culture that each woman is connected to. A short biography of a few paragraphs accompanies each photograph, in which the women detail in their own words such things as how they became involved with guns, some of their favorite guns to own, and in some cases, how they view the female relationship to gun ownership. It is a politically neutral presentation of gun ownership, the goal is biographical, not advocacy.
Many of the women gracing the pages grew up around guns. They were fortunate to learn to shoot from their fathers and experience the joys of hunting and nature with their mothers and sisters. Several women stated that they met their boyfriends and future husbands though gun competitions and events. If this is your goal then they proved in their own words that Annie Oakley was wrong when she said “You can’t get a man with a gun.”
There were several women who did not learn about guns from a male influence but developed their own connections to firearms– some who went on to work in police and military service and others who simply own guns for recreation or protection. A few women stand out in my mind: the woman who loves participating in Wild West style shooting competitions for the love of the sport and states there is nothing is like the thrill of a bullet hitting the target. Or another who imagines there is nothing better than “a day outdoors in camo with a rifle” (I am totally with you here, although my choice of venue is a bit different). One woman grew up in England as a very girly girl, in an atmosphere where girls did not learn to shoot. Her father taught her to shoot game anyway and it became a way of life for her, but she notes she is still a girly girl who enjoys shooting in a skirt.
A few women spoke about empowerment and how they love to introduce other women to the joys of shooting. This is absolutely one of my own personal goals, to bring as many women to the range as possible, so this especially hit home for me. I also enjoyed reading about the community of women gun owners in Virginia who formed a club for women called GRITS — Girls Really Into Shooting – to provide a comfortable place for women to learn to shoot who don’t feel confident enough to try it alone. I think this woman’s story in particular sums up what is important about women and guns. It portrays just how women, by their different nature, are able to make a male dominated environment such as gun ownership their own. Women support each other in different ways then men, so it rings true that we should create our own environments for education and self expression with firearms as many of the women in this book (and across the country) have done.
The book does a fairly good job of representing the vast range of women who own guns across America. There is a strong focus on women who grew up in families that owned guns and passed down a gun culture that includes hunting and outdoor recreation. There is a respectable representation of women who own guns for self protection and several who have chosen professions where they use their firearms to serve and protect. This may very well reflect the numbers within the larger population.
Lindsay McCrum’s artistic talents in Chicks with Guns, offer an aesthetically pleasing pictorial record of female gun owners and delivers a good account of the passion and seriousness women across the country have for their guns.
About Shari Spivack: I am a wife, mother and firearms instructor who has my own passion for shooting, teaching and continuing to educate myself with all types of firearms in a safe and responsible manner. It is always my pleasure to talk to other women gun owners – please feel free to email me at [email protected]