Friday, April 9, 2010

Ladies' Night.

I'm planning to attend a shooting event soon that is $70 for men and free for women. The range I shot at back in Seattle had free shooting for women on Tuesdays. Back in the day, Gameworks would have nights where women could game free all night while men paid $20 for the privilege. And of course lots of bars and clubs will have Ladies' Night events.

Well, it's making it easier for women to get involved in some traditionally male-dominated activities, and freebies are always nice. It's a little skeevy when the women are being used as "bait" for male customers, but generally not too bad in practice--the number of women present at these events usually makes them less creepy than the average night out with horny men.

So why do I get a little weirded out by these events? (While attending them, of course; what can I say, I like guns and games and booze and I don't like spending money.) I guess it's just that any distinction between the genders gets my hackles up? It's hard for me to go "aw, what about the men" when it comes to paying small fees for entertainment events, and it's hard for me to see a real downside for the women.

I think my problem might be tangential--the characterization of women who shoot, or play arcade games, or do other "manly" things as "cool girls." I do enjoy a lot of these activities, and I do think they're cool, but the implication that they're cool because they're ungirly bothers me. It implies that it's not perfectly natural and normal for me to like games, that as a woman I must be some kind of prodigy to know how a joystick works. (I know exactly how a joystick works, baby.)

And it implies that women who don't like games are uncool because they're acting too much like women. Which puts girls in a real bind: play games and risk being called unfeminine, avoid games and you're not cool. (Never even mind whether you like games.) I have no problem admiring women for being good at "manly" pursuits, but I also admire women who are good at "womanly" pursuits--fuck, I just think it's good for people to be good at pursuits and I'd like to leave it at that.

This page of TvTropes explains it pretty well: the header quote is "...while most reasonable people see women and men as equals, few (if any) dare to claim that femininity is masculinity's equal."


  1. I think it is a good idea to do what it takes to get women involved in shooting, from a gun rights standpoint. Women are under-represented in shooting, and people who don't shoot are more likely to vote anti-gun. I don't know the details of your event, but "women shoot free" might be as much to draw the women in as much as to use the women as bait to draw in the men.

    1. as if "voting anti-gun" is some kind of disease that i have to lower my odds of catching? gee thanks- i respect your right to support "pro-gun" laws, but apparently you don't extend me the same courtesy.

    2. As if saying "I'd like more people to vote this way" is the same as saying "not voting this way is a terrible disease."

  2. Sevesteen - I agree, it's not always the "bait" principle. But it's still sort of weird?

    I dunno. To be honest this entry was one of the ones I just couldn't get to come out right, but there were enough sorta-complete thoughts that it was worth posting. I think.

  3. My knee jerk reactions to lady's nights are that they are sexist. And they are from a strictly 'treating one sex as more valuable than another' view point. But that's not the motivation. Typically, the motivation is marketing. Bring in the women and the men will follow. It's smart business, and I'm libertarian enough to say that private individuals and businesses can do whatever the hell they want so long as they aren't doing physical harm to others. It still bugs me, but as a guy I don't feel that they are doing anything but trying to get my money in most cases or get women involved in the particular activity in others.

  4. It can be non-sexist if the reasoning goes like, "People are uncomfortable being the only one of their gender at an event. If I offer some incentives early on and get some female[male] attendance, I can build up the clientele and eventually women[men] will be comfortable here."

    I know that it is much easier to get women to attend a chess club or study a martial art if there are already a few other women there. And it's easier to get men to attend a sewing circle or a yoga class if there are already a few other men there. Many people are uncomfortable about being the only one. I don't think it's sexist to note that and plan accordingly.

    Now, if there are already some women around, this motivation doesn't really apply and it does feel much less okay to me. When nudist resorts do it it feels downright skeevy; it's too obviously using the women as bait. (I don't think I've ever seen an example of this with genders reversed; anyone else? Are there events where you give discounts to men to make more women attend?)

  5. As far as ladie's night for the bars go, it's something that I've seen a lot, and it seem like capatalism in action: Men will go where the women are, so the bars have incentives for women.

    Shooting and gaming tend to be male-dominated, not for any good reason. If the owner/operator can get women to show up, and be able to provide a non-creepy environment, then there's a decent chance that some of the attendees will become regulars, or least more involved.

    I've been to a lot of shooting ranges, and played a lot of video games with a lot of people, and I can't even count the number ot times that I've seen a new female shooter/gamer get introduced to these activities in truly horrifying ways.

    The overall level of rudeness, condesention, and total creepiness by guys who just don't seem to know any better is kinda shocking. I agree that if you want to get people into an activity that they are minority participants in is to have events such as "ladies' night".

    Guns and video games are awesome things. I don't see them as feminine or masculine things, but I think that lowering the barriers to entry while simultaneously minimzing the creeps is very worthwhile.

  6. And, to be honest, if those events weren't at least traditionally "ungirly", then there wouldn't be any need to incentivize women to attend.

  7. Another activity where I have seen this, is motorcycling. At least one large track day organizer I know of offers half price track days for women.

    Then there are women's motorcycling events. Unfortunately these can be kind of annoying. There is always a fashion show where they show off "pretty" riding gear, without armor or pockets. The factory demos are skewed towards tiny cruisers because the OEMs assume women don't actually want a *capable* bike. They have lectures where reassuring people tell us we don't have to ride fast if we don't want to. They treat us all like extremely nervous beginners who can't do anything without nursing and petting. And there are always a bunch of reporters and photographers crawling around, and the organizers line us up for photo ops, because the main thing is for everyone to look at us, the amazing women on motorcycles, we're like the circus come to town. Meanwhile the MRA chorus whines about how unfair it is that there should be women's events when there aren't any men's events. (I think they're just jealous that no one puts their picture in the paper or tells them they rock just for doing the same thing as regular people.)

    Y'know, I think I'll go for a ride alone. It's better that way, it avoids the stupid.

  8. How about if it's not being done for 'bait'? What if it's free for women just so that the guys will have something to shoot at without emptying out the "Targets" expense account? Wouldn't that make it non-sexist, and just smart economics?

    (tongue firmly in cheek)

  9. It implies that it's not perfectly natural and normal for me to like games, that as a woman I must be some kind of prodigy to know how a joystick works.

    I dunno that I'd put it that way.

    It isn't that "cool girls" are acting less like a woman because they're doing things women can't or shouldn't do; it's that demographically, the majority of women deny themselves awesome experiences because _they_ think those are things women can't or shouldn't do.

    Female gamers and shooters either are saying "fuck that; it's awesome and I want to do it", or aren't really recognizing the soft taboo in the first place. And that's the kind of attitude that makes for cool people.

  10. I guess I can see why this bothers you, but it doesn't bother me and here's why: I DO think women who like to do what I like to do for fun are cooler than women who don't. I tend to think everyone would feel that way. That doesn't mean I think everyone has to prefer to be around women who like to shoot (I wouldn't care whether a woman likes to play videogames, for instance) but I don't see a problem with admitting that I like to see a woman get involved.

    This is a Catch 22 situation, because shooters have long had a reputation for keeping women out, talking down to women, and basically not welcoming women into what is often called the "Fraternity of Riflemen." (See what I did there?)

    So, this generation of gun nuts can continue to divide into male gun nut clubs/stores/organizations vs. female . . . whatever the opposite is, or it can make an effort to get more women involved so the next generation of girls and women get involved. Exclude women, and you're a sexist. Make a special effort to include women, and you're still probably a sexist, only including women because you only like "cool girls" or because you need their votes for political fights. Do nothing either way, and you might escape charges of sexism--but you will, de facto, be continuing to exclude most women because so many consider themselves unwelcome at the gun club or the NRA banquet that if they're not explicitly courted and invited, they have no reason to show up the first time.

    In retrospect, it would have been a lot simpler if the last ten generations of American gun enthusiasts had simply welcomed women equally with men and by now we could just stop worrying about it. But they didn't and here we are.