The colours of the modern day outdoors woman
By Tamara Spence, Sports and Recreation Editor
Over the last decade, the number of women entering the outdoor lifestyle has grown significantly. However, one thing you may notice is the lack of representation that isn’t a nearly naked woman holding a fish or trying to promote a pink “gender appropriate” knock-off of camouflage. Pink: the colour of the modern outdoor woman of our generation. You may be wondering what animals or fish these companies are trying to get women to blend in with, and rightfully so. With those colours, arguably a unicorn, some fantasy rainbow fish with wings, or even leprechauns.
In an interview with Creek Candy Bead Company’s owner Randy Desrosiers, he stated, “The thing that aggravates me the most is the only real representation a great deal of women get on media is if they have their boobs hanging out or are wearing short shorts. That’s not how women want to be portrayed in the sport and it’s not how I want them to be either.”
Inarguably, it’s time that women get the respect that is due and it starts with men no longer being the dominant face of the outdoors. One thing that could be said with confidence is that media outlets need to change how they portray women. Elliot Williams of Islander Reels believes “it’s very important to treat all anglers equally, whether they are male or female”. Additionally, Islander Reels is a leader among companies; this can be seen on their social media and the diversity of anglers they choose to have representing their brand of reels.
Barriers are not something new to women; they are present in every aspect of life. This even applies to recreational activities and being outdoors, doing what our ancestors have been doing for centuries. While having fair representation in media and dialogue is crucial for change, there must also be space for women to advance. Women often face challenges outdoors, something that has even been experienced by one of the top female anglers of Canada, Jessica Van Ierland (Islandgirlfishing). “I still feel insecure on a river being that I am usually the only woman on it. I feel like I have to prove myself tenfold because of that. Just let me fish! I fish for myself to connect with the natural beauty around me. A few guys don’t play fair and do not show me respect or follow regular etiquette the way they would if I were a man,” says Van Ierland.
Van Ierland describes experiences where she is often fishing alone or with another female friend and is hit by suggestive comments and gawking from male anglers while she was fishing. Van Ierland says her initial thoughts were, “This sounds terrible! It is terrible! Like where do I live? What century is this?!” These are not experiences men can say they have encountered often or at all. But sadly, countless women are confronted by this more often than they are comfortable admitting. Van Ierland also mentions, “I trust my surroundings for the most part but I can’t help but feel insecure with eyes on me because of my sex. I’m wearing baggy jackets and waders; I’m not a bikini angler. 90% of the time I am treated as an equal but that 10% always has me feeling just a little unsettled and very frustrated.”
Even though there is a visible inequity in how women are treated at times in the outdoors, Van Ierland has sponsors who support her growth and journey. “Gibbs Delta and a few other great companies, such as Amundson, have reached out to me and given me great opportunities to experience all kinds of fishing with so many amazing people. I call these people my ‘fishing family’. I feel like an equal and am so grateful to have them,” says Van Ierland. Alex Connell of Amundson fishing was happy to comment, “It has been great watching Jessica develop and grow as an angler and we think she represents the sport passionately. We believe in equal opportunities for both men and women on the water and hope to see more women out fishing in the future.”
Thanks to platforms like Facebook and Instagram that are heavily accessed for fishing photos and tips, we can see change already starting to take place. There is a community that breaks the norm. Individuals on these platforms choose whom to follow and communicate with; the decision is not made for them. Alex Boutin (rexstpierre), prostaff for numerous brands, says, “Some of my best days have been spent with female anglers on the water. It may have something to do with their egos not being as sensitive as men’s…Wait! They out-fished me every time. Maybe the lesson here is that teamwork goes much further than ego and gender roles in the outdoors.” It’s men like Boutin that set an example for his peers and the younger generations of outdoor enthusiasts.
The time for change is now and it starts with mutual respect and an understanding that everyone, regardless of sex, is there for the same reasons: the feeling of fresh air on your face and in your lungs, the natural setting and the sounds of the outdoors, the thrill of a catch, and potentially a natural harvest to provide for one’s family. But most of all, to acknowledge that we are all just individuals in a vast world, trying to find a place where we belong.