Oct 07, 2008 Ami Olson Uncategorized
As seasonal outdoor activities shift from tanning on the beach to tanning hides, will Alaska Governor and Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin’s well-publicized wilderness experiences inspire more women to get outdoors?
“I suppose there is that possibility, but people might be turned off. It could go either way,” said Kimberley Corwin, chairperson of Outdoors Women Inc., a group that works with the Department of Environmental Conservation to hold annual “Becoming an Outdoors Woman” workshops.
The workshops offer women the chance to learn a variety of outdoor activities, from hunting and trapping to nature photography and backpacking, in a group of other women with different levels of experience. The classes are open to 125 women and Corwin says they are always filled to capacity, mainly with women in their mid-40s who have not had the opportunity to try the activities on their own.
“There seemed to be a demand for it, and it grew after we started,” said Corwin.
Though the workshop has been offered for 15 years in New York, Rob Goffredo, fishing department manager at Gander Mountain in Cicero, said it was only about a year ago that manufacturers began to tap into the female market.
Signs of crossed gender lines are visible throughout the store – expanded women’s clothing departments, smaller pistols, and pink: pink rifles and handguns, fishing poles, and clothing dot the departments and are clearly geared towards women.
The true outdoors woman would not buy into the color-coded hype, explained Goffredo, but these products, like the “Lady Stick” fishing pole, are meant to inspire women and girls to try something new. Goffredo, who fishes in tournaments with his wife, said he was happy to see companies begin marketing to true outdoors women, going beyond pink bb guns and producing equipment specifically designed for the female form, like women’s waders and pistols.
Julio Claps, who owns Camillus Guns and Bows on Route 5, agrees. Since opening the store in 1982, he has seen a marked increase in women becoming interested in shooting and archery.
“There are a lot of Annie Oakley’s in the world now,” remarked Claps. He sees the majority of female newcomers take up the hobby after visiting the shop or the shooting range with their husbands or boyfriends, and wanting to try for themselves. At the archery range behind the shop, where Monday night leagues begin in January, Claps said about half the participants are women. He credits an overall opening of athletics to women with the increased interest.
So how does the newest ponytail in politics fit into the mix?
For Goffredo, Palin represents hope that the Republican ticket has a shot at winning the White House.
“It’s very much a feeling throughout the outdoor industries,” Goffredo said. “She seems to be a regular person, someone who’s been there. As a shooter, as a hunter, I feel much more hopeful.”
On the other end of the spectrum, Palin’s high profile hunting background counts against her.
“There is no way Sarah Palin would inspire me to join her exploits,” said Sue Freeman, an author and self-described outdoors woman. ” If she is inspiring women to venture outdoors, then I feel our wild areas are doomed. We need role models who enjoy and appreciate the outdoors – not one who exploits it. I’m voting Democratic.”
Freeman owns Footprint Press Recreation Guidebooks, Inc. and operates newyorkoutdoors.wordpress.com, a blog dedicated to the great New York outdoors.
Whether it is in the name of Sarah Palin or Mother Nature that more women are getting outdoors and picking up bows or taking their sons fishing for the first time, manufacturers want to make sure they feel welcome, and are willing to spend the design dollars to do so.