An interesting topic came up at a table of fellow media professionals at which I was the only female seated with six men. One of the guys said to me, “I don’t mean to be rude or to start anything negative, but why do women feel they need their own [organizations] within our industry? The firearms industry is small enough as it is. We could really use the strength in numbers.”

I admitted to the guy that I understood his point. It’s definitely important for the 2A community to stand together. But women appreciate their own groups, events, classes, meetings and even sections of magazines (like in our very own Concealed Carry Magazine), because we often have very different experiences from the men in our industry and it’s beneficial for us to share those experiences — both good and bad.

While there have definitely been great strides and accomplishments on the side of women and firearms, unfortunately, there are bad experiences as well. It’s certainly not everywhere, and it likely hasn’t happened to everyone, but in a male-dominated industry, women often have to prove themselves over and over again. Sadly, women also have to deal with negativity and cruelty. And while we all know that harassment exists, when it happens to you, especially if you are new to the industry, it’s deeply disturbing and often difficult to know how to react in an appropriate manner. For example, a happily married industry friend of mine was in the media room at SHOT Show. This would seemingly be a comfortable, innocuous place to get work done. But as she sat, minding her own business, a guy came into the room, sidled up very close to her, looked her up and down and proceeded to make lewd remarks and hit on her. Not a good enough example? Another friend of mine was out for drinks with one of her biggest industry clients when the president of the company repeatedly grabbed her butt … while her husband was just a few feet away! Or there’s the firearms instructor candidate who announced in a co-ed class that women aren’t fit to shoot guns, let alone teach others how to do so.

Aside from the gawking or groping or the downright rude remarks, women also experience a lot of dismissive behaviors. An instructor friend of mine mentioned that two female students purchased a small-framed revolver because their “law enforcement friend” told them that semi-automatics would cut their hands open if they got too close to the slide. They spent hours in the gun store … and left with a gun they ended up hating. Or how about another woman who went to a local gun store to look at a specific pistol (a Glock 34) but was told by the salesman, “A Glock isn’t a good first gun for a woman.” And beyond just issues with firearms, another friend lamented that her most disappointing moment occurred when she discovered the reason she wasn’t hired by a training organization. “Even though they acknowledged I was a respected firearms instructor and recognized firearms freedom advocate in my state,” she said, “I was ‘too overweight’ and didn’t reflect the ‘attractive, sexy and fit’ image of their team members.”

Of course, we all know how kind and encouraging the internet can be (no matter your gender, your skill level or your firearm of choice!). Not only are women often objectified in gun photos (with men singling out a female’s looks or her body parts rather than her firearm), a friend mentioned that online forums can be the worst. She stated, “I see men, all the time, belittling women [who have] honest questions. A woman posed a question and said a few things in a way that, to me, it was obvious she was brand new to firearms. The comments that ensued were atrocious. I’ve been that woman … and have stood up for that woman.”

I’m not trying to stir the pot, point any fingers or cause a #MeToo revolution in our industry, but I do ask that we pause a moment and take notice. We can choose to only focus on the good and block out all the bad stuff, but that doesn’t help it go away. The boys’ club needs to know when it crosses the line. So when you see a woman at the range, don’t make assumptions. If a female asks questions, don’t laugh at her, berate her or belittle her. If women sign up for women-only classes taught by female instructors, don’t write them all off as ignorant or incapable. And don’t be surprised or frustrated when women seek out their own groups, events, classes, meetings and even sections of magazines. For women in our industry, those “organizations” have helped create a very special bond of shared experiences. And, honestly, I believe it’s become a unique way of bringing us all together. What better way to add strength and support to our 2A community than to have an unbreakable bond of empowered women, ready to make a difference?