Is female gun ownership a step in the right direction towards female empowerment?
This is an opinion piece by Wide Open Spaces Associate Editor Ellen Fishbein.
We’ve all heard that female gun ownership is on the rise: this was pretty trendy news back in 2014, when the NSSF performed a study and released the results in an infographic called “Girl Power” (below).
A bigger market for guns among women is all well and good, but to be honest, what struck me about this infographic wasn’t the growth in the number of women gun owners. To me, the change looks proportional to the overall rise in gun sales. I don’t think women are coming out in droves to buy guns; I think Americans of both genders are more interested in owning guns across the board.
What drew my eye about this infographic was that the NSSF chose to use the phrase “girl power” to talk about female gun ownership. I can’t help but contrast the NSSF’s message about “girl power” with the rhetoric about “female empowerment” promoted by organizations like UN Women.
Now, before the Facebook debaters go for my throat, I don’t disagree with any of the stated objectives of UN Women, especially “Promote education, training and professional development for women” and “Ensure the health, safety and well-being of all women and men workers.”
Those are important goals. But there is a component of female empowerment that’s being severely underplayed by the female empowerment brigade, and I learned it from Spider Man: power comes with responsibility. (Well, really, I learned it from my mom, an outgoing and strong woman who happens to be a trained sharpshooter. But I got the words from Spider Man).
As the wealthy nations work together to empower women at home and abroad, women, especially those of us in the developed world, should not just hope to “be empowered” but realize we are responsible for any power we pursue.
As UN Women works to “Establish high-level corporate leadership for gender equality,” let’s take it upon ourselves to become wise, effective leaders. As UN Women promotes efforts to “treat all women and men fairly at work,” let’s take responsibility for our own careers.
In the U.S., there are laws against gender discrimination in the workplace, but it’s our personal responsibility to blow the whistle if they’re violated: the first step to being empowered is taking action when something is wrong. In that respect, no one sitting at a desk at the UN headquarters can do my job for me, or even be informed enough to tell me whether I’m being treated fairly at work. In the first world, I already have the power to sue an employer for treating me unfairly, but it’s my responsibility to actively fight for, and deserve, the career I want.
Okay, so, what does this have to do with guns?
Bottom line is, a gun doesn’t guarantee an equal playing field any more than a UN operation dedicated to women does. A woman with a gun could be disarmed, outdrawn, or even outgunned, just like a man. But female gun ownership can promote the right mindset about female empowerment, because owning a gun comes with extremely obvious responsibilities.
When you choose to own a lethal weapon, you have to set a responsible frame of mind by asking yourself questions like:
- Do I accept the possibility of killing another human being?
- Do I believe that my judgment is sound enough to determine when to use lethal force?
- Have I taken every action available to me to prevent undue harm as a result of my access to lethal force?
I deeply hope that women who take the step to own a gun will use it as a springboard to set a truly powerful mindset, not just through the goals they set, but through the responsibilities they willingly accept in their lives.
“Empowerment” is not just some word to be thrown around. It’s not something to sit back and watch other people accomplish on your behalf. I just can’t stress enough the importance of becoming responsible for the power you exercise as an individual.
In the end, I believe female gun ownership, in the right hands, could lift women up in a positive way. But for that to happen, women seeking empowerment need to step up, live the ethic of personal responsibility every day, and lead by example.