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  • Jesse Paulsen

Breaking The Mold + Casting A New One


 “Well behaved women rarely make history." - Eleanor Roosevelt

Over the last year I have read a handful of articles and posts on the topic of women who fish and hunt. The fishing and hunting community has typically always been male-dominated, but there has always been women in the scene, and more and more are making waves in the industry every day, giving the boys a run for their money. The articles I have been reading lately have varied on specific subjects, but they all always seem to bring up one common theme with the rise of social media: who’s being “liked” for showing more skin over more skill. I have mixed opinions and I wanted to weigh in on it all with a different point of view, because most of what I have been reading is constant complaining and it’s driving me up the wall. Warning: I am about to be blunt, I'm about about to be sassy, and I'm about to be real. So, if you are going to read this, please do me a favour and read the entire blog post to the end. You may or may not hate me for what I am about to say but I do make some valid points that I hope will open your eyes, as well as the eyes of those who feel the need to create a stereotype of what a female angler should or shouldn't be.  

I want to start out by saying I think it is completely unfair to assume that a women doesn’t know her sh*t in the industry, just because she doesn't look like a tomboy and likes to wear makeup or have her hair done nice, or uses a pink rod or pink bow & arrows. I think it is completely unfair to assume a woman isn’t as talented or as skilled just because she posts a fly she tied that isn’t the best in the world or her Snap-T isn't as well executed as it could be. I think it is completely unfair to assume that girl who has a lot of followers on instagram and brand ambassdor opportunities is ‘only’ being followed and offered those opportunities because she is a dolled-up, pretty girl holding a fish or behind a deer. 

Why? Because all of these assumptions and accusations tend to stereotype a lot of women in the fishing & hunting industry as a  “poser", when many are not. There is no exact mold that every outdoors women will fit into. Guess what? There are many very beautiful, attractive and extra “girly" women who might wear make-up or a bikini in her photos once in a while, who are also are very talented, smart and skilled fishers & hunters learning new things everyday and not ashamed to post it all: the pretty, the good, the bad and the ugly. (Say what?! Hard to believe. I know.)

Before you get your panties in a knot: 

Yes, I do agree that there are a few bad apples in the industry who have 1000’s of followers on social media for the sheer fact they are purposely sexualizing a male-dominated sport or lifestyle, whether its fishing, hunting, snowmobiling, dirt biking, etc. I used to get annoyed with the “outdoor bunnies”, which is the nickname I use to refer the women who pose in nearly EVERY one of their fishing or hunting photos wearing extremely revealing clothing and ensuring their breasts are the main focus of the photo, knowing fully that they are going to get a lot of attention for it. It’s evident that the only thing they are hunting and fishing for is "likes” rather than "respect", and we all know that. However, I have learned that it’s better to just let their true knowledge and actions speak louder than their ridiculous photos, than to sit there and worry about it. Proof is on the water or in the tree stand! If they actually aren’t that skilled or educated in the industry, the truth will come out one way or another. I have realized that venting about it only makes me look jealous, espeically to men. And if you start venting too much, they will lose respect for you in any male-dominated industry. I fish with mostly males and I know this for a fact! I have to remind myself daily (even still) that I am not that type of woman who complains about other outdoors women for the attention they get for how they look or what they wear. I will gain nothing from it. Once I just started to keep my mouth shut, I learned that karma works in wonderful ways.

Furthermore, I also know a few women who are “insta-famous” — having 1000’s of followers on social media who are not bearing any skin in hardly any of their fishing photos at all, and yet still portray a false image of what they really know or worked hard for. It's amazing how reposting a few professional-quality photos that a friend took of them out casting, can make a person appear. I used to get so irritated knowing the truth about them, but again, I have learned that venting just makes me look jealous. It makes me look jealous just typing about it now. Their knowledge in the industry — or lack there of — speaks for itself when industry leaders start talking to them and realizing the truth. 

Finally, I too agree that there are a lot of companies who are turning to female brand ambassdors who are those “outdoor bunnies” or “insta-famous”, who are liked for pictures that portray a false representation of what it means to be successful, respected and truely talented in the outdoors industry. It used to frustrate me seeing girls who have posted all over their social media that they are “pro staff” for 1738484 companies when most of those companies just wanted free advertisement over talent. I also can’t tell you how many times girls have messaged me about the few companies I am an ambassador for, asking, “How did you become an ambassador for those companies?! I want free stuff!”. I can tell you right now that not only myself, but many others, lose a lot of respect for any woman who has ever asked that question like that, and furthermore I lose all respect for any company bringing a girl like this onto their ambassador program. For the record, being a brand ambassador is NOT about getting free stuff. If that's all you are looking for, then you aren't in it for the right reasons. On the flip side, it’s also not about taking and accepting every single brand ambassador offer you get. Being a brand ambassador is about being recognized for your talent, skill, as well as for being real and honest with the world. It’s also about being apart of an elite team of both companies and fellow ambasadors who are supporting you and each other. Elite team is a key phrase there. 

So, the moral of this part of my story: I, too, used to complain about some of these women who are actually getting a lot of attention for the wrong reasons when I know they don't put in their time or work as other's do to earn their spot in this industry. I used to be guilty of complaining a lot, and my last boyfriend can attest to this — however, I gained nothing from it. In the long run, a women's lack of skills in fishing or hunting speak louder than me b*tching about them. Period. 

Now, back to my main point:

Do I fall into that category that I am a "poser" as I mentioned at the beginning of this post? At first, I felt that way when reading a few of these articles and blog posts or comments, as a lot of them were written by other women. A lot of them are written by women who felt like they were empowering "the real deals" in the industry, but yet to me, all it came across as was them complaining about everyone else and trying to emphasize that they, themselves, are the ideal image of what a “true outdoors women” is — which is one that isn't dawning makeup, pretty hair, or a bikini, and only those posting only their best flies, perfect casts, and high quality photos are the true women in fishing. They called out any & every chick who didn’t fit that image. 

Why did they make me feel like I was a poser? 

Does it appear like I am pretty face taking selfies behind a vise with not-so-great flies all the time, and getting likes for my face over my flies? Yup. It sure does look that way doesn’t it? But I've been tying for less than 2 years and I don't have the luxury of having someone teach me -- I have been mostly self taught, and I am still schooling a lot of people who have been tying longer than I have been alive! Am I catching fish every day that I get out on the river or did I bag a deer this season? Nope, definitely not. I usually catch more trees than I do fish and I saw a lot of deer this season that I couldn’t call in close enough to take an ethical shot. I also fish alone sometimes and I haven’t posted or taken photos of every single fish I catch. Am I perfect at my Snap-T? HELL NO. But I'm not bad and I can shoot line pretty dang far considering I've only been spey casting for a year! Do I wear make-up in my selfies or on the river sometimes? Yes, because it feels good to look pretty and there is no crime in a little mascara. Do I shoot a bow with pink accessories & arrows? Sure do, because pink is one of my favourite colors and I have a pretty good darn shot regardless. Am I an ambassador for a couple of companies? Of course! But I am an ambassador for a select, small handful of companies who are supporting who & what I am about, which is supporting local BC companies, supporting women making waves in the industry, or creating performace products designed for women making waves in the industry. All of the companies I rep for have made me feel like I am being recognized for my hardwork and skill, and I feel like I am apart of a team of other very talented ambassadors who are all supporting me as much as I support them. 

When I answered all of these questions to myself, I realized more and more that not all women fit into the same mold, and that it’s getting frustrating that a few women in the community feel entitled to create this image of what a “real women in fishing” are supposed to look like and post about, and complaining about any women who don’t meet those standards to try to make themselves look better. It's creating unnecessary drama. I have made it a goal to no longer worry about what others are doing, and to just worry about myself. I have also made it a goal to break the mold and cast a new one; one that equally proves a woman can be feminine and a fisher. Doing that has gotten me a hell of a lot more opportunities and respect lately! 

In the end, I am real about who I am, and in my opinion, I think that’s all that should matter. I don't care what mold I fit into, because I fit one that seems to be working for me. I have parents of young daughters messaging me to tell me how refreshing it is to see a woman taking risks and chasing her dreams by herself & on her own, being positive, doing my own thing, learning lessons and giving it 110% daily. I strive to a be total package deal and I could care less how many followers or likes that gets me, whether its 0 or a million. I own who I am and what I am about, and I work my ass off to earn respect over attention. I actually own what I am good at and humble enough to admit what I am not good at and what I am working hard towards achieving, and I post photos of it and my progress. I am not sitting here saying I have years of exeperience fly fishing or bow hunting. I am not posting any photos of perfect flies claiming they are mine when someone else tied them for me. I am not posting different angles of the same fish I caught 3 years ago over and over to make it seem like I’m always catching fish every single day out. I am not posting tons of photos with my shirt cut low or shorts extra short to get attention for how much skin I am showing. I am not posting anything that exaggerates from the truth to make me seem any more skilled, knowledgeable or better than I really am. For me, proof really is still on the river, up in the tree stand, or behind the vise -- in every aspect, good or bad, but at least I own it all on social media too.

My final points that I hope you take away from this:

  1. Skill and knowledge will always outshine in the end. All that matters is you know who you are and what you can do, and you own it. Stay humble. 

  2. You had to start somewhere too. Your flies aren’t always perfect. Your casts aren’t always flawless. Your not always catching fish every day. And yet you are probably also a “pro staff” or “ambassador” for a few companies. You may choose to only post your best moments — and to each their own —but some women chose to be real and post the not-so-great things too as they learn and grow. Remember that.

  3. You can still look pretty in your fishing or hunting photos. Looking like a tomboy doesn't make you any better of a fisher or hunter and wearing a bikini doesn’t make you any less of a fisher or hunter. Heck, I wear makeup and have my hair done nice in all my fly tying selfies, and I just so happen to slay at my eye liner wing & my fly feather wing. Believe it or not, I like to promote the concept that woman can still look and feel feminine and be epic fly fishers or hunters at the same time and I feel no shame in that! Let me remind you that Joan Wulff wore short shorts and a tube top in one of her most iconic fly fishing photos, and she is one of the most respected women in fly fishing history. Let me also remind you April Vokey is now co-owner of her own swimwear line with the outdoor women’s interest in mind, and she too is a very respected women in fly fishing. Both women are total bombshells and extremely talented in the industry. Just some food for thought. Who cares what people wear or how they look?! Wear whatever makes you feel good or look however makes you feel good, just make sure your talent is equally as evident and showcased as well!

  4. If you are going to sit and complain and be frustrated about some women having a lot of followers or likes on social media for whatever reason it may be, you are really just wasting away time that could be spent fishing or out hunting. You are also wasting time if you actually pay attention to which girls like or don’t like your photos and unfollowing/following them in some sort of weird battle on social media. I just focus on doing my own thing, and you should too. (And there is a nice little “block” button on all social media platforms that is also very useful!) At the end of the day my goal is to teach young girls to worry more about shattering glass ceilings than about fitting into glass slippers. We already know that no parent is going to let their daughter follow a chick on instagram with barely any clothes on in every photo. Lets be real. So we are already winning there. Secondly, notice how you only see ladies who are actually making waves, being featured in fly fishing magazines or on TV? Funny how that works? The big wigs in the industry see past it, so why are you worried about it?

  5. Stop saying “outdoor bunnies” scare away other women from wanting to get into the sport. Women constantly complaining about other women scares people away! There’s always going to be “bunnies” in every male-dominated industry and it only makes you look jealous or threatened. Instead, start promoting being a “real deal” and do your own thing! Focus on yourself and stop worrying about others. 

Tight lines + stay wild, oxo. 


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