"Why does it have to be so … girly? I mean, it’s pink! Why pink instead of some more neutral color?" The question came from a friend of mine when she saw my original Cornered Cat page design awhile back. Although the current site look isn’t nearly so frilly and overstated, my friend’s question remains worth exploring because it tells you something about who I am and why I’m here. Folks who know me in real life quickly realize that I’m not really a pink-and-frilly type of person, more down to earth practical. So what’s with all the pink on the website, they wondered when they saw Cornered Cat’s original design. And they still wonder it; even though the current look is far less frilly than the original, the site retains its feminine feel. That’s on purpose.
While the question was common from curious friends, it also came to me as a genuine concern or even a criticism from other gun owners, both male and female. The men who complained sometimes did so because (as one so charmingly put it), "How can I learn anything from a pink website?! Someone might see me reading it!" The women expressed concern that female firearms owners won’t get taken seriously if we’re all about pink this and frilly that — that if we want to be respected in this male hobby, we should strive to be all business and no nonsense. That thought translates, of course, to meaning that we should shun the merely feminine. Femininity is the opposite of competent, in the firearms world. So if we want to be taken seriously as competent and adult human beings, we should avoid any appearance of being strongly feminine. Anything but pink!
Here’s the truth: when I decided to put together a website for beginning firearms owners, I deliberately chose a pink background set off with lots of frilly, lacy, feminine accents simply because I was fighting the exact same stereotypes that folks react against when they expressed surprise or concern about the color of the site. It has always bothered me, this perception that shooting and self-defense are masculine activities. Once upon a time when I complained of some very rude treatment on a firearms message board, one of the participating jerks replied, "Well, honey, if you don’t like being treated the way men treat each other, you should go find another hobby!" (Yes, really … sigh.) This person was under the impression that the only reason a woman would get into shooting, enjoy being at the range, or show an interest in learning about self-defense, was if she really wanted to be "just one of the guys," being treated like a guy and acting like a guy herself.
Some of my best friends are guys, but I’m not a guy. I’m a woman, and I enjoy firearms — especially self-defense firearms — and related topics. So what that person said just really got under my skin. That guy put it rudely and obviously, but I looked around and that assumption was everywhere. It was on every black-and-red website about firearms. It was on every page of every firearms magazine in the business, especially the ones with scantily-clad women posing with firearms they obviously didn’t know the first thing about shooting. It was in every macho advertisement for "EXTREME!" this and "TACTICAL" that. It was everywhere, this assumption that firearms owners are all male, or women who want to be male.
So that was when I started plotting to build a very pink, very frilly, very feminine website about firearms. Truthfully, it was my response to this widespread and pernicious assumption that women who like firearms have to be masculine to be taken seriously. Nonsense, I said to myself. That’s not true. We can be as feminine as we want to be, as long as we’re competent and capable. People will take competence and visible capability seriously, whether it’s wrapped in a pink and frilly cover or not. That was my premise and I set out to prove it.
So when I first designed Cornered Cat’s website, I deliberately chose to reinforce a stereotype about women simply in order to kick the stupid out of a really annoying stereotype about firearms owners. And it worked! Not only that, but I discovered something important along the way. People did take my pink-and-frilly website seriously. They took it seriously not because it was pink and frilly, but because I had done my homework and worked hard to provide accurate, realistic, honest information in a balanced way.
Perhaps firearms culture has changed a bit since I first began working on this site in 2003. I sure hope so. Or maybe I’ve just mellowed a little. Either way, I no longer feel driven to provide the pink and frilly kick in the pants I was trying for with the original design. Cornered Cat can be feminine without frills.
But at any rate, it is still sometimes amusing to me when an email correspondent writes in apparent amazement, "Your site isn’t just for women! There’s stuff there that’s useful for everyone…"
Well, yes. I hope so. That was one of the points I was trying to make with it. But only the only people who will ever notice are people capable of seeing past a very feminine sugar coating. And that’s just fine with me.