One of the most delicious 22 minutes on cable TV has to be “The Soup,” a comedy show hosted by the sultan of satire, Joel McHale. The part of the show that always cracks me up is when Joel gazes into the camera and leads into the regular segment about female celebrities by saying, “Let’s talk about chicks, man.” Though I don’t normally refer to women as babes, girls or chicks, the segment logo, which features several baby birds huddled together, is set off by biting commentary about the antics of Heidi Montag or Kim Kardashian, making the whole thing just plain funny.
Though I don’t aspire to that kind of humor, this week I will be talking about chicks, instead of what I usually do, which is talk with chicks.
To that end, I called Kenny Kieser, an outdoor writer, book author, hunter and angler who possess an unabashed admiration of strong women.
Kenny comes from hardy stock. He loves to tell the story about his great, great, great grandmother, Elizabeth Rose, a Missouri woman who in 1876 bravely forged ahead to South Dakota with her four children after her husband succumbed to illness. Kenny said the family contends Elizabeth Rose was the second white women in Deadwood, S.D. She and her boys set up a livery stable and food tent for the town’s hungry gold miners. And she prospered during a time when there wasn’t a government bailout for widows trying to make a go of it against all odds with rough prospectors and hostile Lakota.
In the American old west, a woman had to be courageous and a proficient shot. Though Kenny hasn’t modeled one particular character after the legendary Elizabeth Rose in his books, you’ll find the women in Kenny’s historical westerns, “Ride the Trail of Death, and “Black Moon’s Revenge” borrow from her indomitable spirit.
Fast forward to modern times and Kenny says the women in his life are still fiercely independent. His aunts know how to take care of themselves and his mother single-handedly runs a 160-acre farm. These role models have fostered Kenny’s appreciation and understanding of women who know what they want.
He said he’s glad today’s woman has claimed a more visible presence in the industry. Kenny is quick to point out more women hunters means additional dollars for conservation, through hunting license fees, duck stamps and taxes on firearms and ammunition especially earmarked for wildlife management and hunter education.
I asked Kenny what he thought about the conversations women were having now about our place in the outdoors including: Are women such as Tiffany Lakosky and Haley Heath good role models or does their beauty generate skepticism about their skills? Are pink firearms, fishing rods and other outdoor gear a condescending marketing ploy or a way for women to assert their femininity while enjoying hunting, fishing and target shooting? Does a woman have to be an “extreme” hunter or angler to portray the right image or should we strive to make the outdoors more welcoming to women who are beginners or maybe just less hard core?
I posed these questions to Kenny in a gush of words, and he had good answers. First, he said hunting and fishing should not be driven by your ego, whether you’re a man or a woman. Being an outdoors-woman is what you make of it, not an exercise in meeting some subjective standard. Kenny said hunting and fishing should be enjoyable. Relaxing. Exciting. A chance to watch the seasons change, observe wildlife, learn about nature, build your skills and confidence, and savor the companionship of your family and friends.
What I’ve come to understand is how neat it is to have such diversity among women who hunt, target shoot and fish. It means there truly is a place for every woman who wants to be a part of our community, whether she’s a diehard outdoorswomen or an occasional participant. There’s a place for women who wear makeup when they go fishing and shoot handguns with pink grips and for women who can identify ducks on the wing and insist on field dressing their own deer.
This really isn’t a new idea. Within my lifetime, I’ve seen attitudes change about women’s role in society. When women first began entering the work force in great numbers, the career woman reigned supreme. However, attitudes have evolved and today, women are respected whether they want to work in an office, be a stay-at-home mom or both. The outdoor community is beginning to understand and accept this concept, too, that as outdoor women we should be free to be who we are, not who we should be.