(Warning – some of the statements in this two-part article may be offensive to the male ego.)
There’s not a successful man anywhere, at any time, or in any place that was not influenced, driven, encouraged, directed, and developed by a good woman. That woman may have been his friend, his lover, his wife, his mother, or his sister. There is always a woman. This is undeniable truth.
Men and women have held different roles in various societies throughout history. There were the Amazons and Shield Maidens that went to battle beside their men and are now lost in the fog of history. There were women that ruled as queens, emperors, and pharaohs. Many matriarchal societies still exist today where women are the dominant and driving force of the entire civilization. In yet others the women are subservient to men in all things. In all those diverse civilizations and societies one thing rings true throughout history – the entire course of human history has been determined, directly or indirectly, by women.
However the ground rules of a society are laid out or however a civilization develops the rules of male-female interaction, like it or not, the fact remains that without our women we, as men, would be lost and floundering in the darkness of indecision and misdirection.
If you made it through the first three paragraphs without hitting the delete button you can now read on about the topic at hand.
Enter redfish competition.
I have long been interested in the question of why there aren’t more women in competitive angling -particularly redfish competition. I have come up with all manner of reasons why this is so but none of them are very satisfying.
For men, competitive angling satisfies the innate male need to compete, to fight, to wage war on the opposition. It is a subtle means of winning battles and wars without enduring or inducing physical harm. Victories are hailed by all, envied by some, and spurned by others. Heroes emerge, competitors train harder, others join the ranks to test their mettle and, soon, a sport is born from the hot fires of testosterone fueled competition. This is men’s work they would say. Poppycock and balderdash I say.
Competitive angling, as a matter of competition, is not so different as in other eras of history when men have gone off to battle while the women were left behind look after the home, the children, the crops, and the land so their men would have a place to return to. The similarities are actually quite striking.
When I ask women why they do or don’t compete in redfish competitions I get all sorts of answers. “It’s too expensive”, “Someone has to stay home and look after the kids”, “I wasn’t taught to fish”, “There’s too many men out there”, and etc, and etc.
Women inherently understand the male need to compete. On some level they get it. Interestingly, some women (perhaps the Shield Maidens of olden times) feel this competitive urge too. The desire to test their mettle against those same men in “their” man-sport burns hot within them.
In theory, women should be better anglers than men. They have more patience, they concentrate on tasks better, they tolerate pain better, they have better color vision, they are more socially integrated, and they understand the male ego in ways we can never know.
So, where are they? Why aren’t they out here with the rest of us?
Way back in the Cup days I remember what an interesting thing it was to see Leiza Fitzgerald and Merrily Dunn along with Starr Boykin and Barbara Scopelitis competing in redfish tournaments. It was very unusual, and I confess that I immensely enjoyed the angst among the men that was created by their very presence.
The talk around the men’s camps revolved around how bad it was going to be to “get beat by the girls” and who would be the first poor slobs to fall to this unheard-of travesty. No one wanted to be that team because they would be unmercifully taunted.
Ridiculous I know; but there it is. I was there. I saw it. I heard it. And, I didn’t much like it.
Fast forward to today.
There still aren’t very many women competing but there are a few and I think there would be more if we would just open the door and invite them in. Oh my, but that would require a complete resetting of the male barometer now wouldn’t it? I say we need to move on past the current state of affairs and grow this sport to ever higher levels by inviting, teaching, encouraging, and helping women who have that competitive desire learn the game. We need sponsors to recognize these women’s teams and give them the same support. In short, we need to put out the welcome mat and stop pushing back to protect “our” battlefield.
I also believe that the development of a few “women only” competitions would be a good place to start the training but ultimately it is a sport in which men and women could be, and should be, completely integrated on the field of play. Having a men’s and women’s division separately makes no sense because that would be, in essence, a confession that women cannot compete with men at the same level which is nonsense.
In Part Two I will continue this topic and ask some of the women competing today what their thoughts are on the subject.