As part of the research for a book I'm working on (not on fishing, not this time) I've been gently lost in the world of old adverts. Some of them are horrendous (one features a baby imploring his mother to have a cigarette before scolding him, the subtext being that if she had a fag, she'd calm down a bit), some make me almost want to don a fitted cardigan and circle skirt and do some gardening (how well the world used to dress). But what struck me most was that, despite some of these ads being from 50 or 60 years ago, and some of them being unbelievably sexist, a great deal are more advanced than ads today.
I'm talking specifically about the ones centred around fishie things, of which there are a few. One – for American Airlines – shows a man and his wife fishing in the mountains with the strapline "Mountains or Beaches or Both?" Admittedly it then shows the woman, alone, on the beach, hinting that perhaps the fishing side of the holiday is a concession to her husband's pursuits alone. But I'm hard pushed to think of a single fishing ad today that features a woman.
I don't particularly care about this but it does bring me, rather seamlessly I hope, to my subject du jour. The other day I went to a fishing "do". In between being so horrible patronised by one man that in the end I just let out a huge sigh, I chatted with another, far more enlightened gentleman. "What" he asked me "can we do to get more women into fishing?" "Why do you want to?" I replied, "what does it matter if there are women 'in fishing'."
He thought for a bit. "Well, people are always saying it'd be nice to have more women in fishing." "Who are these people?" I asked. He pondered some more, a little foxed. I asked again: "Why are you so bothered to have more women in fishing, so that there can be more women at do's such as this?" as I looked around a room full of men, with maybe half a dozen women (I was the only woman on a table of about 14 men). "No," he said at last "because I think they'd enjoy fishing."
Now that's an entirely different thing. I agree that fishing is huge fun, it's brought me into contact with some fine minds, it's taught me about insects and opened my eyes to a world that I never thought would be mine. But I'd no more try to convert another woman to fishing than I would a man. Fishing is something you either get, or you don't. And if you don't then that's fine. (Leave the hard sell to the born–again Christians.)
The fact is, I know loads of women who fish. None of them see the fact that they are women as any sort of issue to fishing, only when others make it so. Personally, I'd rather see an emphasis put on educating some of the people who already do fish, rather than encouraging those that don't fish to do so, whether they want to or not. This was demonstrated by a tale that a friend told me, at a fishery where a black man was queuing up to get his day ticket, as he walked out the man in front of my friend in the queue said, to no–on in particular but nodding toward the black man "nothing's sacred these days is it?"
So, in answer to the perennial question I get asked "what can we do to get more women into fishing" my answer is, "stop asking that ridiculous question". The only advice I can give is that once a woman gets 'into fishing' don't make it an issue and patronise her, as some are wont to do. Because if women want to get into fishing, they will do, to suggest anything else makes them sound helpless, quite what they're not. Just perhaps more women don't fish because they simply don't want to. Isn't that allowed?