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Kathryn Maroun: We are all equal in the eyes of fish and children

Women have been fishing alongside men forever, but our contributions have been greatly undervalued or left out altogether. Reading this “Journal of Sport History” article helped me to build a timeline in my own mind, an important first step in rewriting the history of fly fishing.

Our true history will better reflect voices that would otherwise be silenced by historians and men’s angling groups.

It became glaringly obvious to me early on that men’s groups are formed to create an imbalance of power. Discrimination plays out as a form of social bullying where the powerful isolate the visible minority from the pack, refusing to socialize with them, and worse. Adults who bully have authoritarian personalities, combined with a strong need to control or dominate. Some bullies are arrogant and narcissistic — others use bullying to boost their self-esteem.

Women angling leaders are notably excluded from clubs, text and photos. The clubs’ sole purpose is to serve as meeting places for like-minded sports, places where people gather who share similar values and beliefs, and of course a love of fishing.

Separate … and not equal

“Separate but equal” is a contradiction in terms and violates modern-day sensibilities. Excluding any group because its members are “different” is hurtful and backward. How do they explain away the harm done by denying women access to the opportunities that they enjoy via membership in men-only clubs? What do these members tell their daughters?

People react in the same way they are treated, so it was not surprising to see the groundswell against the status quo of the “old boys club” when I started an online petition against gender inequality in our sport. I had more than 140 signatures in the first 24 hours.

Kathryn in Mongolia. Photo courtesy of Kathryn Maroun

People have been writing to tell me about their own experiences, so I started the Facebook support group “Is Anyone Here Good Enough for the Anglers’ Club of New York?”  The online exchanges make clear that people want to see a revision of outdated philosophies in angling culture. I’m sure the members of the Anglers’ Club can feel in their bones that people are hurting by being excluded in this way. Some people can only understand what they’ve seen before, and if their ears are not open to hearing what we’re trying to tell them, change can’t happen.

I have an older and a younger brother; my dad would take them fishing, but not me — because I’m a girl. Being excluded still hurts my feelings, even today. I didn’t view myself as different, simply as the middle child. Why do so many mothers give away their daughters’ pride by allowing these lessons of power and status to be taught? It is like breaking an elephant with chains. Horrible thing to watch and do nothing.

Here is what I posted on Facebook:

My name is Kathryn and I’m not good enough for the Anglers’ Club. I have all the skills to make me look like an angler, and I even talk like an angler, but at the end of the day I’m not “clubbable” because of my uterus, vagina and breasts. I don’t belong to any women’s clubs, and I don’t belong to any men’s clubs. I just fish. So join me here and share fishing and friendship.

Friends thought perhaps my account had been hacked. This type of post is a little lowbrow for me. Its purpose was to shock by breaking this issue down into the most basic of terms: sex. That’s what we’re really talking about here, isn’t it? What is it about the mere mention of the female body that makes people uncomfortable? Nothing inappropriate about it. “The Vagina Monologues” was popular and well attended.

Kathryn Maroun battles a giant trevally on a sandbar in the Indian Ocean. Photo courtesy of Kathryn Maroun

People have a natural drive to feel connected and included. I guess I’m still looking for that. It won’t be fixed by landing a world-record blue catfish, which I did. It will only be fixed by creating awareness to the problem through efforts like this. I do find some solace in this, however:

“To go fishing is the chance to wash one’s soul with pure air, with the rush of the brook, or with the shimmer of sun on blue water. It brings meekness and inspiration from the decency of nature, charity toward tackle-makers, patience toward fish, a mockery of profits and egos, a quieting of hate, a rejoicing that you do not have to decide a darned thing until next week. And it is discipline in the equality of men—for all men are equal before fish.”

—Herbert Hoover

She’s on a sailfish! Photo courtesy of Kathryn Maroun

Ninety-eight percent of my feedback on this issue is very positive, and at times quite funny. Bill wrote, “I suspect the Anglers’ Club (never been there) is mostly a group of stuffy, self-congratulatory, old white guys (OWGs) who take themselves far too seriously, and seriously overlook women’s contributions to their sport and their lives.” One woman told me that she burned her bra long ago and we are OK today. This when I had the barbecue lighter in hand, but I used it to burn this guy’s post:

Randy wrote, “I guarantee you can fish a heckuvalot better than me but I do run well with the pack!”

Fire up your Bics

Don’t put your lighters away yet, ladies. More disturbing to me than that last post is knowing that so many women gave up their power/voice years ago and have simply lost hope. Deb wrote, “They won’t change … at least not until our parents’ generation is all dead.”

Laynie wrote, “They can give birth to these men … but not be allowed to fish alongside them . . . they can raise their offspring . . . yet not sit beside them at a club event . . . if these men did not have women doing the things for them to keep their homes and lives running they would not have time for such idle pursuits as spending time in anglers’ clubs.”

It’s time to elevate our rich fly-fishing history and make it even richer by remembering that we are all equal in the eyes of fish and children. (I love this Bing Crosby/Louis Armstrong classic, “Gone Fishin’.”)

A member of the Anglers’ Club was quoted as saying that he is “drawn to fly fishing’s peace and naturalism.” Well, I guess he is talking about Father Nature. They want to take credit for that, too.

If you enjoyed this blogpost by Kathryn Maroun, you will more than likely enjoy her first blogpost, about class and fishing. Also, visit Kathryn at WhataCatch!

 

 

  • About Kathryn Maroun

    Kathryn Maroun is one of a handful of Canadian women to be certified as an FFF casting instructor. She is the award winning executive producer of What A Catch Productions. The 52 show series highlights Kathryn's fishing adventures from around the world. Kathryn exposes never talked about hazards of the sport, conservation, culture, as well as showcasing exotic game fish in her series. Her show first aired in the US before being internationally distributed. Kathryn is featured in the collection of two prominent museums for her significant contribution to the sport of fly fishing. Kathryn Maroun is the president and founder of Casting for Recovery Canada, past director of Trout Unlimited Canada and past member of the Canadian World Fly Fishing team. Along with creating a line of clothing for women at work in the outdoors, Kathryn has fished around the world and has a number of world record fish to her name. Today she dedicates her time to writing about her miss-adventures and enjoys telling her stories through keynote speaking opportunities. Kathryn is campaigning to create a more balanced playing field for women in the sport.

     

The Conversation

22 Comments
  • We are all equal in the eyes of fish and children says: October 30, 2013 at 11:48 am

    […] Originally posted on the Women’s Outdoor News on September 12, 2012 […]

  • Don Domingo says: September 17, 2012 at 6:29 pm

    Hi Kathryn,,

    Whenever or whatever needs to be changed it always starts with a ” Leader ” Thank you for being the leader. What you have done with starting petitions is very commendable. I see alot of positive feedback from folks who share the same opinion. Many women suffer gender discimination everyday. I am sadened to see many women have had hurtful experiences. This is also a great forum for women to express their uncomfortable gender realted issues. I am very sensitive to these gender issues because not me but my generation of men were disgusting when it came to the treatment of women. I believe that those individuals will be nearly impossible to change. You have to make what you described alienation, but in reverse. Influence in a postive way the folks that will listen and change in the masses. This will in the long run alienate these ” Good Ole Boys ” Let me know how I can help!

    • kathryn maroun says: September 18, 2012 at 11:29 am

      Don, I enjoyed reading about your view of the world. By posting about the issue of gender discrimination, you are creating the change you want to see. Well done. I hope others will follow your example. Talking about the issue is a great first step to creating change. Keep up the great work!

    • Barbara Baird says: September 21, 2012 at 6:16 pm

      And, isn’t it marvelous to see a leader such as Kathryn, who exhibits class and refinement, along with knowledge? Thanks, Kathryn, for being here.

  • Moreno says: September 17, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    Flyfishing-boy, flyfishing-girl… there is no difference. We’re all Flyfisher, and we all share a beautiful hobby.
    PUNTO, BASTA.

  • Robert Leffew says: September 14, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    Hello Kathryn;
    I am in the media and marketing dept. at theonlinefisherman.com, our site is owned by a woman and we are looking to get women owned fishing businesses, guides, and products on the site, we would also like to have any events and charities concerning women contact us.
    By the way, my wife catches more fish than I do and won’t let me forget it.
    My email is robert@theonlinefisherman.com and thank you.

    • kathryn maroun says: September 15, 2012 at 4:42 am

      Robert, this is wonderful news. Congrats to you.This is the best news I’ve had all day…..this and the news that I didn’t need to get a root canal. No joke. Tight lines to you and keep up the great work.

  • Red says: September 13, 2012 at 8:12 pm

    I am extremely grateful to have been introduced to fishing at a very young age by the man I call my grandpa. He didn’t think differently if we were boy or girl growing up, if we were interested in it and wanted to try it he let us (as long as it wouldn’t hurt us of course). I caught my first fish around 3 or 4 and became obsessed then. I was later introduced to fly tying and fly fishing by my step-dad’s father. He was a little harder to convince due to my age and the complication of the sport and tying but I did it. It is now one of my biggest stress relievers. Rarely is there a week that goes by where I do not at least touch water, with or without my rod.

    I simply cannot imagine my life without this sport, I refuse to. Thank you for speaking up for all of us!

    • kathryn maroun says: September 13, 2012 at 8:31 pm

      Red, your journey touched me. A lesser person may have walked away (the easy road and what we think people want us to do). When we behave in a way that is not gender “norm” and we stand firm and follow our heart’s dreams, then we win twice. We become natural leaders and we learn empathy. Congrats to you for being true to yourself and brave enough to try, and try again despite the hardships of a road less travelled. You were speaking up for yourself as well as all girls.
      Bravo. You created positive change in this world.

      • Red says: October 3, 2012 at 5:57 pm

        Thank you Kathryn! I think you have done the same. I hope we can both continue to do the same as well. Surely someday it will all payoff and generations after us won’t have the struggle we have had.

  • Bill Bowers says: September 13, 2012 at 11:02 am

    This WG (I prefer not to think of myself as “old” just yet, thank you!) is very glad that more and more women are taking their rightful places as leaders and role models in the outdoor sports, and that The WON is giving Kathryn a forum from which to shine a light into the dark corners where the Old Boys Club still prevails . . . or tries to.

    Brava!

    • kathryn maroun says: September 13, 2012 at 4:17 pm

      Well Bill, We will leave the “old” out of the conversation for sure. You have been around the fishing and hunting industry for some time and I’m sure you would like to see things get better for gals who work/play in the outdoors. The Old Boys Club is feeling old and we need things to change asap. I’m grateful for my home base at The WON. This is the perfect venue to get the conversation started about gender discrimination and how we can fix the issue. A lot of people pm me about what they see, hear and feel about this topic. Clearly, we have a lot of work to do.

  • Harald Flyfishman Larsen says: September 13, 2012 at 8:28 am

    Hi Kathryn.

    You are doing a Great Job :-))

    Fishing is for all and Females are on the same Level as Men.

    Goooooo.Girls and Women :-))

    Take Care.

    Sincerely
    Harald Flyfishman Larsen. Norway

    • kathryn maroun says: September 13, 2012 at 4:24 pm

      Harald my dear, Flyfishman Larsen, thank you for your ongoing support. It must be wonderful to live in the land of the big fish. I understand that school children are given fishing rods. Is this to say that girls and boys are given the same opportunities where you live?

      • Harald Flyfishman Larsen says: September 14, 2012 at 2:53 pm

        Hi Kathryn.

        Yea,it is great here in Norway and Boys and Girls has the same opportunities.
        And they loves it.
        All schools gets free rods for fishing. Get the youngster out in the beautiful nature we have, instead for hanging around in Supermarkets etc.

        Fishing Clubs here has the same rules for everybody,we are all like in this Sport :-))

        Take Care and have a good weekend :-))

        Sincerely
        Harald

        • kathryn maroun says: September 14, 2012 at 3:47 pm

          Harald, I wonder why so many other places get this so wrong? Next time I visit Norway I will look into how you make equality as automatic as breathing.
          Tight lines to you.
          kath

  • Britney Starr says: September 12, 2012 at 1:58 pm

    I think its highly commendable that you are speaking out against such issues. Although I’m not an angler personally, I do face much of the same behavior from “The Old Boys Club” during my hunting expeditions. If we (the women’s outdoor industry) go in with guns blazin’, so to speak, maybe the OBC and OWG’s will eventually get the message. Thank you for taking a stand.

    • kathryn maroun says: September 12, 2012 at 6:05 pm

      Thank you for your support Britney. You walk the walk and have to put up with the “old Boys Club” games as well. It is awful, just awful. We can make things better for woman who work and play in the outdoors. Talking about the issue is a great start. Keep me posted on what is going on in your neck of the woods. I want to hear your stories. Standing with you, kath