“Do girls fish too?”
I seem to be drawn to industries and careers where I am the minority. Blame it on my competitive nature or my stubbornness to conform, but I refuse to be told “I can’t” because I’m a girl. Women are incredibly strong, scratch that, resilient.
My career in agriculture made me tough in more ways than one. Excluding the permanent calluses on my hands and stronger than average upper body strength, it was the “I will wait for him to help me” and “can you please get me your manager” that truly made me tough. A girl managing livestock? Halter breaking seven hundred pound beef cattle? Waking up at 3AM to milk 135 cows on her own? Driving a manual pick-up? Hauling a trailer? Castrating and branding? Society itself might be existing in the twenty first century, but the agriculture industry still operates in what feels like the eighteen hundreds.
Credit where credit is due, agriculture is not for the mentally or physically weak. It has the ability to break you down, but in the end my love and passion for the industry outweighed the critics and the negative comments made by the old men farmers. Speaking from personal experience, drive will help you crawl out of the constant questioning of inadequacy and personal doubt. Drive and selective hearing.
I cannot take full credit, however. The mental beating of never feeling enough takes a toll and it is exhausting consistently trying to prove yourself to the wrong audience. So to whom do I give my credit? My Dad, my great uncle, and my fellow sisters in agriculture. My Dad never treated me any different than my brother. He gave me the same chores, held the same expectations, and never commented on a task being too hard for me because of my gender. My great uncle was the same way, even encouraging me to pursue a degree in livestock sciences after I graduated high school. I also found comfort in my student organization, Sigma Alpha, a group of women dedicated to supporting each other in a “good ole boys” industry. Being empowered by those around me did more for my confidence than I could have ever created for myself. The only worse feeling than feeling inadequate is feeling inadequate and alone. That combination is debilitating.
Four years of livestock sciences later and here I am post-grad, pursuing a career in another industry that has the same outlook on women, fly fishing. You see the trend?
“You fish everyday? Atta girl”
“Do girls fish too?”
“You’re the first girl I’ve met who is actually into it and not looking for a boyfriend”
“You guide too?”
Working in a fly shop and as a fly fishing guide is an endless pot of one-liners from customers who either disapprove of or are surprised by my passion for the sport. Unfortunately, I am used to it: the criticism, the doubt, and the comments.
“When you have a bad day, it is not going to be because of the conditions or your clients’ ability to fish, but because you are a girl.”
I am blessed to have landed in roles with bosses and co-workers who stand by my side throughout the diversity, and treat me with respect and as an equal despite this label placed on me by society. I have no doubt in my mind that if someone had half the mind to insult me in front of my coworkers, their business would be terminated.
Women are resilient. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. I am constantly inspired and motivated by other female individuals constantly breaking the status quo to pursue what they love. However easy it may seem to throw in the towel and accept a more “appropriate” job, there is noting more satisfying than being able to walk away from a task or fishing venture knowing you out performed your male counterparts.
It is an addicting feeling, proving yourself. However, there are going to be times when you are going to be humbled. There are going to be days where you are not at peak performance or on your “A Game.” There are going to be days where your clients are not satisfied with the amount of fish in the net and blame it on your gender. It will be days like these that your critics will speak the loudest. Therefore, I do not encourage you to look for satisfaction from others but from yourself. Do you enjoy what you are doing? Does it set fire to your soul? Does it relax you? Are you happy? As long as the answer is yes, keep working those livestock, maintaining tight lines, and learning. Seek validation from no one but yourself, for it is then that those derogatory comments from the older generation will roll off without effort.
Be you, be bold, be un-wavered. Cheers to the women constantly defying the status quo and doing what they love. May you always have tight lines, full nets, and validation from no one but yourself.