Gun Women: Firearms and Feminism in Contemporary America

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Women, we are told, should not own guns. Women, we are told, are more likely to be injured by their own guns than to fend off an attack themselves. This "fact" is rooted in a fundamental assumption of female weakness and vulnerability. Why should a woman not be every bit as capable as a man of using a firearm in self-defense?

And yet the reality is that millions of American women—somewhere between 11,000,000 and 17,000,000—use guns confidently and competently every day. Women are hunting, using firearms in their work as policewomen and in the military, shooting for sport, and arming themselves for personal security in ever-increasing numbers. What motivates women to possess firearms? What is their relationship to their guns? And who exactly are these women? Crucially, can a woman be a gun-owner and a feminist too?

Women's growing tendency to arm themselves has in recent years been political fodder for both the right and the left. Female gun owners are frequently painted as "trying to be like men" (the conservative perspective) or "capitulating to patriarchal ideas about power" (the liberal critique). Eschewing the polar extremes in the heated debate over gun ownership and gun control, and linking firearms and feminism in novel fashion, Mary Zeiss Stange and Carol K. Oyster here cut through the rhetoric to paint a precise and unflinching account of America's gun women.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The first feminist manifesto on women and guns. Closely reasoned, meticulously researched, yet accessibly written, this book's appeal spans the entire political spectrum. It will enlighten committed pacifists and feminists no less than advocates of self-defense, with its theme that so long as women are perceived—and perceive themselves—as too weak to defend themselves, non-violence is not a choice, but merely a culturally assigned role."

-Don B. Kates,coauthor The Great American Gun Debate

"A lively mix of memoir, cultural and historical analysis, statistics, and cross-generational profiles of women who shoot—blasting the notion that feminism and firearms are incompatible."-Peace News

"As one of the 'normal, well-balanced [female] adults' who own guns and as one of the 10 percent of hunters who are women, I applaud this eye-opening, complex, challenging book, a frank account of why we hunt and why we love guns which effectively punctures the myths about women, hunting, and guns."

-Diane Humphrey Lueck,University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, Outreach Specialist, International Becoming an Outdoors-Woman Program

"Gun Women explores the relationship between firearms and women from many perspectives, both historical and modern, while also acknowledging the role guns have had in shaping our national character. The authors continually remind us that women who own guns are not the victims of their own fear of being attacked nor of the efforts of the firearm industry to market to them. Introducing "gun women" as intelligent, capable people, this book breaks down the gender and political stereotypes that people have about women who use guns."

-Shari LeGate,Executive Director, Women's Shooting Sports Foundation

"What should people do when they must face a criminal by themselves? Passive behavior is certainly not the safest course of action. Stange and Oyster take on the hard questions about women's fears of—and use of—guns, in virtually every imaginable context. They convincingly show that these fears are more likely to endanger women's lives and those they love than they are to save them."-John R. Lott Jr.,author of More Guns, Less Crime

Stange and Oyster (religion and women's studies, Skidmore College and psychology, U. of Wisconsin-LaCrosse, respectively) describe their personal relationships to guns, express appreciation for the beauty and skill of shooting, and excoriate the hyperbole on either side of the debate over guns. While asserting the feminist aspects of gun ownership in slightly more nuanced terms than usual, the volume is perhaps too dependent on anecdote to answer the philosophical, psychological, and political questions it engages. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814797600
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/2000
  • Series: Fast Track Bks.
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 278
  • Product dimensions: 5.82 (w) x 8.38 (h) x 0.92 (d)

Meet the Author

Mary Zeiss Stange is Associate Professor of Religion and Women's Studies at Skidmore College and author of Woman the Hunter.

Carol K. Oyster is Professor of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse and author of Groups: A User's Guide.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 29, 2013

    Very good book about the feminine side of gun ownership

    Was well rounded and complete in all the issues of women and guns. One interesting point made by firearm instructors is that women make the best students because they listen and follow directions. They come to the training without an ego or an attitude. There is a conflict about what women think about guns and what they get from the women's lib movement. Despite claims for equality they discourage women from owning a handgun in particular which I found to be a rather odd position. Read this book to get the rest of the story.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 25, 2000

    Conversation with the Author

    I had a chance to ask a question and make a comment with the author on Wisconsin Public Radio. Her book is from a women's perspective. Her background is urban New Jersey with no exposure to firearms until she met her husband. I asked her if she knew of Carol Ruth Silver. She knew her from Silver's contribution to Don Kates' 'Restricting Handguns - The Liberal Skeptics Speak Out'. The discussion on the radio program was varied and most informative.

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