For my research on America’s gun culture, I have dozens of hours of gun-related TV shows recorded on my DVR. I have such a backlog not only because I record alot of shows, but also because it takes me a long time to watch the shows. Even though I DVR them, I do not always fast forward through the commercials. Indeed, many times the commercials are more interesting than the programs themselves — at least to a sociologist.
Although I am only doing a systematic study of advertising in gun magazines, I observe television ads closely as well. Recently I was watching a DVRed episode of “Handguns and Defensive Weapons” on Sportsman Channel (hosted by Richard Nance and James Tarr).
I was struck by the number of advertisements that focused on women and self-defense. A basic point of my work is that self-defense has always been a part of American gun culture, but it has become more central over time. So the self-defense emphasis is not surprising.
More notable to me was the centrality of women in the ads. Although women have always been a part of gun culture, men have predominated historically and even today. How far behind men women lag in gun ownership and even how many women own guns are open questions. But people like The Cornered Cat Kathy Jackson specialize in finding ways to encourage more women to get involved in gun culture. The appearance of more and more women in gun advertising signals this interest.
Most notable to me about these three ads was that each portrayed women somewhat differently. In this and two following posts, I will highlight one of the three ads with an eye to these differences.
The first is a 30 second ad for the Walther CCP handgun.
Although the female gun carrier is the central actor in this ad, the presumed audience is not women who might want a Walther CCP to defend themselves. Rather, the advertisement is directed at men (by the male voice-over) who want their women to have a Walther CCP in the event that the man can’t be there to protect them.
This seems to me to be a somewhat limited view, because a man interested in armed self-defense might want his woman to be armed whether or not he was there to protect her.
As much as many want to get women more involved in gun culture, this ideal of the masculine protector is still very common in Gun Culture 2.0. The two scholars who have (so far) studied concealed carriers sociologically both observe this: Jennifer Carlson in her book Citizen-Protectors (about which I’ve written many times) and Angela Stroud in her forthcoming book, Good Guys With Guns: The Appeal and Consequences of Concealed Carry.