Why I Hate the Booth Babe Story, a Guest Editorial by Holly A. Heyser

Editor's Note: As part of our annual coverage from the SHOT show, the outdoor industry's biggest convention, we always run a photo gallery of "Booth Babes," those voluptuous women companies employ to get men to stop and take a closer look at their goods. We always get a good chuckle out of this practice when we're at the show (and we freely admit that sometimes we do stop to admire the view), so we started this gallery so readers could share in the fun. It's become very popular, but it's not without its critics. There are many smart and valid criticisms in the comments section of the gallery, but we thought they deserved a larger platform. After coming across a particularly compelling argument on the blog norcalcazadora.com, we asked the author, Holly A. Heyser, a female hunter and writer from Northern California, to start the discussion here.

I've got to start this by saying I'm not a prude, and I don't hate men because they love looking at bodacious babes. I've even started watching "Manswers" on Spike with my boyfriend because, seriously, it's pretty over-the-top funny.

But I had a real problem with F&S posting its 2010 SHOT Show Booth Babe Roundup on this website Wednesday.
In case you're not familiar with it, the SHOT Show is a hunting and firearms trade show where vendors pitch their products to merchants and media. The industry being dominated by men, many vendors hire hot chicks to lure passers-by with their cleavage.

Being a female hunter and writer who has gone to the SHOT Show, I've got to say I'm not in love with the booth babe thing. But I understand marketing, so I accept it.

So why, then, does it tick me off that Field & Stream runs a photo gallery of the booth babes?

Simple: SHOT is a private trade show, but this website is a public space. It's not a men's locker room where all the guys can sit around ogling hot chicks in privacy.

Yes, men are still the vast majority of hunters - 91 percent, according to the most recent U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service National Survey. But the number of male hunters is dropping steadily, while the number of women hunters is holding fairly flat. And here's the most important statistic: The number of girls ages 6-15 who hunt has nearly doubled since 1991.

We know boys who hunt have traditionally loved magazines like Field & Stream, so it stands to reason that this growing number of girls who hunt might also read such magazines and their websites. And if they subscribe to F&S's email newsletter, as I do, what they saw in their inbox Wednesday morning was something touting the Booth Babe Roundup as the top story.

What's the problem? Let's just apply the common sense test: Guys, would you show a photo album of hoochie mamas to your 12-year-old daughters? Or would you sit there making salacious remarks about that photo album when those daughters were in the room?

Of course you wouldn't.

What people don't seem to realize is that there are 12-year-old girls in the room now. This room. This audience. And while you can choose not to take your little girls to SHOT, and you can lock your cable system so they can't watch "Manswers," you'd think fieldandstream.com would be a pretty safe place for a young huntress to visit.

At least you'd hope.

Holly A. Heyser is an avid hunter who teaches journalism at California State University, Sacramento, and writes NorCal Cazadora, a blog about hunting, at www.norcalcazadora.com.