Routine sexist attacks from the National Rifle Association's media outlets are undermining the organization's political effort to reach out to women as a growing demographic.
On August 25, NRA magazine America's 1st Freedom attacked prominent gun safety advocate and Mom's Demand Action for Gun Sense in America founder Shannon Watts. As Gawker's Adam Weinstein explained, the article featured images of Watts “as a cutout mom with kitchen and housekeeping accoutrements, because moms oughta know their place!” The accompanying article accused Watts of lying about being a stay-at-home mom, because she had for a time run a PR firm out of her house while raising her children.
This offensive depiction of a woman from NRA media seems in stark contrast to the political arm of the NRA, which the very same day debuted several new ads narrated by women -- in a series titled “Good Guys” -- promoting the message that guns are a sign of empowerment for women and that women are an important part of the NRA community. One features a woman lauding the importance of "Mom and Dad"; one stars a woman emphasizing the "courage" it takes to be one of the “Good Guys.” Another ad released earlier this month also featured a female narrator driving a pickup truck and attacking Everytown for Gun Safety founder Michael Bloomberg, telling him to “keep your hands off our guns.”
Right-wing female commentators have long argued that “guns are the great equalizer between sexes in crimes against women,” falsely claiming that guns make women safer. CNN's S.E. Cupp, The Blaze's Dana Loesch, and Fox News' Katie Pavlich have regularly appeared on cable news and published books to promote the NRA as a pro-women organization.
But as Media Matters noted in a feature on the NRA's annual meeting, 2014 seemed to mark a shift for the organization towards focusing increasingly on women and moms. In part that shift is monetary, as advertisers see women as a largely untapped market. It also seems, however, that the shift is in part in response to gun safety organizations, including Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action, who increasingly emphasize how dangerous guns can be for women in abusive situations.
This recent recognition of women by the NRA is undermined, however, by the attack on Watts and the numerous misogynistic and sexist comments from NRA commentators and spokespeople.
Just two months ago, for example, an NRA commentator fetishized assault weapons by comparing them to attractive women. Noir, a Sunday web series hosted by NRA News commentator Colion Noir, aired two separate ads that at first appear to feature a narrator describing stylishly-dressed, flirtatious women (“Her Jimmy Choo's can't be comfortable, but you'd never know it ... She's the kind to tell the bartender how to make her drink”), only to reveal at the end that he was describing a gun the entire time. One of the ads aired just days after a mass shooting in Isla Vista, California, which was reportedly inspired by the shooter's admitted hatred of women.
Last year, the NRA featured Fox News' Sean Hannity as a keynote speaker at the 7th Annual NRA Women's Leadership Forum Luncheon, despite his association with a group whose leadership has claimed that one of America's greatest mistakes was allowing women to vote.
NRA News host Cam Edwards once attacked Glamour magazine's Women of the Year Awards for making “the world a more dangerous place for women,” because the event honored victims of gun violence, including Pakistani education reformer Malala Yousafzai, and former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) -- who was wounded during a 2011 mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona.
Most outrageous is NRA board member Ted Nugent, whose rampant sexism - including calling Hillary Clinton a “toxic cunt,” comparing abstaining from drugs and alcohol to avoiding “fat chicks,” telling a CBS producer “I'll fuck you, how's that sound?”, and featuring a nude, bound woman with a grenade in her mouth on an album cover -- has never been a problem for the organization.
Gun safety advocates and progressives have also been talking about women more lately, as part of a new push to recognize the dangers guns pose to women in domestic violence situations. The presence of a gun in an abusive situation increases the risk that a woman will be murdered by 500 percent, and women are more than three times as likely to be murdered when there is a gun in their house even when domestic violence isn't a factor. In fact, more women in the U.S. were killed by an intimate partner using a gun from 2001 to 2012 than the total number of troops killed in action in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined.
As for the argument that those women could have defended themselves if they had a gun, The Atlantic explained that according to a study published in the American Journal of Public Health, researchers interviewed women across 67 battered women's shelters, and found that nearly a third of them had lived in a household with a firearm. “In two-thirds of the homes, their intimate partners had used the gun against them, usually threatening to kill (71.4 percent) them. A very small percentage of these women (7 percent) had used a gun successfully in self-defense, and primarily just to scare the attacking male partner away.”
The NRA doesn't want to talk about the realities of domestic violence. Instead, they prefer to fearmonger about liberals attempting to “insult” women by “taking” their guns. But they can't have it both ways, talking about women as nothing more than sex objects and housewives one day, and liberated gun owners the next.