WHERE ARE ALL THE GIRLS?

Bird Watching (UK) - - Your View -

I was de­lighted to read about ‘The Next Gen­er­a­tion’ in Fe­bru­ary’s Bird Watch­ing. I came to bird­watch­ing about four years ago while in my 60s. Far too late. I am pas­sion­ate about it, but en­vi­ous of the op­por­tu­ni­ties that th­ese young peo­ple have. One as­pect of the ar­ti­cle caught my eye: where are the girls? Of the 10 bi­ogra­phies pre­sented, seven were of males. I won­dered if this re­flected the bird­watch­ing com­mu­nity in gen­eral. Scru­tiny of back is­sues of Bird Watch­ing re­veals a pre­pon­der­ance of males, as au­thors of ar­ti­cles, pho­tog­ra­phers and even in ad­verts. On this ev­i­dence, any girl could be for­given for think­ing that bird­watch­ing is a male do­main. We must help young fe­males to see bird watch­ing and nat­u­ral his­tory in gen­eral as a ‘cool’ leisure pur­suit. Some months ago my 7-year-old cousin vis­ited RSPB Mins­mere. Af­ter a while, in one hide, she lamented qui­etly to her mother, “I can’t see any birds, Mummy” at which point all the (male) in­hab­i­tants of the hide, turned and glared. Were they never novice bird­ers? This ex­pe­ri­ence has cer­tainly put one young lady off, but I am do­ing my best to re­verse the dam­age. Bring on the girls! Jenny Jones, Liverpool

First let me thank you for yet an­other ex­cel­lent is­sue of your out­stand­ing mag­a­zine. I par­tic­u­larly loved the fea­ture on the Great Black-backed Gull, an im­pres­sive bird which is too of­ten over­looked! I am so glad I sub­scribed. Cheers to Bo Be­olens for tack­ling the is­sue of sex­ism in bird­watch­ing. Per­haps part of the rea­son there are fewer women than men is that they are sim­ply in­tim­i­dated and feel de­lib­er­ately ex­cluded from the club. Your mag­a­zine, for ex­am­ple, does not have reg­u­lar fe­male writ­ers/ex­perts, de­spite the fact there are many out there [Ed: don’t for­get about reg­u­lar colum­nists Kate Risely and Rosamond Richard­son]. And in this month’s fea­ture on young bird­watch­ers, only two of the eight fea­tured were fe­male. (I do ap­pre­ci­ate that Ni­cola Boul­ton had a full ar­ti­cle.) There is a se­cond is­sue that might be worth con­sid­er­ing, and that is that women are not as eas­ily able to travel about alone as men due to safety con­cerns. There have been count­less times that I have wanted to ven­ture fur­ther into the woods or out into the field but it has sim­ply not been safe to do so on my own. Ob­vi­ously, this is a tricky is­sue and I very much ap­pre­ci­ate your mag­a­zine tak­ing the time to ad­dress it. Thank you sin­cerely for your time and keep up the good work – and please keep your fe­male read­ers in mind! Becci, (North­ern Ire­land)

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