Show me a retailer who refused to sell fly fishing gear to women and I'll retract this post.
Shall I publicly out them, LOL?! In 43 years of fly fishing, while no shop has outright refused to sell me gear, many have refused to acknowledge me or wait on me. Even after getting tired of waiting and directly asking for help, I have been repeatedly ignored or told to wait, while they greeted and immediately assisted newly arriving male customers, often ones that clearly have never been in the shop before. After such treatment, I have walked out of more shops than I can count.
I have been told by most people that I am friendly, approachable and easy-going yet sometimes the looks I have gotten made me look in the mirror to be sure I hadn't turned into Frankenstein without me knowing it. And it's not like I go into shops dressed like I am going to the mall as I don't dress like that. 9.9 times out of 10, I am probably in jeans or fishing pants and a fishing shirt or T shirt. I have done a lot of self-reflection as it has happened too often and I want to be sure that it is not me. But other women anglers I know report the same thing so I am pretty sure it's not just me. Still, I try to be sure that I have a smile and pleasant attitude when I walk in a shop, which I most likely do anyway.
While things have gotten better in 43 years, this stuff still happens and in the best of shops, including in Orvis shops. Maybe they should hire me to be a mystery shopper, LOL! In some ways, with the advent of all the social media wanna-be famous on Instagram bro-brahs, it has gotten worse but I suspect many male customers get arrogant, condescending treatment from them too.
Sure, sometimes I do get help and friendly prompt assistance. But even today, too often when a staff person comes over to help me, I still get the "is this for your husband?" bullshit - even when I am dressed in fishing clothes! Or the other one I love is "we use this for fly fishing/fly tying, what are you going to use it for?". Seriously, even flies - as in, "We use these to catch fish. What are you going to use them for?". 'To shove up your condescending ass' passes through my mind but not my lips.
Then there is always the assumption that I am "thinking about getting into fly fishing?" or "let me show you some of our beginner rods" type of crap. Or the ones that proudly declare " we have a women's intro to fly fishing class coming up". I have worked retail and one of the main rules is to make no assumptions. The guy who looks like a bum could be a millionaire (or Fred Becky, RIP) so don't make any assumptions. Clearly, based on my experiences and that of many women anglers I know, many fly shop employees need a lot more training.
So, I vote with my wallet. I have lots of gear. Not one single rod, reel, pair of waders or boots has been purchased in a shop at MSRP. Sure part of it is because I am a bargain shopper but also because I'd rather buy used then to support a shop (or industry) that has consistently treated me (and lots of women) like a second class customer. Or almost worse, an industry or brand that tries to go out of their way to try to be inclusive (aka target our wallets), but miss the mark so far that it would be funny if it weren't so tragic. Heck, only a few years ago, a well-known brand launched a new assortment of women's fishing apparel and many of the tops had ruffles or pleats! WTF?!
Anyway as for the 50/50 campaign, yeah, it kind of rubs me the wrong way too.