Lately I've seen a lot of bashing in regards to the word “huntress.” Many die-hard hunters think it portrays a stereotype of a princess, with perfectly manicured nails and a pink bow with rhinestones, essentially ridiculing the REAL women hunters that put in just as much, or more, time and effort than their better known male counterparts.
I have always referred to myself as a huntress, despite the prevalent and unfavorable feelings among other female hunters. In fact, I have never thought of referring to myself in any other way. Why? Because I was taught that was the proper and correct term. When I noticed an increase in negative feelings toward the word, I started questioning what I knew… maybe I was wrong, maybe it was a new term created by the marketing department of an outdoors company simply to entice women.
After reading Emily’s post over at From the Draw, I knew I wanted to do some research on the subject. In fact, this is the second post I have written on the topic. The first post was filled with why I thought “huntress” was the correct term and what it meant to me, as a woman and a hunter. After discussing the subject and my initial post with a dear (and wise) friend, he suggested I step back from the subject and look at the word and the meaning in the most objective and scientific way possible. For the smart people in the crowd, he suggested I look at the etymology of the word “huntress” by focusing on its origin, history and how the definition of the word may have evolved over time. Like I said, this dude is WISE, and his advice was spot-on.All evidence points to the origin of the word “huntress” being rooted in the 14th century. This, in and of itself, effectively removes any doubt or argument that it is a newly coined term.
Now comes the more controversial issue: what we believe the word conveys. I am assuming that in the 1300s, when the word originated, there was a notable lack of pink camo bows, “bling,” and cell phone cameras that could document every time a high-maintenance princess decided to don pink camo and pick up a gun or bow and call themselves a “huntress.” The meanings we associate with words are construed to fit our individual experiences and worldview. Essentially, the negative connotations that most of the outdoors world seems to presently associate with the word “huntress” is relatively novel, derived from the negative experiences with high-maintenance and/or fledgling outdoorswomen.
Where am I going with this? Nowhere, really… except to validate the legitimacy of the word “huntress,” being simply a woman that hunts; nothing more, nothing less. The stereotypes and inferences that you associate with a word are nothing more or nothing less than what you make it. With that said, many times I will regress to the simple, male form of the word, “hunter,” simply because of its brevity and its modern, inclusive use of all individuals who hunt (i.e. for Twitter – where character count is limited and concise statements are rewarded). Admittedly, I usually only refer to myself as a “huntress” in text, but neither do I use the word “hunter” in speech. I almost always revert back to something simple and personable, such as “I enjoy hunting” or “I hunt.”
Everything and everyone evolves over time, including languages. Only time will tell if we, as a society, will continue to promote both “hunter” and “huntress.” Considering the evolution of our society from an active populous to a culture that encourages sedentary lifestyles, I can only predict that “huntress” is an endangered term, bearing in mind the negative topics discussed above and the fact that it takes deliberate thought to be used correctly. I am, however, too traditional and opinionated to abandon the word for any of the reasons considered thus far. I am a woman who hunts, therefore I am a huntress.
Where do you stand on the issue? Does it even matter to you?