Thursday, June 7, 2012

Women and Paintball

I wanted to come up with something really catchy and quirky as my post heading, but really when it comes down to it, if someone googles "women" and "paintball" I want this found. I want this found because there is nothing but outdated B***S*** when you type in these 2 words. Half and sometimes fully naked women with painted on splatters and guns that are shiny and new. Cheap tee shirts on Zazzle with corny catch phrases and lame graphics. Now I will admit that today I changed my fb profile picture to a cartoon of a redhead in combat boots, daisy dukes and an olive green tank top and huge boobs. But lets face it... other then the daisy dukes it looks like me when I play. Hehe. In all seriousness though I am... well I am not sure what I am. If it is confused, or pissed or saddened by the lack of a woman's imprint on the sport. Let me start from the beginning.

My BFF is a lovely man. He has brightened up my life in many ways and introducing me to paintball is one of them. Ranger told me he was going to play one day and said he had an extra gun and would like for me to go. Thought I might be pretty good at it. Hmmmm, guns+ getting dirty+ shooting at live people= HELL YEAH! I was all sorts of excited all the way there and upon arrival at the field. Eyes wide open taking in all the sights and sounds. Listening to everything Ranger told me. Then I walked out onto the field. I wanted to shit a brick. Jump into a stack of tires and hide until it was over. Then the horn blew and something primal kicked in. The paint started flying and I went from shaking to running full throttle. I found out pretty quick that I like to be on the front lines... I am small and fast and balls to the wall.

Ranger got me my own gun. A Kaos pump (Black Betty) and I learned how to play strategically with it. When walking onto a field I feel I was looked down upon since I was a woman. Add in the pump and I was a joke. Then they realized the shots that were hitting them were from me. I think I earned some respect when I was dared to play a speedball game with my pump. Held my own and was the last man out on my team all three games. Of course on that last game I was lit up, point blank, by a 10 year old. For the record he only lives because I couldn't move.  Ranger and I played many a game together after that. Last Spring I bought myself a Tippmann Carver. Ranger had some Tippmann 98's that I played with and I knew Tippmann was the way I wanted to go. Carver came up at a good price and I couldn't not take it. I fell in love the moment I held him. I think I wouldn't mind a 98 in the future. Something I can play around with and modify but as far as guns go I am very happy. Ranger moved away last Summer and I was left alone. Left alone in a mans world.

I think the first time I went to the field alone I was more nervous then the first time I ever played. He was known around there. He walked in and people knew his name, his guns, the team he played on. I was the Robin to his Batman. There, but just as easily, not. I talked myself out of going three times before I couldn't take it any more. I NEEDED to go. I needed to let off some steam, so I gave in and went. The refs remembered me and asked about Ranger. They were sorry to see him gone but glad I was out there. The players didn't give me much notice. I think they looked at me and dismissed me pretty quick since I am "just a girl". Hell, I have gone onto a field and looked at women and had the, "Oh dear God, it's a chick. Save us.", thoughts. I had two women at my back one time in a castle game. They could have run right in an won the game... I would have layed down some paint to keep them safe. They wouldn't move! They looked at me and said they didn't want to get shot. I asked them "Why the F*** are you HERE then?" before I ran towards the castle doors and took 4 to the chest. So I understood the comments I heard and the jokes. But then I went on the field and started asking their strategy.  Who was going where? Who knew the field and it's layout? No answers? I would start barking out orders. When the horn blows, I'm gone... out front and center. Yelling out positions of the other team and telling guys to move up. Encouraging and leading if need be. Yes, it's just a game but it's a game of war and in war you need a leader. I have been playing on my own since last fall and when I left last week I had refs and players alike shaking my hand and saying they can't wait to play again and they are NOT trying to get in my pants. I was one of the guys.

But the reality is that this is a guys sport. I go to the field and I am easily the only woman out of 100 guys. If there are others, they have rental gear and are obviously there with their men. They usually do not last after 2 games and complain the whole time while giving me dirty looks. But then, while looking at some fields back home in NY, it was like a whole other world. Pictures of women, lots of women, playing. And smiling paint stained smiles. Wearing camo and doing maintenance on their own guns! I was floored and it started my quest to find out more about women in the sport. A year later and I think there is even less then I found last summer. Any article I find about women in paintball is a "how to" on getting your wife/sister/mom/girlfriend to come and play with you, or "women play this sport and they have teams and yeah, that's about it". I read one article about Kimberly Ma, written by a photographer who was shooting her. After she no longer played. Well written but not life changing for me. Maxim did a lovely spread in '04 of Women in Paintball. All size 2 and beautiful. Teams I read about, websites I find, women's names I come across... all outdated. Pictures? That's a joke. I don't wear any gear besides a mask and gloves, but I wear clothes.  And why only speedball? I can't be the only woman who prefers woodsball and city games.

Gear is also a problem I have come across. Type in "women's paintball gear" and you will get tons of hits with links to paintball sites they say "sorry, no matches". Or my favorite is the occasional pink gun or jersey. Because all women love pink... right? When I play I am in a pair of women's fatigues and an olive green tank top. I wear a mask and full finger gloves. I tried chest protectors but they are geared towards men. I have DD cups and something that is meant to be worn flat bends in half over these babies. I would rather take the chance I might get hit then manuver around a peice of foam that does get in my way. I would love a jersey but if I am going to be dropping $50 - $100 on something, I want all the padding to be in the right places and not in my arm pits. I want it to fit me and not look like I am wearing my dads shirt with a pizza box underneath. I found a motorcross company with gear for women. It was pretty interchangable with PB gear, but it was an infant company and they had 3 colours. White/pink, white/yellow and white/blue. Mud may come out of white but I have jeans that are forever PB jeans thanks to some paint.

 I have nothing against pink... in fact I am embracing it more now with my equipment. I used to not want to be seen on the field and with woodsball that is the norm. But here lately I have been playing city more and more and I want these guys to know it's me kicking their butts. So this week Carver got a makeover. Camo was just to mainstream... but as a lover of old vintage cars I came across an idea. I placed lace over the gun and the hopper and sprayed it with pink pearl glitter model car spray paint. The gun itself looks more camo  but on the hopper you can make out the lace detail. I painted the accents and half the barrel pink too. No doubting who shot them now.

I am a mom of 2 girls who hosts a knitting group on Saturdays at the local coffee house and on Sundays I dress up for war and go kick some ass. I wear my hits as a badge of honor because they do not mean I am a terrible player.. they mean that I was the one who threw down her gun and ran for the flag when no one else would.

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