Hunter pink memo has critics seeing red

Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing – Authorizing hunters to wear pink safety gear instead of orange could make women “feel attractive” and “help with any insecurities” over their wardrobe, according to a citizen memo to Michigan lawmakers this week that sparked scorn and mockery.

Outdoors enthusiast Brian Born of Grand Rapids distributed the memo to legislators as he spoke out in support of a bill sponsored by Rep. Steve Johnson, R-Byron Center, who invited Born to testify but said he did not know about the memo before it was handed out.

“I wish I would have taken a picture of my face to record the expression I had when I read it,” said Rep. Stephanie Chang, D-Detroit, who sits on the House Natural Resources Committee where the memo was circulated. “Honestly, I thought it was a little bit insulting. I don’t think women need to be told how we’re supposed to feel when we walk into a hunting apparel store, or to be told about our insecurities.”

A picture of the memo shared on Twitter by Rep. Jeremy Moss, D-Southfield, spread in viral fashion and prompted memes. Comedian and actress Chelsea Handler chimed in, deadpanning that women “always love to pink” and that it is “the only color we love.”

Born, who runs an outdoors website, called the reaction to his memo “ludicrous.” A female friend helped him write it, he said, suggesting it was taken out of context. His female hunter friend confirmed to The Detroit News she helped write the memo but never thought it would be shared so publicly and asked that her name not be published.

“This is about hunter recruitment, not trying to offend anybody,” Born said. “It’s about choice. We’re just trying to add pink to the options for hunting.”

The memo claims that when a woman walks into a hunting apparel store and sees pink, “she can immediately identify that that section of the store is specially for her.” It goes on to say that pink could help identify a female hunter, and “women don’t want to be mistaken as a man, even from a distance or in the woods.”

Under current law, Michigan hunters must wear an orange garment as an outer layer that is visible from all sides, a safety measure meant to prevent accidental human shootings. The legislation would also allow pink gear as a primary color.

It’s the second serious legislative attempt to allow pink hunting gear in Michigan. The legislature in 2016 passed a law allowing the Natural Resources Commission to decide whether pink would be a “safe and effective” hunting color. But after reviewing research, the commission last year decided not to allow the orange alternative.

At least five other states allow hunter pink, and “more evidence” has emerged that it is a scientifically sound color for hunting safety, Johnson said.

“I certainly don’t support the memo,” he said. “It distracts from the issue at large, which is our bill. It provides hunters another safe and viable option.”

Chang, who voted against the 2016 hunting gear law, said she has legitimate concerns with the new bill beyond the controversial memo, including whether pink would be as visible to color blind hunters as orange.

“The fact is we’ve got bigger issues to deal with, like education, good jobs and infrastructure,” she said. “Instead of making women feel ‘attractive’ or talking about their insecurities, it would be great if we focused on things that Michigan residents actually care about.”