I’m not currently a member of an archery club. That sits poorly with me. I don’t even like saying it. Archery means a lot to me. (I’ll get to the comics.)
When I was two years old, Maid Marian and her Merry Men started showing on CBBC. At the time, that was the BBC slot for children that ran in the afternoons, after school and on Saturday mornings.
I don’t know when I started watching Maid Marian, it ran until 1994, but I know how much of an impression it made on me: when I caught a re-run by accident, aged twenty-two, I started to cry. Weird moment.
Maid Marian and her Merry Men was a retelling of the Robin Hood legends, with the most beautiful premise: what if Marian was the driving force behind Sherwood justice, and her accomplishments were overlooked and disrespected because of the kyriarchy? CATHARTIC. With musical numbers and a million jokes!
I’m fizzing, here. I love it.
I’ve always gravitated towards the Robin Hood concept, either before or since Marian. Hanging out in the forest, getting into fights with people who like to be mean and unfair, wearing great clothes. And I always thought, man, archery. That looks fuckin’ cool.
Maid Marian and her Merry Men had strips, of course, and I found my penchant for the Lincoln Green supported in other comics, too; old Bunty issues and annuals, Girls’ Own albums from the 30s through sixties. The support for my interest seemed to fade, though, and I forgot all about comics (and the sport).
Momentarily tempted by Green Arrow (but ugh, DC), swayed for a second by Danni Moonstar, I almost found my way again when I ventured up the alley and into Comic Legends when I was fifteen or so. Lara Croft could occasionally be found loosing arrows (although I don’t remember if she did any archery while I was reading her title). I’d found comics again, through the good old X-Men and Slave Labor Graphics, but archery? Archery was still missing.
Two years after I tripped over that Maid Marian re-run I made a New Year’s resolution to gain some of the survival skills that made me feel alive and powerful when I read about them as a tot. Enid Blyton’s Secret Island, Usbourne Puzzle Adventures kids — Robin Hood and co. Could I today weave a house out of willow? Climb a cliff face covered in wires and ghosts? Maybe, yeah, maybe. Could I loose arrows with accuracy?
Turns out yes!
I did a beginner’s course, joined a club, borrowed a bow and loved every second. Yeah, I am MaidMarianRobinHood. I’m on the ramparts of my post-apocalyptic fortress. I’m a real graceful bayd-ayss. I started doing yoga and pilates so I could be better — I hadn’t done a sport since I learnt the bravery to skive P.E. “I don’t do sports,” I would say, but do you know? Some sports are worth the humility.
Archery exercises the body and the mind, and is directly supported by the stories that I love. It’s genuinely enriching and I want to be able to share that. I did share it! I was an assistant coach for two years. I worked with children, mostly, but adults too. I designed posters for our beginners courses with Katniss on them, because of course I did. Then I made one with Merida on it, because DUH!
When I started my membership, there were two women in semi-regular attendance other than me and one more who was there sometimes. There were twenty or so men, plus irregular attendees. What I’m saying is, I noticed a definite tilt to the gentleman archer, and once had to put down a rather protracted “haha you’re a giiirl” jibe. Did I scare away the young boy members who heard my ferocious genital-based threats to the clown who thought he could belittle me? Maybe I did. How awful is that? Any space that values male experience over all others is going to suffer when determined, but not impervious, explorers from outside that sphere — a g-g-g-girl — come in. That’s not to forget the members who welcomed me as a human: Sarah, Bryan, Peter, Graham and John stuck out. And wonder-mentor Terry.
After Brave and The Hunger Games, and maybe after I started making my presence obvious at beginners’ courses, we had little girls flocking. Teen girls too and more adult women who stayed after their beginners courses and joined the club. Those movies! Those movies mattered so much!
After Avengers hit screens, I’d hear boys and girls and men and women talking Hawkeye at the archery club. At cons there are girls upon girls, and women too, cosplaying Kate-Hawkeye. Do they shoot? Is the possibility supported in their mind?
I want so badly for the current popularity of SuperArchers to translate into an opening of the sport to fans who wouldn’t otherwise touch sports, hobby clubs, or Male Nerd Space (let’s be honest: archery is for nerds) with a longbow.
I want to give time and space for those of you who, like me, learnt their love of archery on the page.
If you shoot. If you’ve always wanted to. If you used to. If you’ve motivated yourself with fictional archers — I want to hear. I really want to hear. I want to feature your story!
Here are the questions — Get in touch. Please!
Over the next few weeks I’ll be putting up mini-features on some lady archers, lady comics fans, who’ve combined their interests like I did, and found the joy of physical learning. Send them to your friends, show them to your daughters. Because they can do it too, if they want.