Guest post by Nicole Seymour
While researching my Object Lessons series book on glitter, I learned the surprising fact that one of the major commercial uses for this substance is in fishing lures. After finishing the book, I decided to investigate this phenomenon a bit deeper—and fell down what can only be described as a rabbit hole into another world.
First off, fisherpeople seem to speak an entirely different language than I do. When searching for lures on the Bass Pro Shop Web site, for instance, I found such products as a “Z-Man Chatterbait Jack Hammer Ever Green Custom Bladed Jig” and a “Strike King Bitsy Bug Mini Jig.” I learned that here are soft baits, hard baits, things called spinnerbaits, and things called buzzbaits. I also learned that lures go beyond artificial fish to include artificial eggs. One product, Pautzke’s® Silver Label Balls O’Fire® Salmon Eggs, consists of small, bright red balls flecked with silver glitter.
I’ve since started to feel as if the fishing lure deserves its own Object Lessons book. But until then, here are a few observations. First, there’s something delightful about the fact that glitter’s appeal crosses species boundaries; fish and humans are equally drawn to it. Second, the fact that a pursuit as masculine and “natural” as fishing depends on something as feminine and artificial as plastic glitter helps to break down the boundaries between those aforementioned designations.
In my book, I discuss how glitter and personal adornment more broadly are stigmatized as frivolous when employed by women, children, queer people, and other marginalized groups. Not so when it comes to fishing, as far as I can tell. (The “Great Glitter Backlash,” as I term the recent set of viral stories about plastic glitter being bad for the environment, was not matched by any “Great Fishing Lure Backlash.”) Further, as scholars have previously argued, the nature-culture binary is no longer tenable, if it ever was, and fishing lures exemplify that scenario perfectly.
Finally, I am intrigued by the surprisingly erotic language around fishing lures. Permit me a brief close reading of another product from Bass Prop Shops: a soft plastic lure that resembles a small squid—or, let’s be honest, a sex toy—which retails for $4.79 and comes in colors ranging from “Green Pumpkin Orange Roadkill” to my favorite, “Pink Pepper/Clear Sparkle.” The Web site describes this product as “[a] smaller version of our Tender Tube®, the Bass Pro Shops® Bass Teaser™ Tube” and “a must for northern fishermen looking to limit out on smallmouths, or any angler faced with the need to downsize.”
Now, here’s where things get super-erotic: “Its durable body features high-action tentacles that seductively wiggle on the fall and breathe on the pause, triggering quick strikes at any point in the retrieve. Salt-impregnated to hold the bite.” If that weren’t enough to convince you, a set of bullet points below the description emphasizes, “Seductive action at all times.”
Given glitter’s perennial appeal and its use in products ranging from lures to automotive paint to sunscreen to coffins (really!), perhaps “seductive action at all times” should be this object’s slogan.
Nicole Seymour is Associate Professor of English at California State University, Fullerton, USA. She is the author of 3 books, including Strange Natures: Futurity, Empathy, and the Queer Ecological Imagination (2013; Winner, 2015 Book Award for Ecocriticism from the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment) and Bad Environmentalism: Irony and Irreverence in the Ecological Age (2019, Finalist, Book Award for Ecocriticism from the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment; “Best Nature Writing of 2018” list in the Chicago Review of Books). Glitter is part of the Object Lessons series.