Kendall Jones vs. the Internet
Kendall Jones, a young woman from Texas, is a big game hunter and proud of it. Recently, her pictures and tales of conquests via her Facebook page made her the target of the Internet spotlight.
That many find her actions off-putting, I think, is something any reasonable person can understand. These are beautiful creatures she's ending the lives of. But the volume and level of hate directed to this woman has been sudden and off the charts. Profanity, death wishes, death threats. And it’s largely accepted as okay.
There are four questions I have in response: Why the anger now? Why her? Why at all? And why is it encouraged?
Big game hunting has been going on for scores of years with countless practitioners who in recent years have shared countless photos of their trophies on social media. But for some reason, Jones has become the focal point of the hundreds of thousands of people who had been apparently waiting for a spark like her to set them ablaze. Apart from the countless comments on the many stories covering this case, petitions were started to not only get Facebook to take down her page but to demand that Africa not let her back on the continent. (Last I heard, Facebook compromised by taking down some pictures of her big game kills, but not all. And a "Kill Kendall Jones" Facebook page was removed. As far as her travel status, Jones is still permitted in Africa as the countries within this continent welcomed her and her hunting from the start.)
One could credit the Internet as a fickle determiner of what content, trends, or movements become popular. However, this is the second attractive woman in nine months to be chastised, cursed, and death-wished for her conquests in Africa. The first was my fellow Minnesotan, Melissa Bachman. Back in November 2013, pictures of her with a dead alpha male lion in South Africa caused a stir wide enough to attract national and even international media.
So maybe there’s more to the question of “why her?” than randomness. No men have been targeted, even though far more male hunters exist than the number of women who hunt. And there’s no anger when it’s Kodiak bear hunting in Alaska.
Targeting just the women, I think, is something any feminist would have to consider sexist. (There won't be the same attention called to this selective targeting, however, as there would be in other cases, because there's significant ideological overlap between those who like to call out sexism and those who are now angered about these hunters.) They seem to find big game hunting a more egregious act when a beautiful woman is doing it. And I think this is the case because of their natural inclination (which many of them would claim as sexist) that tells them that women are supposed to be nurturing and life-giving, not life-taking. Thus, the juxtaposition of a lovely blonde with a smile over a carcass is more startling in our gender understanding than a scruffy, hefty guy over his kill.
These cases also seem to stand out because they involve African mammals. Some claim this is about saving endangered species, but the types of organized hunts taken by Jones are highly scrutinized in choosing animals of certain age and sex and of a limited number as to not threaten the species as a whole. Rather, what we seem to have here is something that, interestingly, animal rights activists call 'speciesism': the treatment or regarding of one species of animal as more important than another simply because, say, one is more attractive.
These truly are awesome animals which I’ve actually had the chance to recently see on a safari where I am in Tanzania. So maybe it does take a more callous person to pull the trigger and end of the life of such creatures. Who knows? What I do know is that neither Bachman nor Jones deserve anything like the abuse and terroristic threats they have received. Unfortunately, social pressures in the Caucasian world (there isn’t this rage in other regions of the globe) make this a tough argument to make.
The flames of anger toward these women aren’t extinguished, but fed. And they’re fed not just by the others who join in the mob anger, but by the phenomena that is in defining what is good or right and thus giving carte blanche to those on the “right” side to abuse and threaten those who are on the “wrong” side.
It has been defined by American popular culture and media that hunting African mammals is “bad.” Thus, hate directed toward these “bad” doers is okay. And if you call out the behavior of those protesting as being abusive or hateful, then you’re against “good.” (Why would you be against the side trying to save animals?!) So few will challenge, for instance, the 150,000 people who signed a petition whose drafter wrote “…it would be nice to see ol' Kendall put in a cage with a resurrected member of her trophy wall and nothing more than a manicure to protect her…”
It’s the safe, 21st century outlet for hate, buffered in the name of doing good. It’s too bad these people are unable to see the enormous amount of unfortunate irony afoot: that in the name of doing “good”, many of them aren't being very good at all.
Brandon Ferdig is a writer from Minneapolis currently in Tanzania. He shares his observations about East Africa, the United States, and humanity in general at ThePeriphery.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @brandonferdig