WASHINGTON, July 10, 2014 — Kendall Jones may be the most hated woman on the internet. Against the likes of Nancy Pelosi, Sarah Palin, and Hillary Clinton, that is a major achievement.
Jones is a 19-year-old college student and cheerleader in Texas. She studies marketing and sports therapy at Texas Tech. She is the very image of a Texas cheerleader: blond, attractive, vivacious and self confident.
And she kills animals for fun, including lions, elephants, and rhinos.
Jones posts pictures of herself with her trophies on social media, and in her pictures she looks delighted. Here she straddles a lion she’s killed, radiant with joy. There she holds a dead leopard, as pleased as if she aced a final. There she is again, beaming over a cape buffalo brought low by her shooting skills.
What exactly it is that people hate about her is hard to get them to admit. Most of us eat dead animals, and we learned before middle school that chicken parts aren’t grown on plastic trays under layers of plastic wrap on the chicken farm. It makes no more sense to hate Jones for killing animals than it makes to hate cattle ranchers for putting beef on our dinner tables.
Perhaps it’s that she enjoys the kill. The morality of killing animals raises arguments that can engage us for years, but given that few of her critics are vegans, the argument that killing is okay so long as you don’t enjoy it is perverse. That would be like hating a person for enjoying the practice of law, or hating singing cowboys.
The animals that she kills might be the problem. Cows elicit little sympathy, and chickens are just ridiculous, but lions are majestic. Some people who loath Jones would hack to death a snake in their garden with no more sympathy than they’d spare for a roach. Some animals are more sympathetic than others. Americans look on eating dog and cat with disgust, yet in Asia, many people would consider that gross sentimentality.
Kendall Jones claims with some justification that hunters are at the forefront of conservation efforts. Hunter-conservationists have done a great deal to preserve and expand elk and whitetail dear populations in the U.S., and Ducks Unlimited has done more to preserve wetlands — 13 million acres so far in the U.S. — than any other private organization.
The end of big-game hunting in some African countries led to wide-scale poaching, with no local incentives to preserve animal populations. Countries that include hunting as part of a total conservation effort have seen some rebound. Some of the animals that Jones hunts are at risk or endangered, but activities of people like her have added to the value of maintaining populations by locals. Income from hunting permits, for instance, encourages farmers to keep lions on their property. We need not take her at her word that her activities save wildlife, but the argument is a fair one.
Nothing that Jones does should automatically make her despised, yet an Avaaz.org campaign got 325,000 signatures in an effort to get her trophy pictures off of Facebook. That was successful, though until Thursday morning Facebook allowed a “Kill Kendall Jones” page to remain active. Facebook claimed that Jones’s pictures violated their standards, while the Kill Jones page did not.
Jones has received copious hate mail, as have numerous other Kendall Joneses on the internet. She’s been called a bitch, slut, bimbo, and other names we won’t print here; she’s received death threats and rape threats. A lot of people, presumably not gun-toting conservatives, want her dead.
At this point it is tempting to indict liberal hypocrisy, but that’s too easy. With words like “bitch” and “slut,” with language as harsh and harsher than Rush Limbaugh used against Sandra Fluke, the left admits that a war on women is fine, as long as it is a war on gun-toting, Texas cheerleaders and not a war on feminists. But the wave of hatred launched at Jones is about more than the liberal-conservative split.
Other big-game hunters — GoDaddy CEO Bob Parsons, Donald Trump’s sons Donald Jr. and Eric, King Juan Carlos of Spain — have been roundly criticized for the activity. But the loathing directed at them has been as much for wealthy excess as the hunt itself, and they haven’t drawn the hateful language that Jones has.
Jones in many ways is the feminist ideal: a woman who plays a man’s game — hunting — with a man’s toys — guns and bows and arrows — does it well, and does it with huge self-assurance. She takes what some people think is a masculine attitude toward hunting, not the nurturing, hug-a-panda attitude we expect from a woman.
If Jones were big and brawny — if she looked like a cheerless gender warrior from NOW — she might pass under the radar. Even with their enormous wealth and lightning-rod father, criticism of the Trump boys was minuscule compared to the criticism leveled at Jones. Whatever it is about Jones that has drawn the heavy fire, it clearly has something to do with her gender, her looks, and the unashamed, undeniable pleasure she takes in what she does.
Killing isn’t something we should take likely. People who blast away at rabbits for the fun of it and who swerve to kill a snake in the road are somehow deficient, lacking in something important to humanity. Yet no one who wears leather, eats meat, fish or fowl, or kills unpleasant animals in the garden is in a position of commanding moral superiority on the subject of big-game hunting. These things are all a matter of choice, not necessity. Whether for food, clothing, or preserving the garden, we kill or sanction killing because it satisfies a want, just because it pleases us.
To complain about killing a “noble” animal is just to claim that some animals are better than others. What makes a lion more noble than a chipmunk? Neuter your cat and keep it indoors if the deaths of birds and lions offends you. If you don’t want eagles killed, demand that wind power stations be dismantled; the bird carnage around some of them is horrific. If you care about wild animals, stop eating hamburgers and save some habitat.
The hatred aimed at Kendall Jones is impotent. It does nothing to protect endangered species and habitat, it’s just a way to feel superior that costs nothing. The Kendall Joneses of the world aren’t the reason rhinos are endangered. It only makes us feel good to pretend that they are.