Kendall Jones is a 19-year-old cheerleader from Texas and she kills large game for sport. She’s had her eye on the “Big Five” (the African lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, African leopard, and White/Black rhinoceros) since she was nine. She killed her first white rhino when she was 13. She poses with the animals she kills, beaming, jauntily pony-tailed, sometimes straddling dead lions or cuddling dead leopards.
Kendall Jones is also the target of a mighty outpouring of Internet vitriol, with some calling her the most hated person on the internet. She was the subject of a Avaaz.org campaign that garnered 325,000 signatures and succeeded in getting Facebook to take down her hunting pictures earlier this week. She has been featured in stories in the Washington Post, People, and BuzzFeed among many others. She has made life very difficult for people who are so unfortunate as to also bear the name Kendall Jones. (I helped with that effort, emailing lots of people named Kendall Jones in an attempt to reach this Kendall Jones. Sorry other Kendall Joneses.)
People are right to be mad. By some estimates, there are only 32,000 African lions left in the wild, and others suggest that number is smaller. Six hundred lions are killed in trophy hunts and “canned hunting” game reserves in Africa every year. White rhinos are considered near endangered and mostly exist in South Africa, which is currently experiencing a poaching crisis. African elephants are a vulnerable population as well.
However: Last week, pro golfer John Peterson posed the question, “What if it was a sixty year old overweight dude posting the hunting pics?” Americans (mostly men) hunt big game all the time. Sixty percent of all lions killed for sport in Africa are shipped back to the U.S. And most trophy hunters escape our notice. Jones is the Internet villain du jour because she upends our expectations. Or, to put it more bluntly, because she is bright, shiny, young and female.
“Conventional ideals of women dictate that ‘unlike men, women should love animals and be caring and nurturing, not ruthless hunters of endangered species,’” CBC News writer Matt Kwong wrote this week, quoting a women’s studies professor. “Jones’s case has apparently tapped into another level of anger because of who is wielding the weapon.”
I’d say so! Jones has been called a bitch, cunt, bimbo, and slut, and threatened with rape and death. The Facebook page “Kill Kendall Jones” was racking up the likes before Facebook removed it today. Kwong likens the public outcry against Jones to the especially enraged reaction to the female soldiers who took pictures with naked Abu Ghraib detainees. The act, regardless of gender, is disgusting, but it’s worth pointing out that it’s no more disgusting for a woman to do it than a man.
Jones is not the first female hunter to attract public ire. Last year, Melissa Bachman, a self-described “hardcore hunter” was the subject of a 135,000-strong Change.org petition to stop her from entering the country. Compare that to the Change.org petition to stop the trophy hunting of lions, which got a measly 2,900 signatures.
I guess if every trophy hunter looked like Kendall Jones, all trophy hunters would be famous—though who knows if that would lead to any meaningful change. So far, the outrage at Jones hasn’t directly saved any animals, and if anything, it has bolstered her fame. She is reportedly set to host her own television show on the Sportsman channel in 2015.