Kendall Jones’ Facebook page features a lot of selfies. In that way, she’s like any other 19-year-old college student. She’s a petite blonde cheerleader who poses in almost all of them with a big smile on her face. But the comments on her photos are pretty rough—usually from strangers who have harsh words for her. “She looks like an alien reptiloid not a a human…,” one declares. “Kendall there is something very cold and empty inside of you,” another starts. In most of Jones’ pictures of herself, she’s posing in camo fatigues, crouched down, to better show off the body of a dead animal she’s killed.
There are shots of Jones with dead zebras, with dead lions. There’s one with her as a young girl posing with a dead white rhino and a rifle. In another, she‘s smiling next to a cape buffalo with a bright red wound still visible in the creature’s belly. She smiles next to a dead hippo, proudly displays the bow and arrows she used to bring down another lion, lounges next to a dead cheetah splayed out on a rock. There’s one in which she’s small, in the background, to better demonstrate the size of the elephant whose body she stands proudly over, rifle in the air.
It’s not exactly a mystery why so many of the people who comment on Jones’ public Facebook page (she’s set it up so that she’s declared a “public figure” by the site) have mean things to say. Those are a whole lot of majestic creatures, and Jones is proudly posing with their dead bodies and the weapon she used to bring them down.
It’s made her something of an Internet celebrity in recent days. Part of that’s the dead animals, of course—but it’s not like Jones is the only big game hunter to pose with a trophy. She might be the only 19-year-old cheerleader on Facebook to feature so many pictures, though, and it’s clear that the juxtaposition of a fresh-faced young woman and dead animal bodies can strike a visceral nerve for some people. If the person posing with the felled creature looks like, say, Ted Nugent, the outrage tends to be limited. But put a young woman in the photo and it’s a viral sensation.
This collective outrage has culminated in petitions to various bodies over Jones. One, with over 30,000 signatures on Change.org, demands that Jones’ right to hunt animals in Africa be revoked. It’s not clear who in particular this petition is aimed at, or what Jones specifically has done to cause her to be singled out over any of the other hunters who visit Africa with a gun bag. Another, with 130,000 signees, requests that Facebook remove Jones’ page because it “promotes animal cruelty.”
Reasonable people can argue about big game hunting—and they have, for centuries. Knowing what we know about the intelligence of elephants, for example, it’s possible to look at the young woman posing over the body of one she killed and see a murderer. Others, meanwhile, can look at many of the photos and recognize a cruel reality of the world we live in: that animal habitats are destroyed all over the world, and the fees hunters like Jones pay to kill animals on that land creates an incentive to keep those species viable. One can even recognize both at the same time—there is something visceral and devastating about the celebration of so much death, and that without controlled, permitted, (expensive) hunting, there would probably be more of it.
Still, it’s hard not to read the petitions against Jones and feel as though there’s something else at work here. The petition that asks African states (presumably all of them?) to ban Jones from their countries reads:
Kendall Jones is an American born hunter who has entered the continent and has been hunting African wildlife under the facade of conservation. She has publicly stated that she hopes to have a television hunting show and she is using endangered and helpless African animals as a stepping to further her popularity on social media platforms.
The issue here, according to the petition, isn’t so much the trophy hunting as it is the fact that Jones is blowing up on Facebook. It’s one thing to shoot animals, in other words, but in pursuit of likes? That’s perhaps to be expected, though. Whenever you have thousands of people rallying against a young woman, you’re probably going to get an undercurrent of ugliness that has little to do with the purported reasons for the protest, and a lot to do with a disapproval of the pursuits of 19-year-old cheerleaders—like generating a social media presence.
The comments from the petition’s signees reflect this, too. “Jason Parsons” from Germany writes that “This little bitch will hopefully get what’s coming to her,” while “Gustavo Fideney” claims that he’s signing “Because these animals are almost extinct, and this slut kills them with cruelty.” “Faisal Janabi” of Australia declares that “This dumb bitch is killing near endangered species for fun,” and “Lilian Caughlin” of Golden Valley, Arizona writes that “that girl is butt ugly inside and out and we should be spared just looking at her. Her face would scare hardened headhunters.”
In other words, Kendall Jones might be committing atrocities by hunting the creatures that she does, or she might be contributing to conservation efforts by paying to preserve animal habitats, or both. But that’s not really what brought her to brief, sudden Internet fame—the undercurrent of misogyny here seems to indicate that what’s most outrageous is that she’s doing all of this while being a young woman. Regardless of how you feel about the animals she hunts, that’s something that we should all be able to recognize as wrong.(image via Kendall Jones’ Facebook page.)