Sunday, December 1, 2013

Women With Guns

For some reason, I seem to be drawn to male-dominated sports.  (Hunting, karate, saltwater fishing, competitive archery...)  I'm sure some Freudian psychologist would have a field day explaining how some deep-seated hurts from my childhood (ones I certainly don't remember and likely never happened) are responsible.  But I never played with dolls as a child (unless they were driving my Tonka trucks).  You were much more likely to find the child me running barefooted climbing trees and digging in the dirt than pursuing  more "normal" girl hobbies.

But this particular blog entry isn't about the whys of my attraction to more characteristically masculine pastimes.  It's about the haters, the trolls, the cyber bullies who have nothing better to do with their time but spew criticism and hate and horrible threats from behind their keyboards the moment someone steps outside of society's accepted gender roles.

In early November, television presenter and hunter, Melissa Bachman posted pictures to her Facebook page of herself with a lion she shot and killed in South Africa.  Like so many things posted to social media, it opened up the floodgates of social commentary and criticism.  The cyber bullies crawled out of the woodwork like the insects they are to criticize Bachman's character and ethics, issuing insults and even very graphic death threats.  ("If I come across her I'll rip off her f***ing face."  or "I hope she gets breast cancer and dies in pain.")

My personal style of hunting and Bachman's are very different.  I eat everything I harvest, so I can't see myself hunting lions even if I could afford the hefty price tag for a hunting trip to South Africa.  But I don't really care about Ms. Bachman's pursuit of trophy animals.  (But I must mention that Bachman's kill was completely legal.)  While the fracas appeared to be about the principles and morality of trophy hunting, I don't think that is what caused so many people's panties to become all wadded up.  

I think it has to do with hunting, yes.  But I think it has far, far more to do with the fact that Bachman is a woman hunter (and an attractive one at that).

Men have been hunting on the African continent since....well since the dawn of mankind.  But men are still posting pictures of themselves and their African kills all over the internet with very little backlash in comparison to the hate that has been spewed at Bachman.  Don't believe me?  Here are more than a few examples:

Here's a bunch of guys with a lion.  Looks like they used several weapons to bring this big boy down.

More guys with another lion.

Yet another guy has heartlessly killed a lion.

This picture even has TWO lions in it.  Still didn't cause the same kind of uproar.

The violent criticism over this dead lion isn't about the lion at all...or the fact that it was killed by a hunter.  This seems obvious by the blatant lack of  outcry over the above pictures of MEN with dead lions.  The problem is that the hunter of this lion is (gasp) a WOMAN.

Melissa Bachman isn't the only female hunter with stalking cyber bullies.  Olivia Opre, host of the web program "Extreme Huntress", which features women hunters pursuing all types of game, shared some of the nastiness cyber bullies have hurled in her direction including desires for her to "drown in her own blood" and that her sons "should die slow painful deaths".

I've had my share, too.  While there haven't been death threats over posted pictures of animals I've bagged,  I have been "unfriended" (How could these people do that to me!?!) and told by one passive aggressive "friend" that she expected "more compassion from a woman".

Domestic Violence author and speaker, Barry Goldstein, has an interesting perspective on gender bias in our modern Western culture.  
"Lots of times gender bias can be unconscious.  It's based on stereotypes, on a long history of men and women in certain roles.It is important to remember when you talk about aggressive or physically powerful behavior (such as hunting) it's something that society tolerates in men far more than women. 
For example, when a woman murders her partner, her sentence is an average of 70% longer than if a man had killed a woman.  When women don't behave the way society wants them to, some people develop a sense of entitlement to be punitive."

Society still wants to hold tightly to the quiet calm complacent image of womanhood.  It's just not fair to shove so many women in to such a tightly restrictive box.  Women often want to be loud and aggressive and bold.  We shouldn't have to fear the hostility of strangers when we step outside of Society's comfort zone.

Hunting lions may not be something everyone can support (even among hunters), but with more than 300,000 American woman going afield as first-time hunters in the past 5 years, we can't deny that woman want to be there.   Not just as observers, but as participants.  It's a growing trend.  We might just have to learn to deal with it.

Personally, I think the questions we should be asking ourselves as a society have little to do with lions and guns, and more to do with the causes of the hatred and the threats and the rage that are so freely belched across our social media.  What is it that causes small, but vocal subsets of our culture to feel they have the right to impose their credenda on anyone who steps outside their narrowly defined view of what is acceptable?

It is one thing to express opinions and quite another to believe your opinion on anything, whether it be how to cook a roast or how to attain world peace or whether women should be shooting lions, is the only true and right one.

It takes all kinds of people to make a world.  Even women with guns.

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