Georgina Guedes

It’s OK to hate what Melissa Bachman did

2013-11-19 11:09

Georgina Guedes

It's not a good week to be Melissa Bachman. The self-styled "huntress" zipped into South Africa, killed a lion in an arranged hunt, and jetted back out again. But when she posted a proud photo of her "incredible" hunt, all hell broke loose.

The first tweet that I saw regarding Melissa Bachman quoted her comment: "An incredible day hunting in South Africa! Stalked inside 60-yards on this beautiful male lion...what a hunt!" And then implored her to "burn in hell, poes".
I generally agreed with the sentiment (not believing in hell, I took the instruction as metaphorical rather than actual threat), and retweeted the comment. What I didn't know then was that I was participating in a chain reaction that would become a nuclear meltdown of rage from South Africa.

"Burn in hell, poes," is actually quite tame compared to some of what's been said about and to Melissa Bachman. She's had death threats, she's had breast cancer wished upon her and she's been told that people hope that the next animal she stalks eats her alive. She's subsequently taken down her Twitter account and disabled her website.

Check your reaction

Then came the second wave of comment, from people who took the time to measure their own gut response. Issues of misogyny were raised - male lion-female hunter...  many lion hunts are conducted in South Africa each year but this one upset us all...the kinds of threats that were made against Bachman were often specifically targeting her femininity...

I agree that the threats against Bachman are inappropriate and probably illegal, but I think that the backlash has less to do with her gender and more to do with her gloating about a distasteful act in a very public forum.

Sure, Bachman hasn't committed the worst crime in the world. She's no worse than any other hunter, but she put that picture out there and she frequently publicises other animal killings that she's carried out.

I also understand, as many people have raised, that in certain contexts, culling of wild animals is necessary. There aren't the same natural forces governing numbers of animals as there were hundreds of years ago, and it becomes necessary to control numbers.

"Why then," a vegetarian friend asked me, "are we hunt-shaming, when we're perfectly happy for abattoir cruelty to persist, and eating meat is not necessary?"

Joy in death is despicable

I think there's an important distinction to be drawn here. Those of us who are objecting to Mellissa Bachman aren't doing so because of the fact that a lion died. We are, or at least I am, objecting because of the sheer blood-thirsty joy she takes in it.

If someone who worked in an abattoir posted a tweet saying, "Man, I just drove a steel bolt into the skull of a beautiful cow, and it feels awesome!" and continued to post tweets like this, along with pictures, you can be pretty damn sure there would be a backlash. I imagine animal-rights groups would get involved, even if they didn’t have a legal case.

I've tried to think of other cases in which causing the death of another creature is necessary or legal, and I can only think of abortion and innocent casualties of war, and I'll let you carry those analogies through to their conclusions to work out how the public would respond to any kind of gloating or celebration in the wake of either of those events.

What she deserved

I'm not saying that I think Melissa Bachman deserved death threats or even to be banned from South Africa. I just know that she's no one I'd like to have at my dinner table, and many South Africans clearly feel the same. The internet then makes it possible for people to broadcast and amplify that kind of sentiment until it has grown into a disproportionate response.

So, while I may feel sorry that I participated in an overblown reaction to a perfectly legal act by a woman with a hobby and a career that I find distasteful in the extreme - and I certainly don't condone death threats - I am not apologetic about my feelings about her action or my judgement of her.

Her choice to post a picture of herself, celebrating the death of another creature, in a public forum sparked this. She is not an innocent bystander. This can’t be the first time she’s found out that hunting is a controversial "sport".

So yes, there are far worse things happening in the world right now, and other people are committing exactly the same act that Melissa Bachman did, but that doesn't mean that each individual who is stirred to anger in response to her photo doesn’t have a right to feel that way.

- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

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