Hunting for Girl Power?
Anything boys can do, girls can do better, right? Thanks to decades of Rosie the Riveter/Spice Girls/Gloria Steinem/Brandi Chastain-style role models and messages, we girls know that we can wear pants, play sports, run the board room, sprout chest hair (with the help of some hormones) and do virtually anything once thought of as purely for the boys. Including hunting.
This morning, National Public Radio’s Morning Edition featured a story on Magan Hebert, 15, of Wayne County, Mississippi — a babyfaced, ponytailed cheerleader who dreams not of becoming homecoming queen but of shooting and killing her first buck. Ah, to be a teenage girl again…when the ecstasy of first dates and an A on your history final was overshadowed only by the bliss of watching life drain from a once-spritely doe.
The objective of this story was to highlight that not all hunters are gruff, middle-aged men with beards and camouflage button-downs. Girls are taking up hunting, too! Yay for girl power! Ladies, forget burning your bras — grab yer guns!
NPR never questioned whether hunting was ethical or if this was a positive or negative trend for girls. It’s great that as a “tiny” and “quiet” girl, Magan would find a way to empower herself — but why couldn’t she find pride in the fact that she made the cheerleading team? Or got A’s in school? (Which the NPR report did state).
Magan’s parents — her dad is a hunter too — seem overwhelmed with joy and awe that their daughter wanted to hunt when she was in just 4th grade. Even before their son did! And she was “hooked” after she shot a doe in the shoulder. How precious that her parents, rather than teaching their daughter that life is valuable, to respect other creatures, or to find self-worth in herself and the fact that she is inherently valuable as a person and doesn’t need to arbitrarily kill animals to compete with macho guys at school, swell with pride that their ten-year-old was eager to see blood pour from a deer’s chest.
I am acutely annoyed by parents sheltering their kids from where meat comes from — a la Ronald McDonald telling kids that hamburgers grow in “hamburger patches” — and being afraid that if their kids knew bacon came from a pig just like the one in their picture books they’d no longer get that oh-so-necessary protein. But does encouraging children, boys and girls alike, to hunt contradict the values of compassion, empathy, kindness, moral responsibility and consciousness that make a truly “empowered” person?
I mean…weren’t kids generally sad when Bambi’s mom got shot? Did young Magan watch the movie and think “I wanna do that!”?
It’s clear from this report Magan regards hunting as something that makes her feel powerful. She says: “Some guys think, you know, ‘OK well, you’re a girl, you can’t kill a deer.’ You know, I can say, ‘Yeah, I’ve killed two of them. What now?’” The NPR reporter never asks Magan if she feels regret or sadness for taking the life of an animal, even when she tells the reporter that she likes seeing a mother deer playing with her fawns. “I think it’s cute.” She says, “Cause, you know, you can’t kill them yet. But when they grow up, it’s really good food. I don’t know, I just like it.”
The link between animal abuse and other forms of crime and psychosis have been studied extensively, yet no one questions the moral compass of a girl willing (and eager) to shoot a mother after watching her play with her children or anxiously waiting for those children to sprout antlers so that she can proudly hang them from their legs and pose with their carcass for next year’s Christmas card photo. New Facebook profile pic!
Does promoting hunting as “girl power” steer girls toward the stereotypically macho “me-strong-you-weak-me-kill-you” thinking that undermines the characteristics of a truly empowered person?
An empowered person is someone who thinks of others, values and respects life and doesn’t need to do what others (in this case, “the men”) are doing to feel good about themselves.
Is this really the way to empower girls? Let’s hear what you think.
Photo credit: Creative Commons