Let Them Eat Quail: A Look at Everything Wrong with the Rich Women Hunters in the New York Times

Jennifer Livingston c/o nytimes.com

Sometimes when I’m bored (and am not up for doing what I usually do when I’m bored), I try to imagine what it’s like to pitch ideas for the New York Times Styles section, or Magazine. Based on the type of stories that make their way into print, I feel that it’s a pretty safe place to throw out just about any idea that pops into your head, particularly if the idea involves some reference to Brooklyn; a shout-out to a hipster signifier like, uh, a raccoon penis bone necklace; the crazy shenanigans of wealthy white women; and the repurposing of Mason jars. And if you can incorporate all those things into a single story? With the added bonus of a nonsensical reference to a classic 90s movie? (More on that movie later.) Well, you’ve hit the jackpot! Good for you! Unfortunately, I don’t quite think that I’m cut out to pitch stories like that. I don’t think I could do it with a straight face. No, we all have our professional lots in life, and mine seems to be picking apart trend stories like this so that I don’t actually go crazy after reading them. Even though, sometimes, insanity feels like the only, well, sane option. 

But so, T Magazine posted an article titled “Food Matters: The Professional Women Who Hunt, Shoot, and Gut Their Dinners.” Based on that headline alone, it didn’t have to be bad. Maybe it would be about women who live in rural areas of America and hunt their own food as an ethically based rejection of factory farmed-meat. That could be interesting! Or maybe it would be about self-sufficient women who live off the grid and have returned to a simpler way of life that doesn’t include grocery stores or even Fresh Direct. I’d read that! Or maybe it would even be something really frivolous and focus on young women who were inspired after reading the Hunger Games trilogy to be more like Katniss and take down squirrels with a single, well-placed arrow. I mean, ok! Or maybe—just maybe—the article would center around a group of privileged white women who unironically use words like “mojo” when talking about their raccoon penis bone necklaces (which, also, shame on the writer for not working in a JT LeRoy reference…have some respect for the 90s, you know?), and who wear “bedazzled rodeo shirts” while they talk about “girl power” and how “stylish” and “edgy” killing animals is. But this article couldn’t possibly be about that, right? How could it? That would be so insulting to the intelligence of anyone reading! But, you know, surprise! This is article is about exactly those kinds of women. Because, of course it is.

Yeah, writer Jeff Gordinier follows around women like Georgia Pelligrini, who is described as being “the only woman in America who can disembowel an animal and avoid chipping a fingernail” and who has a forthcoming book, which “will offer a variety of tips—how to use a compass, how to turn Mason jars into lanterns, how to make lip gloss from beet juice.” Gordinier explains that Pelligrini, who is 32, “ditched her first career, as an investment banker, to become a chef” about a decade ago, but it doesn’t really go into that inscrutable timeline much, which is unfortunate, because I’m more interested in what kind of investment banking “career” Pelligrini had built by the age of 22 than I am in having her teach me how to use a compass. But so, I guess it doesn’t really matter what I’m interested in, because all I really learn about is that wealthy women are bored with their lives and think guns are kind of cool and like to smear blood on each other’s faces and wish they had feathers that could be plucked out because then they’d look skinnier.

Which, the whole “looking skinnier” thing really bugged me. As did the fact that the bruises left on the women’s arms by their guns are referred to as “gun hickeys.” And the fact that while the women were smearing blood on each other’s faces, one woman referred to the blood as “nice and juicy.” And that one woman actually uttered the words, “I really wanted to get that birdie.” Ok, who am I kidding? Everything about this article bugged me. There is totally a good story to be written about women who hunt! This is not it. Instead, this piece just amplifies every terrible stereotype about women, both sexualizing them and infantilizing them as they play with their guns and shoot some birds, and are then shown dining on a gourmet meal of bison, which is obviously not what they were hunting. But maybe the thing about this that bothers me the most? Is that Gordninier refers to this women’s hunting retreat as being “Thelma & Louise”-ish. Which, no! That is a movie about two women who attempted to find freedom from a damaging, patriarchal society. This is a hunting retreat that caters to women who have too much money and time on their hands but no excitement in their life and so they decide to kill some animals. And also? Thelma and Louise die! The only living things that die in this article are the pheasants. RIP pheasants. RIP.

Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen

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