Animals need rights and the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) plans on gaining them, through the exploitation of women. From being stuffed in cages while dressed in bikinis to being covered in plastic wrap naked, smeared with fake blood, PETA will go to any length to dehumanize women in order to catch the attention of the misogynistic majority. And last time I checked, our deeply ingrained patriarchal society seems to be responding.
PETAs default idea for an ad campaign is to get famous women to pose naked for them. They figure if they can lure in an audience by putting boobs in front of them, it will be easier to slip in a video of cows being slaughtered. In the past couple of years some of the nude, anti fur campaigns have featured Pamela Anderson and Olympic swimmer Amanda Beard. Alicia Silverstone posed naked in a popular shoot where she announced she is a vegetarian and the most recent ad is an anti horse drawn carriage campaign with Kristen Johnston who posed naked on a fake horse.
Another new addition to the PETA website is the strip tease quiz where you answer a series of trivia questions pertaining to animal rights. The more answers you get correct, the more clothes the model dressed as a school girl takes off. PETA is using sex to raise awareness. The two are completely unrelated. PETA didn’t even attempt to relate the school girl taking her clothes off to the gruesome statistics they present you with through their trivia.
PETA takes the cake when it comes to shock value, whether it’s through their sexist advertising or their slaughterhouse videos. They juxtapose the female body with the abused animals; through this you see the humanization of these animals while at the same time the dehumanization of women. They are attempting to bring equality to the idea of ethical treatment of all beings through neutralizing the good versus the evil.
PETA showed up at World Vegetarian Week this June with their interns laid out on cardboard, naked, covered in fake blood and wrapped in cellophane with a price on them and a label that read “flesh”. They left these interns in 80 degree weather for over an hour. This was not even a protest. It was a celebration, a positive event for vegetarians.
In September, PETAs executive vice president, Tracy Reiman wrote a letter to Ben & Jerry’s, urging them to switch from cows milk to breast milk, in an effort to stop cruelty to cows. A part of the letter reads, “The breast is best! Won’t you give cows and their babies a break and our health a boost by switching from cow’s milk to breast milk in Ben and Jerry’s ice cream?” Because women aren’t exploited as it is, let’s hook them up to breast pumps, just like the cows and get this idea rolling!
Ingrid Newkirk, president of PETA finds nothing wrong with PETAs actions and advertising campaigns. She even identifies herself as a feminist (then again, so did Sarah Palin). In a letter to The New York Times that appeared in July, Newkirk says, “we can and do inspire debate and convince many people that it is a human obligation to speak out against injustice to all beings.” Do interns count as beings? Are the women being stuffed into cages beings? Regardless of their willingness in these “protests” I see it as injustice to women and a reinforcement of the idea of woman as the continually marginalized “other”. In the closing of her letter she says, “Forgive us our bikinis and our shock tactics, but our message that all beings — both human and nonhuman — deserve compassion and respect is one that we must work hard to make heard.” But how hard can PETA really be working when the only way they go about advertising is through sex?
I have been a vegetarian for eight years and an active believer in animal rights my entire life, but I think that sex and gender equality is a far more important battle. How are we expected to fight for the rights of animals when women are still making 70 cents to the man’s dollar and there are women all over the world who are being denied basic human rights? PETA is contributing to the dehumanization and objectification of the female body and women as a whole. It’s time for PETA to live up to their claim of ethical treatment of all beings and replace their shock tactics with an attempt at being informative.