No Such Thing As Bad Publicity? A Feminist Vegan’s Opinions on PETA’s Latest Porn Stunt

Originally posted at The Opinioness of the World.

Earlier this week, I found out from Feministe that PETA will launch a porn site. Wait, don’t they do that already what with their marketing campaigns chock full of nude women and scantily clad celebs?? Nope, folks…this time they’re pushing past titillation and doing it for reals. The controversial animal rights group’s XXX site will fuse adult content with vegan images. Naturally.

PETA spokeswoman Lindsay Rajt told the Huffington Post:

“We live in a 24 hour news cycle world and we learn the racy things we do are sometimes the most effective way that we can reach particular individuals. Instead of focusing on anti-fur, the porn site will raise awareness of veganism. We really want to grab people’s attention, get them talking and to question the status quo and ultimately take action, because the best way we can help the greatest number of animals is simply by not eating them.”

As a vegan feminist, I’m thrilled to engage people in a dialogue about food politics and animal rights. But I’m so fucking tired of PETA pulling this bullshit. While I understand the desire to get the message out, I cannot abide by the objectification of women’s bodies in the name of animal rights. I don’t automatically have a problem with people posing nude. But PETA continually utilizes sexism, misogyny and fat shaming to garner attention. They continually depict images of women being abused, chained, caged or murdered. Violence against women is an issue that should be taken seriously; not used as an advertising gimic. You shouldn’t slight one cause to further another.

Many vegetarians, vegans and animal rights supporters adore PETA for their usage of celebs and hardcore approach. But they also alienate many others, with their guerilla tactics and sexism, myself included. It’s a myth that all vegans and vegetarians support PETA.

Calling themselves “press sluts,” PETA utilizes nudity in their campaigns because they know it “works.” Sure, people may check out their porn site out of curiosity or for a cheap thrill. Who knows, maybe they’re not even really going to launch a porn site. Maybe they just want to stir up controversy and grab an audience. But who’s going to listen to you when you’ve continually turned everyone off with your offensive and annoying tactics?

PETA’s latest marketing scheme is nothing groundbreaking; sex sells. And sex and food intricately intertwine. We have sexist commercials with women’s bodies exploited and dismembered in the shape of food, and food hyper-sexualized and depicted as titillation. Some ads mimic softcore porn as women lasciviously lick condiments off their lips and fingers. PETA’s stunts prove that they will do whatever it takes, including exploiting women.

Interestingly, PETA President and Co-Founder Ingrid Newkirk calls herself a feminist, despite her vision of the organization’s aggressive use of exploitation. Bruce Friedrich, former VP of Policy and Government Affairs at PETA, now Senior Director for Strategic Initiatives at Farm Sanctuary, said in an online chat with ARZone (Animal Rights Zone):

“Assuming that feminism is about actions, it seems to me that PETA is about as feminist as it gets.”

Wow. He completely misses the crux of feminism: to oppose sexism, not embrace it. In the online chat, Friedrich brushed off the audience’s concerns, asserting that the women in their campaigns and protests want to pose nude (fair enough) and that they wouldn’t appreciate people telling them what to do with their bodies. He so clearly ignores, or simply doesn’t understand, male privilege and the oppressive system of patriarchy that dominates our society.

In films, TV, song lyrics and advertising, the media bombards us with sexist themes and violent imagery of women beaten, raped, maimed and dominated. Advertising reduces women to sex objects. Many movies objectify women, featuring them as mere consorts for male protagonists. Assault is trivialized through rape jokes. When journalists report on rape, they often question the clothing and behavior of the survivors, as if their actions are at fault. We live amidst a rape culture that too often blames survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence. Again and again, women are shown to exist merely for men’s pleasure or derision. With their images of women shackled, abused, murdered and as cuts of meat, PETA is a cog in the machine that continues to denigrate women.

I might support PETA if they solely focused on their initiatives of vegan starter kits, undercover investigative footage and advertising of cruelty-free cosmetic companies. But when you use offensive marketing strategies, you taint your message. PETA’s not going to sway those who aren’t receptive to what they have to say. As my boyfriend (who’s not a vegetarian or vegan) said to me, seeing women in cages isn’t sexy and doesn’t make him feel bad for animals, it makes him feel bad for the woman in the cage.

Social justice movements share myriad common goals and often possess parallel struggles. Perhaps if PETA didn’t flagrantly exploit women, more feminists and other social justice activists would be receptive and support animal rights or vegetarianism. Instead, their actions trivialize the issue and perpetuate the image of “crazy” proselytizing vegans. To me, as the largest animal rights organization in the world, they bear a responsibility to build coalitions; not alienate.

The vegan in me is thrilled that an organization passionately speaks out against animal cruelty and advocates the benefits of incorporating veganism into your diet. But PETA’s hypocrisy (their shelters euthanize thousands of animals) and sexist strategies continually piss off both the vegan and the feminist in me. They make women’s bodies a battleground in which to wage their cause.

I shouldn’t have to turn my back on my feminist principles to support what I believe.

. Bookmark the permalink. Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

4 Comments

  1. Posted August 25, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    This is an excellent piece, and this is the meat (pun slightly intended) of the problem: “You shouldn’t slight one cause to further another.”

    Not to mention that trying to subconsciously get people not to eat meat by juxtaposing meat and sex makes absolutely no sense. And couldn’t that backfire? I’d hate for people to start associating arousal with animal cruelty …

  2. Posted August 25, 2011 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    I encourage people to abandon PETA and cease to give them any consideration. They don’t get it because they don’t want to get it.

  3. Posted August 25, 2011 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    One of my sisters was a militant proselytizing vegan for several years, and I must admit it influenced my beliefs of the entire movement. I know that everyone isn’t that way, but I think it’s easy to be influenced by the stupidity of PETA without understanding the problems in their logic that you’ve pointed out here.

  4. Posted August 26, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    I despise PETA, my feminist vegan sister! Vegans Against PETA should probably exist.

    I have a feeling that PETA is to blame for the fact that so many people associate vegan with “total asshole.” It is infuriating that the “public face” of the animal rights movement is a hypocritical, misogynist, body-policing, trivializing group such as PETA.

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.

  • Subscribe

  • Subscribe

  • Meet Us

173 queries. 1.397 seconds