PETA: Sexist advertising defeats the purpose, harms the cause By: Steven Garnett

Our friend Steven Garnett shared his article with us, which I truly enjoyed reading and wanted to share.  He urges us to examine PETA tactics. I fully agree with this article about how PETA truly uses not only tactics that infringe on the rights of others, but they also portray their activists as “easy female sexual targets that nobody takes seriously anyway.” What PETA is really doing is actually hiding their true message behind scary and sexist tactics. I personally do not take them seriously mostly based on the same argument that Steven is making here! My favorite quote from this article: “One type of oppression is not more important than another type, it all stems from the same place. Don’t ignore one kind of oppression while fighting against another—that just gets us nowhere.” – Amanda

PETA: Sexist advertising defeats the purpose, harms the cause

Steven Garnett on 3/08/2011 05:18:00 PM |

What comes to mind when you think of PETA? For most people it brings up images of sex hungry, over emotional women that don’t want you to have your cheeseburgers. Obviously the only people who even care about animal welfare are crazy and female. We all know that is not true, but it is the image PETA is responsible for placing on animal rights activists. You might try to argue and say that PETA is just using the sex sells advertising technique in attempts to get people interested in the cause, but since when have animal rights become more important than women’s rights? The fact is that it’s not more important, it is equally important. PETA also uses demonstration tactics that sometimes not only infringe on other’s rights but just plain scares people away from our cause. For some of you PETA may actually be the reason you went veg, some of you might even agree with PETA’s tactics. On the other hand, it’s possible that you have never thought about the full effect of PETA’s tactics.

Most famously PETA is known for their risqué ads featuring nude or scantily clad women. The idea behind this kind of campaign is usually to protest how humans use animals for clothing. I would be willing to go so as far to say that in theory I would agree with this type of advertising, but sadly the women are photo shopped and air brushed to perfection just like in every other sexist ad you see in a fashion magazine. So what, it’s getting people to go veg right? Well maybe a few but could PETA have turned just as many people without being sexist? I believe they could. In fact of all the vegetarians and vegans I know personally, not one of them credits PETA for their lifestyle change. Studies have shown that ads portraying women as homemakers may activate the belief that women are domestic and nurturing, whereas ads that show half-naked women, may activate the belief that women are alluring, frivolous sexual objects. Combine this with animal rights and you have young men growing up with the idea that animal rights activists are easy female sexual targets that nobody takes seriously anyway. Not to mention the obvious effect that this type of media instilled sexism has on young women: “You can care about animals just be sexy about it!” PETA has even teamed up with porn stars like Jenna Jameson who posed in pleather lingerie in an ad campaign entitled “Pleather Yourself”. Is this really necessary?

It’s time for an animal rights demonstration! Does this mean we are all going to get naked and lie around in pools of blood, or get naked and get in a cage? Does it mean that we are going to throw buckets of blood on everyone we see wearing animal products? Well a lot of people think that this is the only thing that animal rights activists do. There are other ways to demonstrate such as simply offering people the truth. We don’t have to get naked and bloody to save animal lives, and we don’t have to infringe on people’s rights by attacking them through violent protest methods.

I don’t believe that everything PETA does is bad, but I think they could learn a little from other groups such as Mercy for Animals and Farm Sanctuary. We can save animals without hurting people in the process. One type of oppression is not more important than another type, it all stems from the same place. Don’t ignore one kind of oppression while fighting against another—that just gets us nowhere.
Steven Garnett | Facebook
Steven is currently pursuing a B.A. in history and women’s studies at East Tennessee State University. He is the founder of Vegans and Vegetarians of the Tri-Cities and a student animal rights organization at ETSU. Steven is a vegan, active feminist and environmentalist. He enjoys film, art, and delicious vegan cuisine and wishes to educate others about oppression, regardless if it’s animal oppression or human oppression. Steven’s blog.

Photo credit: cc: flickr.com/photos/progressohio

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This blog is a collaborative effort from the students, faculty, and feminist souls in the East Tennessee State University Women's Studies Department. We simply want to share daily thoughts with the world and encourage not only feminist thought, but awareness, tolerance, diversity, equality, justice, and social progress. Women's Studies is an exciting, interdisciplinary area of study that celebrates women's lives. It examines how diverse women have contributed to history, social processes, culture, politics and economics, as well as how all of these have shaped women's experiences. Our program provides new ways of looking at common assumptions about femininity and masculinity and teaches students how to connect what they study with how they live and work. We also explore how gender intersects with ability, age, class, culture, ethnicity, nationality, race, religion, and sexuality. Our Leadership through Diversity focus promotes a creative struggle for justice and equality. We train graduates to be leaders in both civic engagement and the workforce. The Women's Studies Program at ETSU is comprised of dedicated faculty and staff and socially conscious students coming together from a wide range of disciplines.

Posted on April 6, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Nathan Gross

    I think you bring up some interesting points, however I feel like this is based on alot of generalization. PETA is a pretty large organization at this point and of course not every member agrees with their tactics. Some of which are a little over the top some are not. To be perfectly frank I am not very familiar with their tactics, I am sure you would be able to inform me on them. However their overall platform is stated in their name, people for the the ethical treatment for animals, which every PETA member would rally under, so while it can do some harm I feel like it gives a decent identifiable starting point for many to flock to.

    Now to the main reason I was posting. Your argumentation for PETA being sexist in their recent advertising started with this statement. “I would be willing to go so as far to say that in theory I would agree with this type of advertising, but sadly the women are photo shopped and air brushed to perfection just like in every other sexist ad you see in a fashion magazine.” Forgive me if I didn’t get your main complaint in there. I guess for me this poses the question does photoshoping women for photography purposes automatically imply sexism? Or are you implying that because they are nude and photoshoped it is therefore sexism? Or did I miss the point entirely? My qualms with this is I know many skilled photographers some that use photoshop, some that do not, and either way most of their subjects will use makeup, props, some will be nude. Then of course for the ones that use photoshop does that mean that they are sexist? My question then starts to become where do you draw the line, between sexism and trying to be pretty. Whether it be for dating, photography, art or advertising. I also have to ask had there been men in the shoot instead of women who had been photoshoped and airbrushed would you still consider it sexist towards men? With the general thesis that it promotes an unrealistic body image of men, and hurts men; or is it only sexist when it applies to women?
    I consider myself to be a feminist as well however I think there is nothing wrong with a woman choosing to display her body and giving the consent for manipulation of photographs of her. I do not see the sexism there because it was her choice. I also think the fact that these women were willing to display their bodies in such a way could suggest that they were sexual liberated and had no reason to fear repression, if that is the case then we should celebrate them for the courage. In fact to do otherwise could contribute to censorship, which in my opinion is the worst of all repressions. I will say that it is purely speculation whether they were women displaying themselves like that because they were liberated beings, but none of us can really know what their true beliefs are. As to your mention of Jenna Jameson being used by PETA as a negative thing, due to her position as a pornstar, I have to ask why is that a negative? There are a variety of reason why someone may choose to become a pornstar, I wont lie and say that I think its the most noble of professions. I always heard that either someone really likes sex, or had a messed up childhood; but is there empirical data to support that? None that I know of. The simple fact of the matter is she believes in the cause and she wants to use her fame to support the cause. Who are we to condemn that? Who are we to try to deem her methods unsuitable, when in fact she may embrace feminism and her rights and this is how she chooses to express that.

    In closing I will say that once again I appreciate what you were saying and that it had quite a bit of merit, and I might of not focused on the most important part. But I felt like I had make a point that there are many types of feminists out there and many individuals with different opinions on what it mean to be liberated, and maybe its just different from your conception. I think the most important thing to consider is chances are we are all striving for similar things, and I think its relatively safe to say most of the women that posed probably consider themselves to be feminist, whether they realize what the definition is or not.

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