Serena Freewomyn

PETA Exploits Women's Bodies for Animal Rights

Filed By Serena Freewomyn | July 23, 2008 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics, The Movement
Tags: animal rights, body image, drag queens, female sexuality, feminism, fur, KFC, Lady Bunny, PETA, Playboy, teen pregnancy

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) are at it again. easter_bunnies.jpg Last year they were turning heads with their ads featuring naked Playboy models protesting fur. This time they're running TV ads that compare teenage girls to cats and dogs.

The ad opens with a surly teen girl sighing loudly as her parents plant themselves on her bed wearing "We need to talk about sex" expressions.

Mom: Honey, we need to talk ...

Dad: ... about sex. We think you should be having it sweetie.

Mom: A lot of it.

Dad: Get out there and nail everything you can!

[ ... ]

Teen girl: What if I get pregnant?"

Dad: So what? You should pop out all the kids you want! We can leave them in the shelter, dump them out in the street ... it's really not important.

The ad closes with, "Parents shouldn't act this way. Neither should people with dogs and cats."

Tana Ganeva over at Alternet concludes that this ad is better than previous PETA ad campaigns, but only because it isn't as overtly misogynist as the others. I don't really give a shit. PETA can go fuck themselves. I say this as both a vegetarian AND an animal lover.

When PETA's Playboy campaign launched last year, my favorite anarcha-feminist and vegan, Jon Grindell, had some good things to say over at G-Spot Magazine:

That said, the animal rights movement stands to lose solidarity with other social justice movements if a single issue paradigm prevails. PETA is the largest animal rights organization and provides an immense amount of resources raise the issue of animal suffering. Supporters range from anarchists to celebrities, religious leaders to atheists. The point shouldn't be lost that animals are voiceless and are forced to shed their skin when caught for days in leghold traps in the freezing cold. If they are still alive, they will be gassed, or anally/genitally electrocuted to death. There are a bevy of ways to convey the suffering of animals to a vast array of individuals without legitimizing patriarchy.

Much like their supporters, PETA's employees have a wide range of ideologies with the central theme being that of compassion for animals. A former housemate of mine who once worked for PETA had challenged my feminist ideals by saying that it is commendable that I stand up for womyn like herself, but it's not like womyn are routinely being tortured to death and have their flesh eaten by the billions. A statement such as this implies privilege. Another former employee identifies as a feminist, as does the president of PETA. She let me know that during her employment with PETA, she had an incident with a male staffer and he was promptly fired.

But if the goal is to reduce animal suffering by any means necessary is PETA succeeding? If a few people of the dominant worldview have their eyes opened to animal suffering, is it worth proliferating patriarchal norms? Aren't capitalism and the state complicit in subjugating animals as mere "dollar signs to the industry?" It is important to recognize total liberation as a mindset that will take the form of an action to free ourselves, all of us, from oppression.

lady_bunny_billboard.jpgSomeone working at PETA must have caught onto the fact that the organization needs to make more allies. And so in addition to the campaign that compares teenage girls to household pets, they're currently trying to sell themselves as a "gay-friendly" organization. They've got a new billboard up in NYC that features the fabulous Lady Bunny, which reads, "Sometimes bright big packages contain dirty little secrets." Sweet! Now transwomen are included in the list of womyn PETA loves to hate. Could you get anymore "Crying Game" than this ad? I guess this means they're trans-inclusive? Can someone please dig up PETA's position on a United ENDA? Oh wait . . . they don't do other issues. Oops! My bad!

Here's how the ad is described on PETA's blog. You're gonna love this!

Lady Bunny joins other gorgeous pin-ups, including Pam Anderson and Imogen Bailey, who have protested the well-documented abuse of chickens who end up in KFC's deceptively pretty buckets of breast meat. However, only Lady Bunny can talk about there being "more than meets the eye" (regarding animal welfare, of course).

I've cocktailed at enough gay bars to know firsthand what happens "when queens attack"--and it ain't pretty. After all, who wants to upset a burly guy who has spent an hour squeezing into a size 3 dress and a pair of high heels?

I don't know who this Sean Conner is, but can someone please give him a clue? The press release that we got yesterday from PETA was laughable. It actually said:

According to PETA's Senior Vice President Dan Mathews--who was named one of the most influential gays in the country by Out magazine last year--not only does embracing the gay community make PETA gay-friendly, it also establishes animal rights in a community known for setting trends.

Just because you have a homo at the helm doesn't really mean shit to me. I mean, just look at the HRC. Just because you take it up the poop shoot doesn't mean that you get what it means to be a part of the LGBTQ community. I'm gonna circle back to the quote from Jon Grindell. PETA needs to get its head out of its ass and figure out what real coalition building looks like, rather than pitching ads that exploit homo- and trans-phobic tropes.

(And just so you know, Sara, I'm not eating pork rinds as I write this post, even though I loved the suggestion. But I am thinking about the orgasmic vegan banana cream pie I had this weekend at Lovin' Spoonfuls in Tucson. In my opinion, that's the way to win people over. Feed them a vegan cupcake or some pie and they're yours!)


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In our house we love animals, and we come from a long line of animal lovers. We have taken in stray dogs, nursed a few birds back to health, saved bunnies, and a gopher. We also teach our boys that people who are cruel to animals have a serious mental deficiency and will most likely turn into sociopaths.

That said, PETA is nothing more than a radical member of the lunatic fringe. Their own records show they euthanize 90% of the animals sent to their shelter.

Their sole purpose is to drum up money playing upon the sentimentality and compassion of animal lovers.

Let alone their utter lack of any social couth. Their latest PR attempt proves this yet again.

I do appreciate what Bunny is trying to do though. The tagline is totally Lady Bunny humor that she's use in a stage act. And, another interesting thing is that PETA isn't saying KFC should stop selling chicken. They are protesting the very cruel practice of chopping off their beaks with a hot piece of iron while they are still alive. (Of course, dipping them into boiling hot water while still alive to make them lose their feathers is also a little overboard, if you ask me.)

Bil, I think that the point is lost on people who aren't familiar with Lady Bunny. Which would be the vast majority of tourists who walk by the billboard in NYC. I think the tagline works if it's in a queer context. But as it is, I think it conjures up the whole "Crying Game" image. And given PETA's propensity of going simply for the shock value, I'm going to guess that this is what they intended. They might be marketing themselves as "gay-friendly," but I hardly think they're trans-friendly. And I hardly think they want anything more than our "big gay dollars."

There is absolutely no cruelty-free way to produce, slaughter, and consume literally millions of chickens a year on a global scale. That is an absurd proposition, and this is a moronic campaign. KFC should stop selling chicken.

As for the Crying Game reference, I guess I reluctantly agree. I can definitely read this as camp, buuuut given the history of PETA and those who will see the billboard...

Yes, context of Lady Bunny and all.. what about the context of PETA? They have a long-ass history with this sort of thing, so we know where they're coming from.

I don't know, they just really need to get a clue. They're working for something good, but they seem to think that the only way to get people's attention is with naked women. It's not, and the fact that everyone just gives in to their first desire and that others feed that sort of emotional immaturity is exactly what I thought they were fighting against.

Yes, meat tastes good to most people, but there are still reasons not to eat it. Yes, that woman is attractive to most het men, but she's still a human being. I see a lot of parallelities between those two statement.s

Jojo~ What's your problem?

Compared to the Snickers ad, this one is tame. I can totally see Serena's point about tourists, etc though...

And Nick - how funny you said that. I just mailed out your prize from the contest and I put a sticker on the package of a little chicken saying, "I am not a nugget."

The sticker came from PETA. :)

beergoggles | July 23, 2008 7:26 PM

Agreeing with Nick here about the production of animal meat. Having said that, I'll be the first in line to sample meat grown in vats once it becomes a feasible method of production, and I'll admit that I'm actually pro-genetic modification of foodstuffs to make them yield more, be more disease resistant and taste better.

I also want to mention in case there are other (future) dog owners reading this - do not buy into the hype and get your female dogs spayed without doing a boatload of research. It leads to hormonal imbalances which cause other complications when the female dogs achieve adulthood - such as thyroid deficiency which can make your dog go bald or develop horrible skin conditions. In addition it causes loss of bladder control in dogs which requires them to be on medication for the rest of their lives. I will never take the word of a veterinarian again at face value after being burned on this, and PETA is promoting horrible quality of life for dogs if they want you to spay your dog.

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | July 23, 2008 10:48 PM

Am I the only regular who thinks the ad with the parents is brilliant?

As for the other two...I don't know. I don't like them quite as well but I'm definitely not offended.

Funny thing we're nitpicking the esthetics of ads when bottom line, factory farming is quite simply horrific. Likewise the way many people treat cats and dogs in this culture. Anything PETA and other organizations can do to improve the lives of the other creatures sharing the planet with us self-centered humans, I say "Right on!" And these ads do get folks talking!

Brynn, while I absolutely agree that factory farming and wearing fur are both horrific, I think the ads are pretty tasteless. I think some of PETA's work, such as the vegan starter kits and the compassionate cosmetics buying guides, are really terrific. I have found them to be very useful myself. I do have a problem, however, with gratuitous sexism for that is only used for the shock factor.

Serena, I don't know where to begin. First, to the substance of your post: if the TV ad had a companion ad featuring a teenage boy and giving a similar message, then I'd feel better about it, since birth control isn't just "the woman's responsibility." I do see the value in their metaphor, but it's poorly executed. I'll agree with you to that extent. However, I think that later in your post, you are just as sexist, if not moreso. When you say: "Just because you take it up the poop shoot doesn't mean that you get what it means to be a part of the LGBTQ community"? You are completely off the mark. BTW, how would you like it if I said, "Just because you munch carpet doesn't mean that you get what it means to be a part of the LGBTQ community?" It's offensive as hell, and it's also incorrect. We don't have to all have the same beliefs to "belong" to the LGBTQ community. We are stronger for our diversity of beliefs, and as such, it's exactly because one takes it "up the poop shoot" or "munches carpet" (to quote myself) that we are part of a diverse LGBTQ community. That's all it takes for us to be bashed and beaten, and it's all it should take for us to bond together.
If you think only those with your perspective belong to "the community," then you have a narrower view of the LGBTQ family than I do, certainly.


Jamie, I'm totally fine with the phrase "munching carpet." And I would say that the same line of reasoning applies - munching carpet is a sexual act, not an identity. Ergo, munching carpet alone does not make someone a part of the community.

I don't think that anyone has to agree with my opinions on anything. That's the great thing about TBP - we're all coming at things from different points of view.

I'm not fine with the phrase "munching carpet." I live in the boonies, and a lot of rednecks use that as a derogatory way to talk about and to women behind their backs. If it doesn't bother you, I'm glad. I may have overstated it, but I still think you're wrong about the poop-chute thing, because it's the very fact that we differ from the heterosexual norm that binds the LGBTQ community together at its core. We are all in this together, even though, as you said, some may not get what that means.

Ms. Freewomyn didn't mean to offend anyone with her strong language. She just happens to be very passionate about her views on PETA's bullshit and she used some choice words.

As you've stated yourself, the LGBTQ community is diverse, and to repeat what YOU said -

If you think only those with your perspective belong to "the community," then you have a narrower view of the LGBTQ family than I do, certainly.

- Do I even NEED to elaborate on what you said?!!!!! You're claiming to support diversity (which should include different viewpoints) while attempting to force "your perspective" on her.

Your understanding of diversity and the actual definition of the term differ greatly.

Jaime,

You claim to support diversity in the LGBT community, but the behavior you're defending in this way is defamatory, violence-justifying, kicking-out-of-the community bullshit. Just because he's gay doesn't mean he knows how to be in community (ours or some other one), and it should be clear that authorizing exploitative/attack ads against another part of the community does not a community member make. Community is a group of people who come together and support each other, who work around a common cause--not people who knowingly piss on less acceptable members in order to get ahead. See Jon Grindell quote.

(PS I emailed GLAAD about the ad, and they were jerks. I've posted my response to them here
PPS Just because someone doesn't mean to offend doesn't make it ok, Joy, no matter how I may agree with both of you content wise.

Joy:
Do I even NEED to elaborate on what you said?!!!!! You're claiming to support diversity (which should include different viewpoints) while attempting to force "your perspective" on her.

Pray tell, how is pointing out to Serena that her definition is narrower than mine "forcing" anything on anyone? When did I say, or imply, there would be consequences if she did not conform to my perspective? I didn't. But I am certainly entitled to my opinion as well.

Cedar:

I defended NO behavior. My point had nothing to do with anyone's behavior. It had to do with Serena's comment, and that's it. If you choose to extrapolate wrongly from that, the fault lies with you, not me.

As I tried to point out before, what we all have in common--the ONLY thing we all have in common--is that we are attracted to the same sex. And since that one factor is all bigots see when they assault us, that is all we should need to be considered part of the "community." I see no benefit in offhandedly saying that being gay (e.g., taking it up the poop shoot)isn't enough to be in the gay community, and that was my basic objection to Serena's statement. To somehow read that to mean that I agree with everything he said is just, well, wrong. Apples and oranges.

I wish people would take a minute to read the words I actually write in the comments, instead of twisting them with their own interpretations. Childish.