PETA: Sexist advertising defeats the purpose, harms the cause

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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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