As you may be aware, PETA has had a long history of controversial ads and protest methods. There was the “Got Beer?” campaign that focused on college students. The unending targeting of icy Anna Wintour. All the protest events that feature, we’re led to believe, everyday men and women (who just happen to have awesome bods) who are naked, save for strategically-placed protest signage.
I’ve always thought the organization to be very media savvy, and their protest methods a very effective way of grabbing attention for the cause. Similar to how damali ayo’s National Day of Panhandling for Reparations or her book How to Rent a Negro are provocative and humorous in a way that garners the attention of people who wouldn’t normally seek out the issues contained therein.
Since I “became a fan” of PETA on Facebook, the daily posts I see seem to indicate the organization is starting to rely more and more on ads featuring nude starlets. Attractive, young, female, and increasingly, people I’ve never heard of.
When the ads feature notable animal rights figures such as Pamela Anderson, Alicia Silverstone or Christina Applegate, at least I’m able to enjoy the ad, as it features a beautiful person I know and respect. (Even if there is a palpable dearth of male versions of these ads.)
Without that notability though, other thoughts start running through my head, like “Who is Joanna Krupa?” “Uh, aren’t you preaching to the vegetarian choir here?” and “Why don’t you use your Facebook presence in a proactive way, and tell your supporters what we can do, instead of showing me a cavalcade of ads that mean nothing to me?”
Each day I see a new ad, I think more and more about the book The Sexual Politics of Meat, a feminist reading on meat eating and vegetarianism in popular culture, as of 1990. (I’ll admit, I’ve only read 45 pages into the book, and that was a few years ago, but I am excited for whenever the literary skies clear and I’m able to start digging into it again.)
My first instinct is to view PETA as part of the machine that never stops sexualizing women, whether the theme is religious, NYC-riffic, or country western (roll in the hay, anyone?). Bitch Magazine agrees with that view.
However, there’s an important line from Invisible Man that may provide another perspective. The narrator’s grandfather tells us to “live with your head in the lion’s mouth…Overcome ’em with yesses, undermine ’em with grins, agree ’em to death and destruction, let ’em swoller you till they vomit or bust wide open.” In other words, sometimes you’ve got to play the game and beat someone by their own rules to be successful.
PETA seems to be aware of the important tie between the plight of violence against animals and women (more examples). President and Cofounder of the organization, Ingrid Newkirk, after all, is a woman. According to her Wikipedia biography she was quoted in The New Yorker as having said “We are complete press sluts. It is our obligation.”
Unfortunately for PETA though, if they continue to merely be “press sluts,” it seems that the organization will become less effective as they lose credibility with their supporters, many of which are liberal women like me.
After all, I shouldn’t have to choose between protecting animals and protecting myself.