You can find the links to complain about this latest ad at the bottom of this post, you can also find posts about PETA’s Klan campaign during black history month on this blog and Vegan’s of Color Blog and discussions of their exploitation of women on various feminist blogs including this one.
In its long quest to garner attention, PETA has almost always peddled in flesh, as long as its human. It puts up images of mostly young, always naked, almost always white, women for an endless array of protests that rely on titalating or “reclaiming” demeaning sexual innuendo for the rights of animals. When women aren’t available, they peddle in the flesh of people of color or more specifically in the re-enactment of oppression of people of color and etho-religious minorities who were bought, sold, tortured, and/or killed in the name of white supremacy. And while they have argued that their tactics raise discussion by making us question why we are so upset about these behaviors when they happen to human beings but not to animals, such an argument relies on the replacement of human beings with animals in these situations. No such replacement has occurred. Not only are women, people of color, and etho-religious minorities still oppressed, and genocides based on race and religion still happening, with little comment or impetus to change until the genocides and mass rapes are long over, but PETA ads featuring 70s porn recreations where two women sleep with a crusty older man b/c he is vegan or women pretend to get it on with veg for the superbowl reinforce the idea of women as sex objects while offering up little substantive information about animal rights. In other words, their ads neither reflect the realities of human oppression that they mobilize for their ads nor do they educate ppl who may not know what is going on with animal abuse.
While most people did not believe PETA could get much worse, they have now moved from sexualizing mostly thin, young, and mostly white women to degrading large women. Not only have they paid for the billboard at the beginning of this post, but they feature a blog post on their official website that includes the following commentary:
What does the Sunshine State’s endless summer mean for PETA? Our phone lines ring off the hook with reports of “beached whale sightings.” Good one, guys.
. . .
So, to help residents and tourists “lose the blubber”—and hopefully to deter prank callers—we’re launching a brand-new billboard urging people to go vegetarian.
In other words, according to PETA their sexist body-hating demeaning of large women (which I would argue also includes ageism) isn’t just a public service to animals it’s also a response to the “evil sexists” who call them up calling women whales to begin with. Why are the people demeaning women over the phone more horrible than the people taking out a huge billboard in a tourist area likely peopled with women and girls self-conscious about their bodies no matter what they look like? B/c PETA, like so many other liberals of their ilk, think that because they have a righteous cause they cannot be oppressive.
Yet by PETA’s own logic their tactics are offensive and demeaning of women. Afterall, what prompted this billboard? People call PETA to “save whales”, who turn out to be aging female tourists in swimsuits, diverting PETA workers from saving actual animals and frustrating them over being made party to sexism. PETA’s billboard may or may not redirect work hours back to animal rights but it intimately ties them to the sexism they are xupposedly objecting to in the blog post. They are no longer the supposed victims of the sexism but the perpetrators. Moreover, the women being victimized in these sexist prank calls, who may not have known they were being humiliated, are now openly, publicly, and loudly scorned and derided by an organization that claims to care about life and is supported by women activists, including some actresses who have worked their whole lives for body acceptance only to be mocked by the very organization that they saw as an affirming place.
PETA’s fatphobic sexism, much likes its previous oppression laden campaigns, are doing nothing for the cause. They mobilize a particular supremacist narrative about bodies, gender, and people that demean people with the least amount of power for the actions of the people with the most, motivating neither to question animal abuse.
Most people I know have quit giving money to PETA because of one or more of these ad campaigns. People discussing this latest incident on both twitter and the blogosphere are critiquing PETA’s investment in sexism and decrying how little relevance the organization has to their own activism around healthy eating, veganism, or animal rights. Essentially, they are saying PETA has lost all relevance in its investment in offense or education and vegan principles that supposedly uphold the rights of all creatures (human and animal).
So why isn’t PETA listening? Go to the PETA blog and read the comments. For every woman registering her discomfort at PETA’s fatphobic sexism there are 5 ppl laughing along at “the joke.” The fatphobia sexism and or hatred of aging women’s bodies (often mocked by the very poke-a-dot bathing suit wearing woman on vacation image PETA resurrects for its ad) have grown so normative in our culture through a discourse of “health” that masks misogyny and gendered oppression, that there are actually people applauding PETA for pointing out how “healthy a vegetarian diet is” as if the only way to do that was to demean large women. It is the same discourse that allowed people to come on my blog 3 years ago and mock a woman who died while paramedics stood around ALSO mocking her instead of administering CPR. She died because of negligence and hatred resulting from fatphobia and her life was deemed less important by commenters for the same reason. Each of them claimed it was about “being healthy” as they blamed her for stroking out in front of a fully equipped EMT team. In PETA’s ccase they are blaming unsuspecting female tourists for the fatphobic sexists calling PETA and tying up their phone lines. It’s kind of like blaming Jewish people for the Nazis or black people for slavery.
Ultimately, with liberals like these, who needs conservatives? PETA’s smug repeat offenses send a very clear message, not about animal rights, but about marginalized human one’s. Instead of attacking the problem they claim to be, they attack vulnerable communities who have limited say in the use or abuse of animals . They make secondary targets out of communities that in some cases are the least likely to receive important information about the food/farming industry in this country let alone animal rights. By doing so, they alienate these communities from vegetarianism, veganism, and animal rights. They alienate and they abuse in the name of ending both.
When they so publicly call women “whales” and liken their bodies to “blubber” and then pat themselves on the back for putting an end to sexist phone calls to their FL offices, it is way past time to tell them enough is enough.
If you have not done so already, please consider ending your membership with PETA and joining another organization for animal rights that does not operate along racist and sexist lines. Consider donating your membership fee to an organization that helps women and girls find body acceptance and send your thank you card/receipt to PETA with a statement saying this is where your money went instead. It’s true that some times good people do bad things, and some times good causes make bad mistakes, but PETA has a consistent and public track record that anyone invested in women and poc rights cannot afford to ignore. They are not making mistakes, they are willfully mobilizing the oppressions of one species in order to champion those of another rather than respecting the rights of all species.