Laurie and Debbie say:
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has never been one of our favorite organizations. Their campaigns have frequently been at best clueless and at worse offensive to a variety of groups.
Now, however, they have outdone themselves. If you click the link, you will find:
1) Pamela Anderson in a bikini made of lettuce (how fast do you think that will wilt?), promoting vegetarianism.
2) A series of videos using extremely conventional pornography-style visuals to promote the slogan “Vegetarians Make Better Lovers.” Be warned: The one with the “girl on girl action” is harmless, but the tofu-wrestling ladies in thongs (we kid you not) turns into an animal cruelty video with no warning.
3) A sop to the male gender (or to people who lust after the male gender) with the “Broccoli Boys.” The boy at the link is shirtless, hairless, and wearing a necklace of tofu dogs, but all you get when you click the link is three hunks in undershirts and boxers: the International Male underwear catalogue has better pictures.
4) More related material, selling the message “Vegetarians Make Better Lovers.”
What’s really going on, of course, is that PETA is using exploitive, predictable, and boring sexuality tropes to “sell their product,” which is the ethical treatment of animals. That’s what’s wrong with PETA: they don’t believe that people are animals, and they have no commitment whatsoever to the ethical treatment of people.
If this whole campaign wasn’t infuriating enough, Twisty at I Blame the Patriarchy draws our attention to Gary Francone at Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach, making a dangerously specious comparison between PETA campaigns and what he calls “postmodern feminism” (Twisty calls it “funfeminism”). We would call their arguments “straw feminism.”
Here’s Francone’s position: Postmodern feminists acknowledge that a woman’s choice to commodify herself sexually may represent an act of empowerment and cannot be assessed in any definitively negative way. These feminists are often pro-pornography, or are at least not anti-pornography. Radical feminists are more inclined to reject the commodification of women as inherently problematic. They are generally anti-pornography and are particularly opposed to pornography in which women are depicted as recipients of violent or abusive treatment. They regard most gender stereotypes as harmful to both women and men and seek to undermine these stereotypes. Postmodern feminists often argue that “feminine” stereotypes can help to empower women.
The claim that “postmodern feminists can always be counted on to serve as PETA’s cheering squad” is hereby disproved. Francone and Twisty would undoubtedly call us “funfeminists,” and we are hardly cheering for PETA. In fact, we say that the alliance here is between the PETA campaign and the Francone/Twisty attitude, because both groups are doing similar things.
Here’s how it works: 1) Eating meat is a biologically, ethically, and socially complex issue. Some pieces of it are simple: factory farming is indefensible, as is the rampant animal cruelty which characterizes our food supply. The rest of it is more complex, and rests on individual and personal moral decisions. Scantily-clad women necking with each other in public (and men watching lustfully) have nothing to do with the appropriateness of eating meat. 2) Sex work is a socially, economically, and ethically complex issue. Some pieces of it are simple: the commodification of women’s bodies, the exploitation of the powerless, and the characterization of sex as something women have and men want, are indefensible. The rest of it is more complex and rests on individual and personal moral decisions. At least Twisty and Gary Francone aren’t sending out lolcat sideshows to make their points about sex work (which would make about as much sense as what PETA is doing).