Saturday, June 29, 2013

Is It OK For PETA To Use Sexism To Sell?

At first, James McWilliams seems to say it's not OK:
"PETA is an organization that habitually uses sex to sell the virtues of veganism. ... The strategy makes little sense, primarily because it is, in essence, promoting the very process of bodily objectification that’s necessarily inherent in the act of eating animals, the very habit PETA ostensibly opposes."
But then he says:
"Sex does sell, there is no doubt, and perhaps it’s overly ambitious to take on the evils of speciesism and sexism at once, especially if a little sexism can help alleviate a lot of speciesism. ..."
So, is a little sexism OK? Is a little racism OK? Is it OK to denigrate one group to elevate another? He goes on...
"... I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t. Either way, Wise’s reasoning reminds us that, when it comes to the project of reducing animal suffering, we’re all wracked by humility, unsure what works, doing whatever we can to make life better for animals."
I am not unsure. For me, it's not OK. Using sexism to sell is not OK.


Bix said...

More than 1 in 3 women worldwide experience physical and/or sexual violence, says this recent report by the World Health Organization:

BBC news summary:

The report says that "violence against women is rooted in gender inequality" and that one fix is to promote programs than reinforce gender equitable attitudes and behaviors.

Anonymous said...

Honest question: What's sexist about PETA's "sexiest vegetarian" contest where there is an even ratio of male to female participants?

Bix said...

That's interesting. So you think sexual exploitation is OK.

Angela and Melinda said...

I agree w/ Bix that this picture is *very* sexist. Haven't seen a group flaunting mostly exposed female bodies in a long time. It's not just sexism, though, it's also valuing a person, female or male, for their looks alone.

But PETA also has been criticized recently for euthanizing about 2000 animals yearly, in a time when "no-kill" shelters are increasingly common. Faugh!

Bix said...

Good point about valuing for looks alone.

Bix said...

Here is PETA advocating minors to "go all the way":

PETA has a problem.

C. Miller said...

Several years ago, i wrote PETA that i thought using sex to sell animal rights was wrong. I've changed my mind after debating myself about ends justifying means.

All groups seeking liberation for their members have used shock tactics, which is part of a carrot-and-stick approach to challenging and ultimately changing opinion.

Rosa Parks was an example of non-violent, non-threatening resistance, but the Black Panthers as the alternative to orderly examination of racial injustice no doubt had substantial effect on the conversation at the time.

Women's liberation had its bra-burners that grabbed media attention long enough for the Marilyn Frenches and Bella Abzugs of the movement to get a hearing.

Whose name is most associated with achieving peace in Northern Ireland: Betty Williams of Nobel fame or Gerry Adams of the IRA/Sinn Fein?

Analogously, PETA can function as the shock troops of the animal rights movement, while PCRM with its studies and facts and figures brings up the less-scary rear. In this media-driven age, both are essential parts of a long campaign for equal consideration for the exploited among us.

Thought experiment: would the objections be as strong against the use of naked flesh to grab attention if the animal being saved from execution were a human? If Amnesty asked us to go naked to save prisoners of conscience, would people be thinking that promoting sexual arousal ranks anywhere near torture and execution - animals' daily reality - on a scale of activities to be avoided?

Bix said...

So, you're saying that sexual objectification does not harm women, even though the United Nations, the World Health Organization, the US Dept. of Health and Human Services all say it is at the root of violence against women. Or you're saying that if it does harm women, that's ok. Violence against women is ok.

I don't share your beliefs.

C. Miller said...


I was a beneficiary of Title IX, worked in male-dominated trades for decades, and i'm a rape alumna, so your presumption that i'm in favor of violence against women would be a faulty preliminary judgment, to say the least. I've spent my entire life where the rubber meets the blue-collar road of gender equality.

Holding such a zero-tolerance policy, one might presume that women marching through the streets with breasts swinging uncontrollably was an example of self-hatred, although those women used the liberation of their sexy assets as symbolism about control over their own bodies, as well as a handy attention-grabbing device...not unlike PETA's tactic.

Interestingly, bra-burning was a very minor part of the female-liberation push in the 60s, yet it sticks in our collective memory in a way that Margaret Sanger's name doesn't. Is this Good? Bad? Or is it more nuanced than that?

I'd be interested in your response to the thought experiment i posed, in which the animals being saved by a show of flesh are humans instead of non-humans. Would objectification of women be enough of an excuse not to save a [human] life? Are all evils created equal, or do we have to make uncomfortable choices at times about which ones are more evil than others?

Bix said...

You are defending the objectification and exploitation of women. I think it's wrong. We differ.

If you don't introduce another evil you won't have to choose among evils.

C. Miller said...

The evils existed long before i had to make up my mind about how to deal with them, but i choose to engage instead of side-stepping, a fate that befell my thought-experiment query.

I note that you also labeled the anonymous poster of Post #2 a friend of sexual exploitation for asking an honest question. When profiling one's posters takes precedence over answering the question, perhaps more is going on here than a discussion of the greater good.

I get a lot out of your blog and link to it often. I'm perplexed at such illogical responses, when you are normally refreshingly objective.

Your blog, your rules. Peace out.