The hypocrisy of anti-PETA feminists
- Published: 22 January 2010
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Feminists criticising PETA need to look at their own behaviours, writes Katrina Fox.
Every few months or so PETA raises the ire of feminists. Whether it’s another version of the animal rights group’s ‘I’d rather go naked than wear fur’ campaign, or pushing an anti-obesity message encouraging people to go vegetarian, the feminist blogosphere goes crazy.
Why? Because of PETA’s focus on using nudity and particularly naked (young) women in their campaigns.
In the case of the obesity ad, this featured a cartoon picture of a large woman in a bikini with the tagline 'Save the whales: lose the blubber, go vegetarian'. Fat women reported feeling ashamed of their bodies and PETA was once again accused of misogyny and degrading women.
The most recent video ad, State of the Union Undress, features a black woman doing a striptease, ending with horrific images of animal cruelty. This time there were accusations from the feminist community of racism thrown in with the usual battle cries of sexism.
Blogger Womanist Musings says, “The truth is, PETA’s objective is to paint all other marginalizations as secondary to that faced by animals and that is why they routinely features ads that are sexist, homophobic, racist, transphobic etc.”
The irony of that comment is that for the majority of feminists, the marginalisation of animals is not only secondary to that faced by any kind of human, it’s of no consequence. In fact, many feminists actively support the oppression, use and abuse of non-humans every single day by ‘consuming’ (in the same way people consume porn and anything else) animal parts or products.
I’m not just referring to those who eat meat or wear someone else’s skin. Consider the ‘dairy’ industry, which has successfully conjured up images of ‘happy cows’ who love to give their milk for human consumption. Wrong.
The dairy industry – which artificially inseminates female cows, forcing them to stay pregnant, and hooks them up to ‘milking machines’ (causing them painful mastitis) – is based on the control of the reproductive systems of female non-humans. The same goes for the egg industry.
I’ll say it again: the dairy and egg industries are built on the control of the reproductive systems of female non-humans. Ironic again, considering that feminists have fought for decades against the patriarchy controlling our own reproductive systems.
And think about the term ‘artificially inseminates’ for a second. These female non-humans are imprisoned and forcibly impregnated. If that were done to female humans, it would go by another name. It begins with ‘R’ in case you can’t work it out.
There is nothing consensual about the use and abuse of female non-humans’ bodies (and therefore it is arguably more problematic than the women in PETA ads who do at least consent to going naked).
But attend any ‘feminist’ conference and there’ll be cow’s milk to put in your coffee. Or cheese and crackers to nibble on. Animal rights fell off the feminist agenda years ago and is seen as ‘old-school’. A well-known feminist magazine’s response to a suggestion to cover the topic was ‘It’s been done already’. Well, so has all the body image/raunch culture stuff that fills the pages each issue, but obviously this is more ‘hip’ and ‘trendy’ than anything that requires women to actually make a huge change in their consumption habits by rejecting food, clothing, cosmetics and so on that have been made off the oppression of non-humans.
Feminists complain of sexism and racism from PETA while at the same time engaging in speciesism and are therefore guilty of the very oppressive behaviours they despise PETA for.
Now, I am not saying that PETA’s ads are not problematic. The nudity thing is getting a bit tired and I believe they need to come up with something smarter and more innovative to get people’s attention. People should discuss, debate and critically analyse PETA’s tactics and call the group out on anything they find offensive.
But if you’re condemning an organisation for using, commodifying, degrading and oppressing women, while actively engaging in consuming behaviours that do all of the above to non-humans, it’s the height of hypocrisy.
The excuse that ‘They’re only animals’ is just that: an excuse not to give up your privileges that are gained off the backs of oppression of others – a tactic routinely used against women, queers, trans people or people of different ethnic backgrounds: “We don’t need to give them equal rights/treat them with respect, they’re only women/black/gay/trans.”
There needs to be change on all sides. Yes, PETA needs to come up with ways of getting the animal rights message across without relying on sexualised images of women. But in addition, otherwise progressive people have to get over their blind spot when it comes to non-humans. Non-vegan feminists need to come to the table too and put their money where their mouths are and be prepared to make big lifestyle changes.
Only then will we come close to achieving equality for all.