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IS PeTA SEXIST?

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Emy Will

Emy Will

Greetings from Johannesburg, South Africa. Although I have a doctorate in psychotherapy, my main passion is advocating for nonhuman animal rights. I condemn all cruelty to nonhuman animals and therefore follow a vegan lifestyle. I would like to connect with other animal activists from all over the world. The fur trade is one of the most abhorrent practices on this planet. Innocent animals are subjected to prolonged suffering for a trivial fashion item. As the chairperson of Fur Free SA. we campaign towards ending the global fur industry. This might not happen in my lifetime, but even if I leave one footprint behind, that is one step closer to the goal. This blog is a forum to discuss all aspects of the fur industry. It also raises issues around animal activism in general. Johannesburg is a crazy city and I need to escape from time to time. This photo was taken next to the magnificent Zambezi river.

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As discussed in my previous post PeTA grabbed the opportunity at the Sochi Winter Olympics to protest against the barbaric fur trade (https://emynow.wordpress.com/2014/02/09/russia-way-behind-on-animal-protection). Kudos to PeTA for using the clever slogan “champions don’t wear fur!” As part of this campaign two sexy PeTA “snow bunnies” braved freezing weather to let people know that “wearing the skins of animals who were beaten, electrocuted or strangled to death is unacceptable”. I have no doubt that these bunny girls caught the attention of many people. However, was it the gaze of those who like to look at good bodies or of those who were going to be persuaded to never again adorn their bodies with fur?

I totally understand that if a mature woman with a fuller figure, turned blue by the cold were to prance around in a bikini it would not have the same effect. My question though, is it appropriate to exploit women in this way to promote a campaign against the exploitation of animals in the fur industry?                   Champions Don't Wear Fur: PETA Russian Olympics Demo This is not the first time PeTA has used naked women for its cause against fur. Many models have posed for the I’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur campaign.

Rather go naked

 rather go naked! 

This poster is part of the Here is The Rest of Your Fur Coat campaign. It is a particularly powerful image, but does that justify a naked woman holding the body of a skinned animal?

Wait a minute you might say. What about all the naked men that PeTA photographs in its Ink Not Mink campaign. The message, however, in this campaign is different to those mentioned above. Please see my previous post for more information on this  (https://emynow.wordpress.com/2013/10/07/male-mink-huggers-not-wimps/)

Chad Ochocinco Chooses Ink, Not Mink

CareyHartPETA300AMI_PETAnew_UPDATED72

The point of this initiative is to show that the pain of getting a tattoo cannot compare to the pain that foxes, minks, rabbits, coyotes, and even cats and dogs endure for the fur industry. In other words, these are tough guys. In fact some have even been charged with domestic violence!

So to come back to the question is PeTA sexist?

Well one definition of sexist  is, “attitudes, conditions, or behaviors that promote stereotyping of social roles based on gender” (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/).

To me, the message PeTA is putting out in some of its anti-fur campaigns is that women are decorative and therefore will catch the eye of the public. I feel the bunny girls particularly perpetuated this stereotype.
On the other hand, the Ink Not Mink campaign indicates that even tough and rough men can choose not to wear fur. The fact that they might abuse substances and/or have restraining orders against them is not an issue. They are men after all.
I would appreciate your input on this debate, as it raises a whole range of issues. 
 

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16 Comments

  1. Yes, it’s sexist. Also, it’s discriminating in another way to assume that everyone enjoys looking at naked women. Why not men, if we have to expose naked bodies? Just saying…

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    • Emy Will says:

      Thanks for the comment, Vegan Lynx. You are right, to be fair both sexes should take off their clothes – although there is a lot of male flesh in PeTA’s Ink not Mink campaign. I suppose though, I was wondering if nudity distracts a person from the message of how cruel the fur industry is.

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  2. Personally, I don’t find it sexist. Not in the least. Our ideas of our bodies have been terribly skewed, primarily by religion and aided by society causing deep and indelible scars into our collective psyche that purposely cause us to look upon nudity with shame, intolerance, and perversion, where none is of warrant, regardless of age, stature, or weight, short of the gluttonous obese body of course.

    This shame was no accident. It was, and is, the intent of the religious heads to cause us to consider the human body as perverse. It serves their purpose of control while demoralizing our natural feelings (not perverse feelings, which they caused) while bolstering their position as the go-between to the all forgiving God.

    But more to the point is how this relates to an effective marketing strategy. I’m guessing, that from the majority of female perspectives it’s a waste of resources, viewed as sexist, perhaps out of jealousy. But from where I see it, from the overwhelming male perspective (save the religious self-deceived hypocritical bigot) it’s a delicious eye-candy treat, nothing more, that is sure to raise awareness in a most effective and efficient manner. And awareness is where it all starts.

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    • Emy Will says:

      Thanks Peter. I was expecting a good response from you, although my post was not about nudity per se. I use the term sexism in the sense of gender stereotypes – how women and men have come to define themselves through societal pressure and patriarchy. I agree that our body images have become skewed, particularly around what society presents as desirable. A lot of women suffer from low esteem because of this ideal portrayed in the media. Let’s be honest, society is not tolerant of bodies regardless of “age, stature, or weight”. It is in the interest of Capitalism to make us want to search for eternal youth and the perfect body.
      So I’m a little surprised that you present an argument that reinforces the very stereotypes that society promotes. That is, men and women perspectives where women are “jealous” of other women’s bodies and men view the same bodies as “delicious eye-candy”. If these are innate gender traits, then religious and societal influences do not come into the argument.
      However, as you say, the campaign is to raise awareness – so if nudity sells cars then why can’t it help stop the fur trade?
      These are complex issues and I appreciate your contribution. All the best.

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      • What I think, write, and say do not always come out as I intend. I’m not sure that I can clarify my position, or clear my good name, but I’ll try. “Delicious eye-candy treat,” was a poor choice of words, in the context I presented them, and I apologize. What I should have said was that men have a fondness of the female and her physique; men find women a delight to look upon and this admiration should not be construed as sexism or perversion, as religion plays it. A look to the Islamic nations and their veil, the Pentecostal and Amish dress, these go beyond modesty, not the dress codes themselves but the attitudes. And these attitudes don’t stop or begin there.

        I do find many women, not every woman, to be jealous of other women—because of low self-esteem as you say, and the other factors.

        By saying these things, I did not mean to lend my support to sexism.

        I believe, maybe incorrectly, that this is a presentation of fact and not a reinforcement of stereotypes. Then again, maybe I am sexist, though I must say I sincerely don’t believe I am (but such is the nature of the self-deceived). I contend that women and men are equal, or should be, and each hold distinguishing traits and abilities and appreciations given their natures.

        As an aside, I still give up my seat and open doors for women. It would be sad if these once gentlemanly courtesies were by today’s definition sexism. And I’m not saying you’re saying they are. But they might be. It is a behavior of social roles.

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      • Emy Will says:

        Thanks for your response, Peter. I wish we could discuss this topic in depth, as it is so multifaceted. Perhaps it is all one circle that we can’t escape. At a simplistic level: Men (and you seem to speak for all men) are hard-wired to appreciate many women, which makes them victims of their physiology. Women become insecure when their partners admire other women. This puts a lot of pressure on women to look good and sadly many go to absurd lengths to do so. Capitalism feeds off and fosters this insecurity by producing endless products that women buy. We can never attain that ideal and so develop poor self-esteem. This is not to say that men don’t feel insecure and that women don’t admire men.
        One thing I do believe, though, is that people who wear fur items lack self esteem, as they think wearing such a garment will elevate their status in society.
        As for giving up your seat. To be ageist – older people would see you as having good manners and younger people would see you as old-fashioned. Common courtesy is positive and I would give up my seat for an older person but dread the day someone does it for me! LOL

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  3. Danusia Bourdon says:

    Emy please get off your ‘soap box’ and be grateful for any anti fur publicity, remember many men buy furs for their beloveds so the attention these naked women attract in the name of animals is welcome, maybe those senseless men will think twice before buying ‘pain & torture’ in the guise of fur!!!!!

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    • Emy Will says:

      Thanks for commenting, Danusia. I see from the word “soap box’ you perceived me to be ranting about PeTa using naked women in their anti-fur campaigns. Not so. I didn’t say PeTA is sexist but invited a debate around perpetuating gender – men and women- stereotypes. Perhaps you did not read the whole piece? Actually I think PeTA’s posters are clever and they have many that do not perpetuate typical gender stereotypes, but are still extremely powerful.
      I think that you make a good point that men are often the ones who buy furs. Yes, perhaps the ‘I’d rather go naked than wear fur’ initiative will convince these men that not all attractive women want furs.
      I come from one of the rape capitals of the world where a woman or child is raped every 5 minutes! Domestic violence and femicide is rife, where men feel they have the right to dominate women. This behaviour can only change once sexism, as defined in my piece, is reduced.
      All the best and thank you for caring.

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  4. Lee Hall says:

    I do not believe a group can claim to advocate for animal rights if they don’t confront oppressive categories that affect us all. Fairness and respect cannot be placed into compartments.

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    • Emy Will says:

      Hi Lee and thanks for dropping in 🙂 Absolutely – the issue is really about contradictions in our value systems. It is so important to remain self aware and try to keep our integrity, as far as possible.

      PeTA actually has a lot of other powerful campaign ideas, which hopefully will change attitudes towards the fur trade.

      All the best.

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  5. Jackie says:

    Although I appreciate what PETA tries to do I don’t always think the way they go about it is helpful. I think both men and woman are being portrayed in a sexist way in the pictures you posted. The people in the photos are not people I relate to at all so it becomes just another slick ad in a magazine or billboard not really worth my time. Especially when there are other organizations preaching the same thing. To be honest, I find most of PETA’s campaigns to be off-putting and so I have a tendency to tune them out. But that is just me – I know I’m in the minority with this opinion.

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    • Emy Will says:

      Hi Jackie. You have expressed it so well! These models are not people we relate to, so they could be advertising anything. This in a way trivialises the message. Other organisations such as Fourpaws have their “Show skin not fur” campaign with animated figures. This is quite a unique campaign and one that involves the viewer.
      In any case PeTA is a controversial organisation, particularly around their high figures of killing healthy animals.
      Thanks so much for joining the discussion. What you say makes so much sense.

      All the best 🙂

      Like

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