Note: This blog originally claimed that PETA was partnered with Lush in this campaign. This information is false and we deeply regret the mistake, and sincerely apologize for the error.
If it looks like violence against women and it smells like violence against women, is it violence against women? Nope. It could be the anti-animal testing campaign Fighting Animal Cruelty by cosmetics company Lush, partnered up with Human Society International. The new campaign by the two companies has become a worldwide phenomenon in a matter of weeks by having a performance artist sit in a Lush store window and undergo cosmetics testing by a male doctor.
The Lush campaign manager, Tamsin Osmond, has stated in a recent post:
I am very aware and very sad that campaigning groups have capitalized on titillating images of women…on images and storylines that encourage the abuse of women… We felt it was important, strong, well and thoroughly considered that the test subject was a woman… the oppressor was male and the abused was vulnerable and scared.
I’m going to move past the ironic first sentence there because I think it speaks for itself – perhaps Lush should look at their own campaigns before being “very sad” that campaigning groups are capitalizing on the abuse of women. The point I would like to focus on is that the woman was chosen as the victim because she is, as all women are taught to be through the media, vulnerable and scared.
This seems to be a self-perpetuating cycle. If campaigns can capitalize on the vulnerability of women as they are portrayed through the media, then these portrayals will continue until someone says “stop.” Fortunately for anti-animal testing groups, but not so much for women, 2.5 times more money is put toward preventing animal abuse than toward preventing abuse against women because humans can be easier blamed for their circumstances. There is a belief that battered women are free to leave the situation, whereas animals are not granted the same responsibilities.
Of course, this is not to suggest that Lush and the Humane Society International should stop raising awareness about animal abuse. But perhaps the organization could try a little less human female battering and a little more puppy eyes in their campaigns.
-Emily Heer lives in Squamish, British Columbia, Canada and is pursuing an undergraduate degree in journalism. She loves dance, photography, music, and her inspiration is gender-equality guru Susan Bordo.