You’d think an organization like PETA — People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals — would be a proactive organization, readily supporting healthy, happy agendas to get people living healthier lifestyles. Right?
Wrong. PETA is one of the worst culprits of objectification and sexualization of women. Somehow, PETA tries to equate pornographic images of half-naked women with the incentive to go vegetarian or vegan.
The “ethical treatment of animals” motive gets lost in translation somewhere between women sucking on veggies in the hot tub and blatant implications of sex-based violence.
Allow me to explain.
Back in 2010, a PETA advertisement was banned from the Super Bowl broadcast because it was too offensive. The ad features stereotypically beautiful women having sexual interactions with vegetables — no, that’s not a typo. The goal of the ad? To persuade individuals to “go vegetarian” because, “Studies show, vegetarians have better sex” (never mind all the other benefits of going vegetarian, like increased nutrient intake). And suddenly, bra-and-panties clad women are the epitome of vegetarianism — in this instance, licking, caressing, and seductively crawling towards broccoli, asparagus, and pumpkins.
Because, you know, that’s what vegetarian women do. Who needs human partners when inanimate fruits are vegetables are so readily available? Maybe I’m just out of the know, but is anyone else picking up on how ridiculous this is?
Where are the men in this picture? How come we don’t see images of men straddling cucumbers or playing tickle-fight with watermelons? Yes, it would be just as ridiculous, but at least then PETA wouldn’t be subscribing to the ancient, unspoken code that only women are meant to be the object of sexualized advertising.
And from here, it only gets better. In their most recent ad, PETA takes sexualization a step further and incorporates gender-based violence into its “humanitarian” agenda.
In this video, a young woman wearing a bra, panties, an overcoat, and a neck brace walks sullenly down the street. The narrator explains that she is a victim of “BWVAKTBOOM: Boyfriend Went Vegan and Knocked The Bottom Out Of Me.” Apparently, veganism leads to “better sex” — a.k.a. sex in which the female-bodied individual is treated so violently that she must wear a neck brace the following day. As she walks down the street, she winces in pain and has significant difficulty climbing the stairs to her apartment. Because, you know, sex that nearly breaks the female’s neck is better for both parties involved.
Why is this commercial an insolent, disconcerting piece of sexist trash? Let me count the ways!
1. Women should never be sexualized as a means of promoting any product, service, or lifestyle. Period.
2. This commercial gives the boyfriend a built-in excuse for his violent treatment of his girlfriend. “Oh, sorry babe, I’m a vegan now so I have the right to have sex with you until you are in severe physical discomfort, and suffer possible injury.”
3. Why is the woman in the video going out to buy vegetables for a boyfriend who viciously assaulted her? Oh, right — because even in this screwed-up advertisement, gender norms readily exist — and we all know which gender is supposed to do the shopping — regardless of whether she’s wearing a neck brace.
Well newsflash, PETA: Human beings are animals too. And when you depict women in an overtly sexual manner, as victims of violent sexual activity, you are not living up to your name.