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PETA – People for the Egregious Treatment of Adult (Women)

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.


23 thoughts on “PETA – People for the Egregious Treatment of Adult (Women)

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  1. Girl……I’m slow clapping it out for you right now in my head. THANK YOU for this article. It feels like I’m the only one who notices how ridiculous everything is, thank you for so candidly and astutely pointing out what should be obvious but has become the norm b/c of media brainwashing, aka getting bashed over the head multiple times a day with an ideal image to live up to. Literally, things like this get me down every single day of my life, I seriously can’t go a day without catching myself unconsciously comparing myself to a chick I saw online or in an ad. I’m beyond tired of all the bullshit, I know I’m a nice girl, I do “good” things, and people have always told me I’m attractive, yet it’s hard to look in the mirror and see anything good sometimes. I am appalled at PETA, what a bunch of jerks. Good for you dicks, stooping to the level of sacrificing female dignity all over to spread your hip, cool message. Fuck you guys. In fact, I think I’m gonna give them a little piece of my mind right now..

  2. Btw, why doesn’t this genius article have more comments?! It’s so relevant and invigorating! Knowing I’m not alone in my bitter thoughts of how the world makes you feel like shit over things that really shouldn’t be such a big deal

  3. Commenter above- you are not alone! Haha. Such a great article. I’m a vegan who is tired of being let down by PETA’s sexist tactics. PETA has a lot of great resources and potential to do so much good but they keep messing things up with their sexist bullshit. This commercial is truly disgusting, and not funny at all.

  4. Another vegan who is disgusted by PETA. There was an animal rights conference in Vancouver a couple of weekends ago and there was a very popular session about how offensive PETA’s ads are–a LOT of animal rights activists are disgusted by them. Oppression is oppression, PETA! Get with the program! 🙁

  5. This is what I hate about vegans and I am one. In the sad dark days when I was trying to live up to my conservative family’s goal of me “getting married’ and ‘having kids’ at some point I had a vegan boyfriend. (Now I’ve realized that men are about as sexually appealing to me as cabbage, and am happily lesbian)

    Firstly, the fact that as a lesbian I’ve referred to men as sexually interesting as cabbage, probably shows that most of us (even the vegans) don’t see vegetables as a source of sexual enjoyment. Secondly, I think this myth about vegans and sex is put out there by the vegan guys to help them pick up. Admittedly, I had a small sample size, and hetero sex isn’t something I enjoy, but I’ll put it out there, the vegan man wasn’t any better in any measurement I know of sexually than the gaggle of omnivorous men I’ve been with.

    You’ve made such a good point, that in putting forward this vegan message they’ve forgotten that people are animals too and deserve at least to be treated with the respect that their non-human counterparts seem to get. Shame on you Peta for depicting sexual violence against women, and double shame on you for giving me something else to feel embarrassed about when I say I’m vegan.

  6. They think they are being clever because they are deliberately selling sexual objectification against women because it garners attention. It may get them attention, but only attention by people who realize they are a nasty organization.

  7. New interview with PETA about why they use their horrible tactics: http://blisstree.com/eat/peta-explains-selling-offensive-ads-naked-women-veganism-697/2/

    A couple of things from the interview I thought I’d point out: “First of all, I’d just like to point out that our president and co-founder is a woman, and she considers herself a feminist. And if you look at our staff, especially compared to other social justice campaigns, it’s a lot of women.” I hate when people act like women can’t be sexist too. That just because there’s a woman on board, or even in charge, that it’s okay to objectify other women.

    And this: “Years ago, it was disgraceful for women to show their knees and we all laugh at that today. And I think that some day, nudity will stop being interesting…and when that happens, we will stop using that tactic. But right now, it’s a really fun way to grab attention, and get people on the site. And that’s why we do it.” I think it’s interesting to apply this quote to the “Boyfriend Went Vegan” ad. This particular ad isn’t about nudity, but about violence against women. Are we, someday, going to stop thinking that sensationalizing intimate partner violence is interesting or outrageous? Are we just going to casually accept it in our advertising? But then again, it is already present in a lot of advertising we see today. It just got me thinking, and frustrated with PETA once again of course.

  8. Thank you so much for this article. I CONSTANTLY and CONSISTANTLY complain about PETA. When I was in high school I wanted to join until a teacher showed me a picture of a PETA member jumping over a homeless man in the street to throw paint on a lady in fur (which I feel hits the mark with PETA). That wasn’t the last straw, the last straw was the horrible discrimination that takes place. Yah, I’m all for being kind to animals they are living creatures and I’m all for being healthy, but oh my god I’m not going to put down someone for having a burger (they constantly do that and make fun of overweight individuals). Which, btw it’s possible to be an unhealthy vegan/vegitarian as well. It horrifies me that any woman would join this with how horrible the discrimination against woman is. The worst one was the “whips and chains belong in the bedroom not the circus” campaign. I’m not a prude or anything, but again hurting your partner is not fun. I hate how they portray women in their ads (they treat them like a piece of meat). I’m sorry, but I greatly value human life and dignity which I don’t feel like PETA does. I can not stand PETA. I hate, hate, hate PETA and they discuss me. Plus they make all animal lovers, vegans etc. look bad/crazy.

  9. Sorry btw I noticed some mistakes in my post. I got on a rant and didn’t spell check lol.

  10. Thank you for your insightful article. I’m a vegetarian and a feminist and these PETA ads really make me sick. I cannot understand how they pay blind eyes and ears to the fact that their campaigns are disgustingly misoginistic and now, violent. WTF. Makes me so damn angry.

  11. Come on – aren’t there bigger issues to get upset about? I am both a PETA and About-Face supporter, and think they both do great work. So this ad campaign isn’t to your liking and that’s fine. I find it funny. Does that make me want to beat up women? Hardly.

  12. OMG this is terrible. I had no idea PETA did such horrible, sexist commercials. I work with several dog rescue organizations and own three rescued animals myself, so I am a total animal lover, but at what expense? Definately NOT these types of commercials. They are absolutely horrible and insulting to those of us women who are truly animal lovers. You wait, I am going to email those horrible people.

  13. Jane — there are MANY issues to get upset about, big and small. Why not write about this? This is an example. Of course it won’t make you want to beat up women, but it is a signifier that sexual violence is OK and we need to eradicate that from our culture, don’t you think? The sex doesn’t *exactly* read as consensual, it reads as harmful.

  14. I’m thoroughly disgusted with PETA! They treat people like crap, especially women, in order to spread their “message”. They make fun of fat people, especially – once again – women, they act as if beating up on a woman (yeah, they call it “sex”) is funny and we should all be laughing our heads off about it. They act as if they’re soooo concerned about cruelty to animals. Yet I find myself wondering, how can they even say they care one wit about animals when they obviously don’t give a shit about their fellow humans? And the sad part is? This organization is run by WOMEN! Who do they think they’re trying to kid? By sitting there and trashing groups of people, they run the risk of losing more support for their so-called “noble” message of espousing vegetarianism/veganism. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with eating vegetarian or vegan – I’ve done it myself, and still working on getting back up to full-time – and I’m fat! So much for the idea that fat people will eat anything that moves! What bothers me is that this woman who runs PETA thinks nothing of denigrating people just to get her point across, when there’s so many women (and now men) who struggle with hatred for their body because they don’t look like a magazine cover. I won’t support PETA for the way they treat people – no matter who they are and what they may look like – and I would rather support ACTUAL groups that help animals (i.e. Sierra Club, World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace, Humane Society, etc.) AND I will still eat at least mostly vegetarian because I care about cruelty to animals, NOT because I care about my waistline!

  15. I agree with Jane. I can see how this ad seems like it’s promoting violence, but it was only one in a series of ads about “my boyfriend went vegan” (I can see how you cherry picked the only one that seems to condone violence). It’s clear that all of the ads involve consensual sex, though. I trust that you accept that, while violent sex is not necessary for pleasure or acceptable to force on someone, everyone has the right to have that kind of sex if they enjoy it? Or are you going to imply that all women who claim to like painful sex, like all women who claim to enjoy sexualizing their bodies in public, have been brainwashed and should be prevented from exercising such desires?

    As for the nudity, I agree with PETA that there is nothing wrong with it at all. I don’t want to sexualize myself, but if other women feel that it enriches their lives to do so to raise awareness about animals, more power to them.

    And the vegetable thing… most of your criticism involves a literal interpretation of women being attracted to vegetables–really??? Do you honestly believe that this was meant to be interpreted literally and not just a way to poke at the topic of sex and attract attention?

    BTW the reason for ALL of these sexualized ads is so that they can reach a more mainstream audience than feminist women, who are by and large already more likely to be vegan but involve a minuscule portion of the population. The same is probably true of feminist organizations. Some of them may staff vegans, may even be run by vegans, but they are unlikely to serve all-vegan food at their events because they don’t want to turn off the vast majority of the population, who are not vegan. Besides, vegans–again–are already more likely to be sympathetic to feminism than meat-eaters. And I must say, torturing and killing animals just for the pleasure of eating them is a little bit worse than allowing women to volunteer for something that they find fulfilling, but may reinforce a negative societal ideal.

    Besides, even if they are not consciously weighing the pros and cons of different issues, yes, PETA is sexist… because they are a product of a sexist society. And yes, feminist organizations exploit animals–because they are a product of a society that socially sanctions the exploitation of animals. And in both cases, I think the issue should be addressed by recognizing the work that they have done, and positively educating them about why it is wrong. If you don’t care about animal rights at all, or if your activism/education is always negative… then yeah, you’re going to have trouble with this concept. You’re also going to have trouble influencing the enemy you’ve created.

  16. While I understand where this point could come from, and do agree with certain parts, the part I don’t agree with is the ”viciously assaulted her”. There are people who enjoy rough sex. I’ve ended up in ace bandages many times, or where its hurt to walk the next day. I get that ”veganism leads to better sex”, but better sex could mean different sex. If it was a guy instead of a girl for the same ad, it wouldn’t matter. In fact, more people, or at least men would try and convince their girlfriends, to go vegan.

  17. That’s just it though, Monica. There are double standards when it comes to women and men, especially when it comes to sex.

  18. I hate to be contrary and off point but i must disagree with you when you said “Women should never be sexualized as a means of promoting any product, service, or lifestyle. Period.” what about sexual products surely sexualizing individuals including women is appropriate in advertisements for those products

  19. The female models are doing this work willingly. PETA doesn’t diminish the importance and value in how people view the human body; they’re using naked women in furs for shock value; to get attention. PETA does so much good work that I think it’s OK if they use some shocking ads to try to get their message across.

  20. Fuck you PETA. I’m a vegan because I CARE ABOUT (human and non-human) ANIMALS. The fact that I have amazing sex is irrelevant. 😉

    This company is fucking disgusting scum.

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