Can You Be A Feminist And Support PeTA's Marketing Strategies?

11 years ago

Since the 1980s PeTA has strategically focused campaigns on demeaning, humiliating,and exploiting women--- all in the name of protecting animals.

If the end is the more ethical treatment of animals, are the means justified? What does it say about us as a society that we have tolerated  misogynistic behavior from an organization devoted to protecting animals. And, instead of fighting back, we have done exactly what they wanted us to do.

Have we not by our support encouraged more of the same? With over 1.6 million members,PeTA is the world's largest animal rights organization. But there are alternatives to PeTA that do the same good work that PeTA purports to do. Organizations that take a less sexist approach to getting their message out.

In the 1980s when PeTA started making the headlines for throwing red paint on women wearing fur coats, women cowered and fashion designers took "no fur" pledges. Not sure they were ever asked to take a "no leather" pledge but that would have cut into their profits in a big way so why go there?

Women who dared to wear fur were portrayed as cruel, shallow,materialistic, and with brains the size of a pea. They were also afraid of being attacked by a PeTA activist. There was a cartoon at the time with a woman walking down the street in a fur coat with a tag on the back. The tag read , "This is fake fur. Here is my receipt."

During that time there was also the infamous incident with Vogue Editor Anna Wintour in 1996 during a luncheon at the Four Seasons. Some credit PeTA, others describe the perpetrators as independent activists. From The Bad Ass Girls Club,

An independent activist in New York took matters into her own hands
when she threw a dead raccoon onto Anna Wintour's plate, shouting,
"This is for the animals, fur hag!" while Anna was dining at the Four
Seasons. Another activist sent Wintour a package full of
maggot-infested animal guts, with a note reading, "Here's the rest of
your fur coat."
PETA has also "pelted" the Vogue editor: PETA's
Fashion Week 2000 cards, handed out to media and glitterati alike,
featured a caricature of the oh-so "Cruella" Anna, complete with dark
sunglasses, trademark bobbed hairstyle, and ever-present fur coat.
Inside, draped in animal skins, a skeletal, pink bikini-clad Wintour
proclaims, "Without my fur, I am nothing."

Now the 80s were a long way from 9/11. Terroristic behavior-- as long as no one was really hurt-- was obviously tolerated more than it would be in our orange alert society.

 In today's world, the risk of having PeTA supporters throw red paint on a coat would probably not be handled the same way it was in the 80s -- which could be one reason why designers are now returning to fur.

In 2000, Ms.Magazine took issue with PeTA's marketing approach after the organization ran an anti-fur ad called Fur Trim.Unattractive. A 2007 version is currently making the rounds in PeTA's  efforts to boycott Burberry.

Around the same time,Nikki Craft started a website which takes a close look at PeTA's marketing strategy. She calls it:  "PeTA where only women are treated like meat."

Sure PeTA ought to be able to portray sexual images, though we hope they'd do a better job of it; and when they place one of the harem of pimp Hugh Hefner (the Afghani/Saudi men's sexism has nothing on him) in the public domain to promote their organization they will have to take responsibility for how it will impact all women.

Imagine instead their ad agency hunts up a "contrarian" African Amerikan to get on his knees before a white man, shine his shoes while shuckin' n jivin' with an Amos/Andy grin to make some message about vegetarianism. Should we be duped into taking such an advertisement seriously? Should we be expected to take it as "liberating" because it's framed as "protest" yet upon looking deeper it's just jacking up racial stereotypes and white privilege? Would we be expected to, could we take PeTA seriously? Yet some insist we ought to when they are jacking up sexual stereotypes, male privilege and conservative politics.

Elaine Vigneault
has a different take on the strategy.

The ads, however, can be viewed as criticism of both animal and women's objectification, a sort of tongue-in-cheek critique, a post-post-mod understanding or consciousness. I embrace this viewpoint; that's how I've accepted these PETA ads in the past. They're killing two (clay) birds with one stone. But that view requires an educated, enlightened, and sympathetic audience, not the actual audience.

In a post this past May
, Vigneault takes an exhaustive look at PeTA's marketing and concludes it is indeed sexist.

To use sexuality to promote morality is an interesting twist that has the potential to spread more than just the idea that circuses are immoral. It has the potential to spread the idea that women's bodies are their own and they'll use them how they please.The main argument for these types of ads is: Naked bodies get noticed. Sex is probably the easiest way to market something. Stick a pretty female face on almost any product and it sells better. Show a nude body and get attention.

But again, there's one of the standard feminists criticisms of porn and the pornification of mainstream media: the images represented are not varied enough. One of the reasons we recognize it as porn is that the story it tells is always the same one. It's not a liberation of female sexuality if it doesn't truly represent female sexuality. A proper representation of female sexuality would be much more varied, less traditionally pretty, less staged, less seemingly exploitative.

It would be easier to understand PeTA if they were just as zealous towards people who wear leather.

Where are the men in all this? Why hasn't PeTA targeted men who wear leather shoes, leather belts, leather jackets and accessorize their homes with leather furniture?
Why hasn't PeTAthrown red paint on the inside of a jaguar with leather seats?

Could be because when they target men, the men fight back? The original Your Mommy Kills Animals Comic was released in 2003. Media reaction was  relatively quiet until PeTA released its Your Daddy Kills Animal in 2005. That got the media's attention.

: PETA goes crazy: Your Daddy Kills Animals
Fox News: PETA tells Kids to Run From Daddy
The Center for Consumer Freedom: PETA's Latest Line Hard to Swallow
The DAily Constituional  PETA: F@#%ing Nuts

The latest PeTA marketing strategy is their nude Alicia Silverstone TV spot. As of Sunday morning, Silverstone's banned PSA for PETA has received around one million visitors on YouTube. (There are several different submissions so I did some quick math to get a total running count and of course this doesn't include all the other sites that have posted the spot all over the internet.)

The fact that Comcast banned the ads in Houston is no big surprise.PeTA knew the ad would be banned. They have an entire page on its website devoted to its banned ads.

It's all  part of their marketing strategy.
Create a controversial ad, get it banned, get more publicity for being "banned in Houston"  then they would if the ads ran, and  then when asked for their reaction reply, direct folks to their website where  they encourage people to either become a vegan or stop wearing fur.

Meanwhile PeTA's leadership has indicated they don't plan to change their marketing tactics any time in the near future. From Wikipedia.

The fact is we are the biggest group because we succeed in getting attention. ... The fact is we may be doing all sorts of things on a campaign but the one thing that gets attention is the outrageous thing. It simply goes to prove to us each time, that that is the thing that’s going to work; and so we won’t shirk from doing that facet — in addition to all the other things we do that you never hear about because no one cares.

– Ingrid Newkirk, Satya, January, 2001

This is not about about whether someone should or should not chose a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle. This is not about fur or faux fur. This is about a blatant marketing strategy and the exploitation of women to achieve their desired results.

PeTA has gotten away with demeaning women for 30 years. It's time for women to leave PeTA and support another like-minded organization. If that were to happen then perhaps PeTA can focus on what their mission is ---being ethical.

Elana blogs on everything about businesss except the bottom line at

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