Thursday, May 21, 2015

Open letter to PETA

PETA, what are you doing?

On tuesday, this campaign surfaced on your Instagram account.

When I commented I had enough with naked women in PETA ads, you answered me this:

Ladies and gentlemen, freakin' "Lady Godiva, who rode naked on a horse in the 11th century to protest taxes on the poor". She must be rolling in her grave right now, hearing she's compared to poor Pamela, naked in a shower in an ad! I don't know if I should laugh or cry.

We all know how low and wrong it is to fall in the easy trap of using a woman's body to sell a cause. 

Yet you jumped both feet in.

You could have shown her as a person instead of a body. 

You didn't.

You could have shown who she is, what she thinks, or how she feels about the cause - Pamela Anderson is vegan, and she has her own animal protection foundation

You didn't.

You could have shown her as sexual, instead of sexualized. 

Active, instead of passive. 
Powerful instead of submissive. 
You didn't.

You could have used a cinematographic reference that does not involve an horrific murder scene, engaging a helpless woman struggling for her life, before she dies under repeated knife stabbing..

(Scene that was commonly analyzed as a rape: "The entire shower scene. The distinctly phallic silhouette of the knife, the stabbing (or rather, penetration), the ejaculatory spurts of blood. It's symbolic of a rape that the severely repressed killer cannot otherwise carry out." source
You didn't.

You could have used a person with a non-normative body, someone of a non Caucasian ethnicity.

You didn't.

You could have put a man in the same posture.

You didn't.

You PETA, out of all people, should know that some causes are harder to defend, because they're not "obvious" to everyone. If you say you fight against cancer, people say -bravo! If you say you're campaigning for abused children, -woaw what a noble mission! 
But if you say you're involved in animal protection, most people react right away by mocking you, telling there are -"better" causes, more important battles, more urgent problems! Then they start pointing at everything that's wrong with you, suddenly -I'm sure your shoes are made by kids! You're so extreme! You have rich people's preoccupations etc etc.. And someone who's already sadden by animal suffering, who's already making huge sacrifices to eat vegan, who's reflecting on many ethic questions, has the additional burden of being ridiculed, and they must defend the legitimacy of their cause, before they can actually defend the animals!

It is a tough job, and we know it PETA.

You know what other cause is also very hard to defend? FEMINISM.

As soon as you say you're a feminist people say the stupidest things! No later than last week, I got the usual:

- I feel stupid to say I'm a feminist, because it's so obvious, and everybody should be, it shouldn't be a feat!
- Well.. you should be an equalitarian!
-… Isn't that what a feminist is?
- but why is it called a feminist then? 
- ehh … I don't know maybe because of HISTORY! 

You're already devastated by seeing all the rapes, forced marriages, excisions, discrimination, slut shaming, fat calling, oppression endured by women, and people will tell you: 

-You're "angry".
-You bet I'm angry, this is tragic! I am very angry! 
-No, as a person, in general, you're angry.
Because getting infuriated by such disasters is weird, not natural, and you should remain calm and composed. If you're so upset by it, it can only be because of a psychological condition, obviously!

Now in that sexist / patriarchal context, who would you expect support from? Maybe a fellow activist? Maybe someone who knows how hard it is to fight for a cause? Maybe an international non profit, animal saving organization? 

Well you would think so!

On the same campaign photo, another user agreed with me, but concluded: 

-as long as it is for a good cause it's all good!

So here's my question to you PETA: Is it really, all good? Is it OK to defend a cause, by doing great harm, campaign after campaign, to another cause?

In that sense, could I create a very racist poster, if it is to defend abused children?
Could I write a speech full of homophobic jokes, if it's to raise money for Parkinson's?

I think not.

Well, you could tell me it's just that one campaign! Ok so let's take a look at how PETA portrays men and women:

    Same cause, different picture

Here is how PETA portrays men:

Question: Are they sexualized? Are they here as a person or as a body? Are they active or passive? Are they strong? or scared and victimized? Basically are they dominant, or dominated?

Here is How PETA portrays women:

In a society where women are underpaid, abused in their own home, forbidden to an education, stoned to death, trafficked, murdered … do you need, PETA, to convey the image of women as preys?
PETA could say: -Women as "preys"? where the hell are you fetching that from?!

This is just a sample, I found dozens and dozens. I searched meticulously for men used in the same posture, I found 2.             
PETA could say: - Ok but once, we used a woman that wasn't sexualized or mutilated! 
We even used a woman who has a doctorate in neuroscience!! ah-ah!
- Yep, you did… and this is how you portrayed her: 

It's weird I don't receive a neuroscientist (specialized in Hypothalamic regulation in relation to maladaptive, obsessive-compulsive, affiliative, and satiety behaviors in Prader-Willi syndrome) vibe… do you?
(I guess I don't need to point the obvious on what's wrong with that 50's housewife stereotype?)

If you really are an organization fighting for animal rights, with the following slogan is "Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, or abuse in any way" then you are forgetting 1 animal, the woman. You use a constant degrading representation of her, over and over, to sell your cause (a cause that I also share, that's what's makes me even sadder). You're stepping on a cause, to raise your own.

So yes, I'm "angry". And I will now think of way to use my anger in a positive useful way to fight against the harm that you, PETA, are doing. This post was my first step.

But please, let's all just remember "Lady Godiva, who rode naked on a horse in the 11th century to protest taxes on the poor" because that's obviously what PETA is all about. 


miriam said...

That was, by far, one of the best articles on feminism issues I read in a long time. Thank you so much. Please keep going.

Fifikoussout said...

Thank you for your support Miriam! I will!

Ombeline said...

just one word : THANKS