You’re either having a scotch at the Red Carpet Club or you’re downin’ cheap coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts:
This picture, which I happen to find hilarious, was taken by me during an unsuccessful attempt to get out of Logan Airport after the American Sociological Association meetings in Boston. I ended up being treated very nicely at the Days Inn.
Today I saw an interesting talk about public reaction to the Humane Society (HSUS) video of cruel treatment of cattle at the Westland/Hallmark slaughterhouse in Chino, California. As you may recall, someone from the Humane Society took a job at the plant and secretly videotaped the practices there for about four months. In late January, 2008, HSUS released the video. Here is a video from the HSUS website that shows images from the original video footage (and yes, it’s a disturbing video, even by my Oklahoma-ranch-raised standards):
The talk I saw today, titled “Westland/Hallmark: When You Don’t Care Enough to Send the Very Best,” by David Holt and Michelle R. Worosz (presented at the 71st Annual Meeting of the Rural Sociological Society in Manchester, NH) provided an interesting analysis of how issues get framed in the public. The HSUS undertook this investigation, and released the video, primarily because of concerns about animal cruelty and the mistreatment of cattle, particularly those that could not stand or move on their own.
But as sociologists studying framing and social movements have often noted, once an issue gets out there, organizations can’t control what the public, lawmakers, or the media will make of it, and this case is a good example. Once the news broke, what came to the forefront were food safety issues, particularly the idea that so-called “downer cows” (that is, cows that can’t stand or walk on their own) might have made it into the food supply. Downer cows are a concern because of the (very small) risk that they might be suffering neurological damage from BSE, or Mad Cow disease. After an outcry several years ago downer cows were barred from human consumption, but back in 2007 the USDA quietly relaxed the standards so that downer cows can be slaughtered for human consumption if a Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) veterinarian inspects and passes them.
Anyway, it turns out that this particular meat processor was a major supplier of beef to the nation’s school lunch program. This exacerbated concerns about the (remote) possibility of BSE-infected meat getting into the food supply. And that quickly overwhelmed the animal-cruelty concerns that had motivated the HSUS investigation in the first place. The Congressional hearings and (superficial) changes to processing practices that occurred as a result of the video focused primarily on improving food safety, with little discussion of how animals bound for slaughter are, or should be, treated.
It reminded me of how Upton Sinclair said that, when he wrote The Jungle, that he “aimed for the public’s heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach,” meaning that he’d meant to bring attention to the horrific conditions immigrant workers faced at work but what the public outcry centered on was the idea of rats in their meat.
I thought this might be a good example of how activists try to frame issues but have incomplete control of the framing process once it enters the public domain and may find that media depictions and public discussions of the issue take a very different path than they would have liked.
At this point, I can’t really work up too much annoyance at the way PETA sexualizes women in so many of its protests or in PSAs–I’ve just seen it so many times, I’ve become desensitized. Here are some photos of three topless women protesting outside a KFC in Sydney, Australia (found here, via reddit).
For other examples of PETA sexualizing women, see here, here, and here.
Thanks to Emily for sending these in. Kind of.
Coco had an interesting comment, so I’m posting it here:
I have a hard time seeing this merely as “PETA sexualizing” women, which suggests that these women have lost their subjectivity and been transformed into an object by PETA. Rather, these women ARE PETA and may be understood as purposeful agents drawing on one repertoire of resources (their sexuality) that can be mobilized in pursuit of their goals, not just as victims of sexualization. Where do we draw the line (or is there one) between sexual objectification and the mobilization of sexuality as a ‘weapon of the weak’?
I think there are some very valid points there. But what I find interesting is how often sexuality is used as a “weapon” to bring attention to a range of other social causes (animal rights, unionization and decent working conditions in the case of American Apparel, etc.). And are animal rights activists really “weak”? Are these kinds of demonstrations their only option for getting attention? Are they even effective for convincing people to boycott KFC? If not…what’s the motivation?
I would also point out that there have been cases (such as the protest in Memphis where women were wrapped up like pieces of meat) where the women apparently asked if they could quit and the organizer pressured them to stay wrapped up on the sidewalk…while she stood nearby, fully clothed, not wrapped in plastic in the full summer sun. I’m not denying there’s agency here…but there are some complexities to it, at a minimum.
NEW! Giorgos S.sent in this ad from PETA, which implies that you might get to see Pamela Anderson naked by both the image and by making a reference to Anderson’s infamous sex tape with ex-husband Tommy Lee:
The “graphic footage” is, in fact, of conditions on a chicken farm and slaughterhouse. Giorgos questions whether Anderson knew how the video would be marketed, and/or whether she would care.
This Korean ad for a newspaper nicely illustrates the social constructedness of “breakfast” food. That is, that there is nothing inherently a.m. about eggs, bacon, or toast. But coffee, well that’s another story.
The smell of coffee? The taste of your favorite breakfast? Whatever wakes you up… have it with The Korea Times!
Ed L. sent us this British ad for McCoys crisps (chips, here in the U.S.), which reinforces gender boundaries. Not only are men not supposed to like (or perform) ballet, but even knowing a small fact about it makes a man so unmasculine that he’s no longer worthy to hang out with other men. Also, at the end we learn they’re “Man Crisps.”
Also, Rick T. and Penny R. sent in this Snickers ad, which features Mr. T mocking and shooting at an effeminate male speedwalker:
According to Mr. T, the speedwalker is “a disgrace to the man race” and “it’s time to run like a real man.” After having Snickers shot at him, the speedwalker does, indeed, run. And then the tagline: “Snickers: Get Some Nuts.”
The A.V. Club reports that the ad was pulled from the air in Britain after complaints that it was homophobic. The A.V. Club article has three other Snickers commercials starring Mr. T, including this one:
Here we learn that “It’s time to teach you fools some basic man rules,” which consist of the following:
Men like sports, girls in cars.
Men don’t go to fancy cocktail bars.
Real men have fun when they out.
They don’t go to wine bars to pose and pout.
So fools, you better change,
or you face is somethin’ I’ll rearrange.
Apparently real men do like poetry, anyway.
This would be good for a discussion of gender and the policing of masculinity, as well as the way that men who cross those boundaries–or even stray near them–risk ridicule or even outright abuse (if they’re lucky, Mr. T might advocate just pitying them, not actually rearranging their faces). It’s also useful for a discussion of what type of man is defined as a “real” man–apparently only men who like sports and girls, don’t drink wine, and know better than to pose. While this clearly excludes gay men, it also excludes many straight men. There’s a certain class element here–presumably “real” men drink beer, not wine, a drink generally more popular among those with higher incomes. All those men–gays, wine-drinkers, and pouters–just need to get some freakin’ nuts.
Latisha J. let us know about this Special K ad that sexualized dieting (which she read about at Lip-Sticking). The woman (who looks perfectly thin to me), figures out she needs to diet when a button pops off her dress. After she eats the Special K, which we learn can help women lose weight, we see another button pop off, but this time it’s because she’s intentionally revealing more cleavage:
So…popping button because she “needs” to diet = bad, but same woman popping button because she’s trying to look sexy = awesome.