Anna M., Naomi B., Amanda C., Ben Z., and SpeZek sent in a new PETA ad campaign, the latest in a twisted story of objectification metaphor.
Feminists in the ’70s protested the objectification of women by metaphorically linking meat and female bodies (e.g., “we should not be treating women like pieces of meat”). Meat is meat, so the argument went, but women are human beings and should be treated as such.
In mocking response, in 1978 Larry Flynt put a woman being chewed up by a meat grinder on the cover of Hustler magazine. We will treat women like meat if we want, was the message. And we did, and we do, seemingly endlessly.
Forty years later, Pamela Anderson submits to being symbolically carved up for butchering by PETA in order to metaphorically link meat and female bodies again. But this time, in an ironic reversal, it’s designed to condemn the way we treat animals, not the way we treat women.
And, forty years later, feminists are still saying “Please, can we not do the women/meat thing?”
So Canada denies PETA a permit for the launching of this new ad campaign. An official explains: “…it goes against all principles public organizations are fighting for in the everlasting battle of equality between men and women” (source). What a nice thing to say, feminists think.
But Anderson fights feminism with feminism:
How sad that a woman would be banned from using her own body in a political protest over the suffering of cows and chickens… In some parts of the world, women are forced to cover their whole bodies with burqas—is that next?
Yes, Pamela, I’m sure that’s next.
But I digress.
So PETA and Anderson must think that Canadians super-super-respect women like totally and never-never-objectify them to the degree that saying that animals are like women will suddenly inspire horror at the prospect of using animals for food? Or is it that they think men will see the image and be like “oooh I’d really like to rub up against that rump” and then suddenly find cows too sexy to eat? Or they don’t give a shit about women and are willing to use whatever attention-getting tactic they can to save animals from going under the knife (including using the body of a woman that has, um, gone under the knife)?
I submit this for discussion because I just don’t know.
More from PETA: women packaged like meat, and in cages, women who love animals get naked (men wear clothes), the banned superbowl ad, and a collection of various PETA advertising using (mostly women’s) nudity. See also my post on leftist balkanization, or the way that leftist social movements tend to undermine each other.
If you’re interested further, you may want to read Carol Adams’ The Sexual Politics of Meat and The Pornography of Meat.Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
casey — July 20, 2010
Or maybe the point is that this is horrifying and unappetizing
I don't know perhaps I'm not a typical enough male or something but yes, I would have a hard time eating meat while looking at a butcher's diagram of a woman
Erika — July 20, 2010
I think it's a fair point (all animals have the same parts; we should empathize with non-human animals) made sexist because Pam Anderson is posing provocatively in a bikini. I can't really equate objectification to depictions of women as non-human animals as a feminist -- non-human animals are, at least in my mind, not mindless objects to be exploited.
Tom — July 20, 2010
This is a very old concept used by PETA protesters. Rehashing it for a celebrity ad is rather lame:
Keeley — July 20, 2010
While I do generally object to objectifying women to make a political point, or for any other, I objexct more strongly to some of the language in this post.
"Pamela Anderson submits to being symbolically carved up"
I'm sorry, is she not cappable of and allowed to make decisions for herself about what may or may not de-value her as a person? I know Pamela Anderson of all people is not the poster child for strong independent women, but by devaluing her choices, or the choices of any woman who chooses to use her body in any way she wants to aren't we as guilty as anyone else of devaluing women?
I have a problem with the way PETA has chosen to send its message. Ms. Anderson clearly does not, and the fact that she's willing to protest it says something about how she feels about the poster. It's personally important to her and she hasn't been used.
SpeZek — July 20, 2010
I find it interesting that most (if not all) of PETA's more suggestive ads target men, specifically. Where are the ads depicting a sexy, skin-baring man?
Is PETA just playing to the trope that men eat steaks, and women eat salads? It's an odd message, considering that (traditionally) women are the ones that plan meals in a family; you would think they'd be a target.
K — July 20, 2010
"In some parts of the world, women are forced to cover their whole bodies with burqas—is that next?"
Okay, I'm not so great at identifying fallacies. Is this both a slippery slope _and_ a strawman? Is this two for the price of one?
JihadPunk77 — July 20, 2010
Nobody is taking PETA's message seriously. They're just good for soft-core almost pornographic images of naked women for young boys to masturbate to while pretending to sympathize with the animal rights movement.
nakedthoughts — July 20, 2010
"And, forty years later, feminists are still saying “Please, can we not do the women/meat thing?”"
speak for yourself. while I do not like the how sexulized this campaign is. the fact is that both women and animals are used for men. most animals killed in the US are female. they are abused and raped and then ultimately killed. to distance women from the negative "animals" is to continue to devalue animals as living beings.
just as when "weak" men are called women, it is an insult to women that they are seen as negative. so is it when people are called an animal or used as one, it is an insult to animals. and while certain subsets of the human population (in the US at least) are more prone to these insults than others (weak men, women) that doesn't mean that the basis of the insult isn't also oppressive and problematic.
and eating meat and animal oppression is seen as inextricably connected by more than just myself. (major author example Carol Adams http://www.caroljadams.com/index.html)
BradMillersHero — July 20, 2010
Oh come on, poorly photoshopped white women with large tits? That's such a creative and innovative campaign for them.
MarinaS — July 20, 2010
PETA are the vegetarian equivalent of those trendy raffia shopping bags: looks good, achieves less than nothing of its stated goals.
They're so narcissistically in love with the righteousness of what is essentially a trendy lifestyle choice, they've completely given up on any actual politics. Being seen to really, really want to care about animals (where really, really wanting to is measured in square inches of - attractive! - naked female flesh, becuase we wouldn't want the message to, like, be a downer, dude) has become more important than actually doing so.
EMB — July 20, 2010
I've thought of PETA as a bunch of anti-science (and pro-terrorism) extremists ever since I saw them do a propaganda presentation at my high school.
Nevertheless, as a pro-free-speech American, it worries me that the Canadian government thinks it's reasonable to try to block this ad campaign just because it happens to be blatantly sexist. (Well, maybe--the linked article doesn't really explain what exactly this permit was for...)
I feel like this ad is going to make people more uncomfortable with PETA than with eating meat in any case.
Alicia — July 20, 2010
Just a sidenote, Anderson IS Canadian
adam — July 20, 2010
There is something really pathetic about PETA photoshopping a picture of Pamela Anderson to promote vegetarianism... I wonder if at some point PETA will stop working with Anderson, like when she gets "too old" to be a socially acceptable sex symbol.
And Why all the hygiene? Shouldn't they be doing this with a "disgusting body" that people would neither consider edible nor F-able? Seems like they are aiming at the wrong aesthetic nerve. They should be turning people off, not on through this comparison (if this is the one they actually think will work)
PETA: Animal Rights at the Price of Women’s Progress. « My Blog… — July 20, 2010
[...] has a great post about how women, and more specifically, feminists (which are not exclusive to women) have been [...]
Eneya — July 20, 2010
Oh My... we just returned sometime back in our (religious) history and started to comment how women and animals are the same.... sexy, sexy puuuurrrrrrrrrring animals...
I digress... but seriously, when will Peta realize that they don't do anything positive but a lot of negative in the way?
It's not like I want to inspire more men objectification but why we only see women compared to animals? What, they couldn't a male cutie suitable and hot enough to be drawn with marker up and down? Oh... bummer.
Or simply saying that men and animals are the same would be too much because... ?
I am still waiting for them to announce that their team song is Bloodhound Gang - The Bad Touch lyrics.
(You know... "baby you and me we are nothing but mammals, so let's do it like they do it on dicovery channel").
Or maybe not... see, there (on Discovery) we actually see animals killing each other and eating each other. Maybe something with their metaphor is highly confused.
Are they saying animals men and women are not animals or that animals are not animals.
Peta!!! Explain yourself, what ARE you trying to say? Because you don't make any sense.
P.S. I humbly advise Pamela to put some clothes on. Taking your clothes for money is NOT empowering and being expected to stay as clothesless as possible is not a good thing, compared with expected to be always with lots of clothes.
Simone Lovelace — July 20, 2010
I'm a vegetarian. I care about animal right issues. I care about the environment. But this ad is inspiring me with just three thoughts.
(1) Wow, that's a lot of photoshop.
(3) What the hell is going on here?
I really, really don't think this campaign is going to prompt anyone to consider vegetarianism.
Ben Zvan — July 20, 2010
I should have mentioned this when I sent it in, but it doesn't help that they didn't even get the labels right.
Diavola — July 20, 2010
I think this idea actually has a lot of potential use. The comparison of women to non-human animals could be very effective, but it *has* to be taken from a feminist point. It has to be about comparing the two forms of oppression, about showing the inhumanity of the oppressions by comparing them to each other. If you don't take it from a feminist perspective all you're doing is, yet again, using women's bodies. All you're doing is again objectifying and consuming them (not like literal food). Equating women's oppression with the confinement, rape, slaughter, and consumption of non-human animals can be a really radical thing, but this here is just the same old sexist PETA bullshit.
(Also, "all animals have the same parts" is a patent lie. Oysters do not have shoulders and fish do not have feet! Maybe a little OT, so, I do apologize. I just don't think an animal having the same body parts as mine are necessary for empathizing.)
hypatia — July 20, 2010
Ok, I kind of expect UsMag to get it wrong but geez I expected better from you guys.
It's the Montreal City Hall that denied them the ability to use a public space. Which is actually important in this context as Quebec Premier Jean Charest has been very adamant about "equality between the sexes" being a fundamental value of Quebec.
But even Quebec did not make the decision; it was one city, so labelling it a Canadian decision might be a bit much don't you think?
Andrew — July 20, 2010
Women (and, of course, men) ARE animals. This does not excuse either gender being disproportionately likened to another species, but no amount of humanism or feminism can alter the unequivocal fact that we are animals, and that we happen to be made of meat.
Of course, I understand that this fact of life can be abused for effect in ways that have uncomfortable or offensive symbolism. However, in the case of PETA, it's remarkably consistent with the group's other views. As an animal rights group, they are aiming to challenge the paradigm dictating that humans have a natural or divine supremacy over other animal species. And reminding us that ourselves - or the versions of the human form which we covet or idolize - are actually made of the same parts as the "inferior" animals we consume is one way to do that.
Personally, as an omnivore who is not attracted to Ms Anderson, I'm not persuaded. To me, the problem with this image is that I'm already very much accustomed to seeing this particular woman's body as a commodity, a surgically manufactured product photographed endlessly to sell tangible products, which in no way resembles any human being I'd ever hope to meet. A more effective ad might have superimposed the cuts of meat onto a less-doctored photo of someone who looks less like an android blowup doll, to whom more of us might relate.
And even then, my first thought might still be "mmmm...bbq ribs!"
el.j — July 20, 2010
Is part of the problem that the ads seem to depend on the idea that we wouldn't treat women this way, so why do we treat animals so. That seems to be the idea of showing the woman divided into parts, that if it's shocking on humans, why is it ok for animals. Except the problem with that is that women's bodies are actually disregarded, violated and subjected to huge amounts of violence - so then the analogy can't help but be that "women are meat" as another commentator phrased it, rather than "animals are human."
Perseus — July 20, 2010
I can't help but wonder how to take feminism seriously if they are both for and against the same issues.
"…it goes against all principles public organizations are fighting for in the everlasting battle of equality between men and women" - Okay, that's a good point.
"How sad that a woman would be banned from using her own body in a political protest over the suffering of cows and chickens… In some parts of the world, women are forced to cover their whole bodies with burqas—is that next?" - Yeah, censorship is a pretty bad thing, I agree.
...But... Aren't you guys on the same side or something? How can you "fight feminism with feminism"? Doesn't that, kind of, undermine your whole position if you're fighting against yourself? So is porn good or bad? Oh, better not touch that one. If anyone could explain to me what's going on I'd appreciate it (not trying to be smug, I'm actually looking for information).
As for PETA, they're too high on their own self satisfaction to really have a political drive anymore. I doubt anyone takes them seriously. Don't want to eat meat because greens are healthy? Good point. Don't want to eat meat because it takes too many resources? That's a position I respect. Don't want to eat meat because it's expensive? I'm living that right now. Don't want to eat meat because it's immoral? Well your canine teeth beg to differ. We aren't stewards of the planet. We aren't some environmental cleaning service. We are animals. We are predators. We eat meat. There's no big deal about it. Lions treat gazelle like prey, and we treat cows like prey. Actually we treat cows a far deal better. Meat is in our natural diet and it has been for 200,000 years. Sharks eat meat, lions eat meat, we eat meat. Circle of life, hakuna matata, etc etc.
Carol J. Adams — July 20, 2010
Because Canada has different laws than the US regarding pornography, I believe PETA needed to sexualize Pamela Anderson in this way precisely so that their ad would be refused. They then get, for free, more attention for being "censored" than they would have with a non-sexualized ad. Most people who have written me about this have suggested PETA decided to resurrect this advertisement, using Pamela Anderson this time, to tie in with the release of the 20th anniversary edition of The Sexual Politics of Meat. Of course, why not an ad campaign that says "neither women nor the other animals should be treated as pieces of meat?"
Sue — July 21, 2010
So it's sympathetic not to kill and eat an animal, but it's fine to take the life of a plant? I've heard all the excuses: "They don't have a brain", "They don't feel pain", "they don't have a nervous system (which is arguable)". I'd rather eat meat than eat something that, even before horticulture and agriculture, never had a chance to run and scream, thank you very much. You have to take a life in order to eat. Grow up. We're Omnivores. If you have a problem with it, make slaughterhouses more sanitary. That's what I've been trying to do, anyway.
Jen — July 21, 2010
Have PETA ever done this with a man's body?
PatronStOfTofu — July 21, 2010
PETA's overwhelming reliance on one body type (young, white, thin, female) and marginalization or mockery of other body types (fat-shaming and transphobia, as well as juxtaposing images of slavery, lynchings, and genocides with images of human cruelty to animals) just keeps continuing. As a vegan, I get frustrated when people associate PETA with me, but, to be fair, there aren't many other mainstream vegetarian groups with the people-power, celebrities, and money (yes, I know about the amazing work done by other groups, but they do not have the visibility.)
It's interesting, because Pamela Anderson employs the same language of choice and feminism and Ingrid Newkirk, the head of PETA, in this interview: http://motherjones.com/environment/2008/10/mojo-audio-peta-co-founder-and-president-ingrid-newkirk
Shae — July 22, 2010
I don't think feminists can respond to this ad with "please let's stop with the women/meat thing," as the message of this ad is "Women aren't meat, why should cows be?" It wouldn't even work if the advertisers and/or viewers saw no difference between women and meat.
Not that I'm any fan of Peta's sexualized and inflammatory tactics.
joanna — July 22, 2010
There are too many comments for me to read all of them, so I don't know if this has already been said, but here goes:
I find the same issue with the likening female bodies to meat thing, but there is something else that I think is kind of weird about this ad. The statement "All animals have the same parts" is being presented as the reason that we shouldn't eat them, which makes little to no sense to me. First of all, not all animals have the same parts. I don't have wings and chickens do. I don't have tails, but some cats an dogs do. Sharks and I have very few of the same parts, but they are killed in a horrific way for their meat. Should we not care about animals that don't have the same parts as we do? I feel like the slogan isn't even important - it seems like it was just a way to get a naked chick on there and have it somehow apply to vegetarianism.
Also, why don't they ever objectify men in this way? Women aren't the only people that care about vegetarianism, and straight men (and I guess lesbian/bi women - but somehow I don't think those are the people they are appealing to) aren't the only people who need to be reached by animals rights sentiment.
Another random anecdote about PETA that makes me want to barf: One time I was watching Keeping up with the Kardashians (I know, I know) and Khloe was asked to post nude for PETA in the 'I'd rather go naked than wear fur' campaign. She went to discuss it with some PETA chick and the woman showed her these horrible videos of people killing animals for fur and basically pressured Khloe into doing the nude shoot. Afterward there was this voiceover where Khloe is weighing her options and says something along the lines of 'I'm not really comfortable posing nude, but what else can I do? I have to do it for the animals. I have no choice.' UM WHAT? Why is posing nude the ONLY option for saving animals, especially if you have money like a Kardashian? But the PETA woman made her feel that way. It made me sick.
Ames — July 23, 2010
Love all this analysis and debate, but PETA is just using the trope everyone else has been using to great effect: "SEXXXXXX!!!! Oh, and now that we got your attention, it's very hot to not eat meat, and Pamela might f--- you if you don't, or at least you'll be a rily, rily, great guy. We promise. Women will f--- you if you don't eat meat. Hey, dude, women will f--- you if you PRETEND to not eat meat! How great is that?!?1?1?1?1?"
Want to get it all clear in your mind? Watch Idiocracy on network teevee with the commercials running. It all becomes perfectly clear. No analysis needed!
Lillian Hellman — July 23, 2010
Besides being sexist and objectifying and everything we've come to expect by PETA's PR people, the primal cuts are all wrong. They're confusing beef and chicken, and the "leg" should be the shank. They're also missing the tenderloin, which everybody knows is the best part.
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hauked — December 8, 2010
They don't care for animals either. They care a lot for money though.
carnivor — February 9, 2011
I think the pic of Pamela looks great. I would love to tuck into a nice bit of her thigh steak or perhaps her rump roast! Yum
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