Often when we have an image related to PETA we add it to one of our existing posts, since they tend to be similar–mostly sexualizing women or showing them as bloody meat. But Jessica B. and Dmitriy T.M. told us about a PETA billboard that takes a different angle, and I thought it was worth its very own post:


Found at The Huffington Post.

This is just…ugh. Erg. !!! ??? !!!

I’m sorry, but that’s the most coherent I can be about this. I’m sure our commenters will be able to make more useful points about it.

Well, ok, I have one more thought: the implication is that being a vegetarian will automatically make you lose weight. That’s just dumb, or more likely intentionally misleading.

UPDATE: Anomie let me know that there’s at least one version about men (found here):


Two more examples with men here.

Related posts: women in (fake) lettuce bikinis, Dutch animal rights ad shows stripper brutally murdered, not sexualizing older women, PETA ad banned from Superbowl, women as bloody packaged meat, Holocaust on Your Plate campaign, using domestic violence to oppose animal abuse, Christina Applegate naked, more naked celebrities, and leftist balkanization.

Associations of black people with monkeys and apes have been used for centuries to make them seem less-than-human and justify hatred and exploitation.  This associations continue to be propagated (e,g., here, here, and here).  This week Costco pulled the black “Lil’ Monkey” baby doll from its shelves, along with its white “Pretty Panda” counterpart, as a result of protests that it was racist.


As you can see, the black doll has on a hat that says “lil’ monkey,” is surrounded by products that have monkeys on them, as well as a stuffed monkey.  A peeled banana points at the child’s mouth.

Here is the white counterpart, the “Pretty Panda” doll:


The manufacturer of the dolls is claiming that there was no intention to be racist.  Specifically, they argued:

We don’t think in that way. We don’t operate in that kind of thinking.

Social psychologists have shown, robustly, that any given member of a society, even those who are the target of negative stereotypes, will hold pre-conscious stereotypical beliefs common in that society.  (If you’d like to test your own unconscious biases, and see aggregate test results of others, I highly recommend Harvard’s Project Implicit.)

The fact that we are all racist already, whether we like it or not, is the point that the manufacturer completely misses.  They do think in that way.  We all do.  Not thinking in that way consciously doesn’t mean that racism didn’t play a role in the manufacturing of a black Lil’ Monkey doll.  In fact, their defense actually makes things worse.  Their refusal to think about racism, in favor of a defensive reaction, is as racist as the doll itself.  We can’t fight racism unless we’re prepared to admit that we hold unconscious biases.

By the way, in my opinion, the proper response should have been: “Oh hell, we messed up bad. You are absolutely right. We are really bleeping sorry,” but with stronger curse words. And also: “Can I say I’m sorry again? In addition to racist, we were profoundly insensitive to centuries of violent hatred… and it is simply not okay.”

UPDATE: Commenters alerted me to alternative media coverage that made it clear that “Pretty Panda” and “Lil’ Monkey” dolls both came in black, white, and “Hispanic”:



I’m not sure why none of the media coverage I came across noted this.

In any case, I think this raises an even more interesting question: Does the history of associating black people with primates, and I will refer you again to this post, actually make any product that does so problematic?  Does the fact that the doll comes in white and Hispanic erase any concerns about the fact that the black doll exists?

As usual, our readers are quick to ask difficult questions and this discussion is already well under way in the comments.  What do you think?

Images from here, here, and here, via Resist Racism.

UPDATE: Comments on this post have been closed.


Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

AdFreak drew my attention to a South African liqueur called Wild Africa Cream.  The advertising suggests that drinking it will “unleash your wild side.”


We have posted before about the tendency to associate black people, especially black women, with animals (see here, here, here, and here), as well as the historical roots of this discourse.  But, in this case, the advertising uses both black and white, male and female models.





I think what is interesting here is the association of Africa itself with animalism and primitiveness (an association that no doubt also colors our thinking about black people).  (Notice that the first and only Disney film to be set in Africa, The Lion King, included only animals.)  Catherine MacKinnon coined the term “anachronistic space” to refer to the idea that different parts of the globe represent different historical periods.  See other examples of representing Africa in this way here, here, here, and here.

In line with this tendency to think in this way, in this advertising it’s almost as if black Africans are meant to represent white humans’ own more primitive past (ergo the drink “unleashing your wild side,” whoever you are).

I like to point out to my students that Americans are not more modern than Africans (purposefully eliding the abstract meaning of “modern” in a way that tends to surprise them out of their easy associations).  It is 2009 there, also, and human evolution has progress no further from the “wild” in either place.


Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Animals Awake, a Dutch organization for animals akin to PETA in the U.S., “takes a page from [their] playbook,” according to David at Adfreak.   This commercial, in which a stripper is brutally murdered in front of a live audience, is so shocking that my first I thought was that it was a parody. It’s not.

Major major major trigger warning:


The critique, of course, is that Animals Awake is contributing to an atmosphere in which violence against women is ubiquitous (see Jezebel, for example).  But I actually think that this commercial works in that we are (I hope) genuinely horrified by the murder at the end.  I don’t think it normalizes violence against women like so many other ads/media/products do (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here for examples).

BUT it does normalize the connection between violence and sex.  There is absolutely no reason why the person murdered in this ad had to a stripper.  There is no reason to spend the first half of the commercial titillating us, only to have it suddenly turned into a horror show.  There’s absolutely no connection.  But because sex and violence are so frequently linked in the American imagination, it actually took me a few minutes of thinking about it to remember that.  And I’m kind of horrified that, in my mind, sex and violence go together like peas and carrots.  This ad only reinforces that connection.

Sorry I made you watch it.

More images of sexualized violence here, here, here, here, here, here, here here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Here’s another PSA, this one from the U.K., with exactly the same idea.

UPDATE: In the comments, jeffliveshere points out that the commercial is based on a pun:

I agree that the sex and violence connection is unnecessary–but, to be clear, there is wordplay involved–“stripping fish” is apparently a technical term for removing the guts of fish…

Okay, so maybe there isn’t “absolutely no connection.” Even so?


Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Feminist scholars argue that patriarchy relies not just on a hierarchy that places men above women, but a hierarchy of men that punishes men who don’t obey rules of masculinity.

An advertising campaign for Oberto Beef Jerky, sent in by Kate S., nicely illustrates the threat to men if they don’t comply with patriarchy.


The threat is: If you’re not an “Alpha,” then you’re a “Sidekick.”


The Alpha is first; the Sidekick is second. The Alpha gets served; the Sidekick serves. The Alpha gets the hot chick; the Sidekick gets the “ugly friend.” The Alpha makes the decisions; the Sidekick takes them.

In one part of the website, it actually encourages you to “establish your dominance.”   It features taunting emails and cards that you can send to your friends to trick them into looking like idiots/being your sidekick.

UPDATE: In the comments thread, Toban B. (T B) had a really nice observation:

As Murray Bookchin has written, language about ‘alpha males’ naturalizes hierarchy.

Bookchin highlights how people have conflated animal and insect interactions (e.g. ‘queen’ bees) with societal structures created by humans — as opposed to the far more instinctual of relations of non-human creatures.  (For Bookchin, there is a continuum between humans and other life forms, so these distinctions aren’t binaries.)  Basically, the point here is that if human hierarchies are the same as instinctual hierarchies (e.g. interactions with a lion ‘king’), then the human hierarchies must be just as natural and inevitable — which just isn’t the case.

Joanne suggests, further, that humans, invested in patriarchy and hierarchy, actually project it onto the natural world:

Using the terms “alpha” and “dominance” just reinforces the belief that nature exists within a patriarchal, hierarchical model.  It actually doesn’t.  I do a lot of work with horses, researching and observing the horse-human relationship, and this whole idea of “dominance” is one that has started with and is kept alive by the patriarchal worldview of Western culture.  Many observers of animal behavior are brought up in and continue to live in that worldview, so they impose it on animals and the natural world.  If you step outside of that worldview, what you find in the natural world is something entirely different.


Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

And while we’re at it…

Another theme re-emerged among the safer sex ads that Julie C. pointed us to: the use of insects arachnids and reptiles to symbolize sexually transmitted infectiousness (you might have already seen a preview here).

After the jump, partly because of the creepiness factor:


Food & Water Watch has an interesting interactive map that allows you to click on states and see how many factory farms it has per county, broken down into cattle (meaning beef, I assume), hogs, dairy, broilers, and layers (the last two are both chickens). You can look at number of facilities or number of animals. Here’s a screenshot of the number of cattle containment facilities in the U.S.:


Factory farms were identified using Census of Agriculture data and counting those that “best match the Environmental Protection Agency’s definition for a confined animal feeding operation…” based on the following guidelines:


There’s a very detailed description of the methodology available here and an explanation of the maps here.

Pris S. sent in an ad that ran in the Collegiate Times, the Virginia Tech campus newspaper:


Of course, it’s a great example of advertising making people feel as though they aren’t sufficiently attractive so they’ll buy a product. But it’s also interesting because it’s an example of a cosmetic procedure that is increasingly marketed to men as well as women. Women do get laser hair removal, obviously, but so do men. Our standards of male attractiveness increasingly demand control of body hair. Hairy backs and shoulders are a source of ridicule. I have known several men who felt very self-conscious about their body hair, some of whom shaved or waxed some of it. Even chest hair is questionable; most images of shirtless men (in ads, pin-ups, calendars, etc.) show very little chest hair. The “man-0-lantern” chest-waxing scene in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” of course used men’s concern about body hair for comedic effect.

The other thing that’s interesting here is the connection between having body hair (which, as far as I can tell from the ad, could include just about any type, including pubic hair) with being an “ape,” as though we should be ashamed of the fact that we are, in fact, mammals who have varying amounts of body hair. I suspect that it’s also part of the caveman stereotype–having lots of body hair is sort of associated with being less civilized, less fully human or modern. It’s also a beauty standard that is certainly going to be harder for some groups, those that tend to have more and/or darker body hair, to meet, which could bring up some interesting discussions about whose bodies are considered attractive, etc.

Thanks, Pris!

NEW: Andrea G. sent in a link to the line of Mangroomer products, which include electric shavers for back, nose/ear, and “private” hair:



These would be great for discussion new standards of male attractiveness–which increasingly pressure men to shave body and pubic hair, though not their legs or armpit hair, since that type of shaving is girly!–and also as an example of gendered marketing. Notice the very sciency-techy element to the website, with the graph-type lines in the background, the “swoosh” sounds, and so on.

Andrea also sent in this Nads commercial, in which we learn that the product saved a woman from a life of misery, since neighborhood children taunted her for having a beard:

It’s a great example of the social construction of bodies: we think it’s gross when women have beards, but at least in theory okay when men have them. Of course certain groups, such as Mormons, discourage men from growing beards, and in general full beards are relatively uncommon in the U.S. today and might be seen as unprofessional or otherwise inappropriate in some situations. But men usually won’t be openly mocked for growing hair on their faces (Joaquin Phoenix’s recent transformation aside), whereas for a woman, allowing hair to grow and be visible on her face would be socially unacceptable.

Thanks, Andrea!