Sunday, April 5, 2009

PETA: Turning Over A New Leaf?

PETA as an organization has a repeated and varied history of being sexist, racist, and classist (and oftentimes combining two or more of those), along with being generally unsympathetic to humans in their epic quest to save the animals. They are an example of a "Greater Good" organization, seeming to believe that turning women into sex objects (again and again - and again), dressing up like the Klu Klux Klan, linking murder and cannibalism to slaughterhouses, and equating factory farming with the Holocaust is justifiable in seeking to codify the ethical treatment of animals. A huge problem with this type of campaign is that it equates people who already occupy a lower position in society, people who have historically been considered or compared to animals, people who in many cases still are, with animals - and expects this to be revolutionary and educational.

And yet, there is a recent PETA ad that isn't controversial, that doesn't seem to be sexist, and that is almost... cool. Cloris Leachman is featured in a new PETA ad, clad in a fabulous cabbage dress:


While I don't know that this ad will make anyone suddenly become a vegetarian, I do think it is beautiful, and beautifully done. Leachman looks strong, and powerful. The dress itself looks like a work of art. As an individual ad, I think this is a win. It is a good use of a celebrity; it isn't outwardly sexist, or racist, or classist. It is noncombative, and still visually interesting. It has the added benefit of being reminiscent of Austin Scarlett's Corn Husk dress from the first seaon of Project Runway (only less dried out):


And yet, Ophelia over at Feminocracy wonders whether or not this ad is an example of ageism:
Placing Cloris in a lettuce dress reaffirms the sentiment behind their previous ads–that the female body is meant for consumption, and when that body begins to show age, it must be covered to protect our sensibilities (however, it is worth note that the dress conforms to her figure–so they’ve got to have their sexy factor in there).

In terms of PETA's history, I think the hypothesis is worthy of examination. As much as I love this ad for its individual merits, its place within the pantheon of PETA ads warrants extra attention. After all, PETA has called women 'hags' before, and with every other sexist and racist action, questioning why Cloris Leachman in particular - out of all of the women featured in PETA ads - gets the full body cover is valid. It isn't that I want Cloris Leachman to be objectified or nude in the ad; I suspect Ophelia does not want that either. However, while this may seem to be a way a marginalized body wins out when it comes to objectification, it instead reinforces the idea that after a certain age women become undesirable or asexual. It plays into the way we view how women age; how women become undervalued as their skin wrinkles and their hair grays. Men become 'distinguished' and women become 'old'. It is a familiar trope in everything from business to film; Nicholas Cage can be a viable romantic partner for Jessica Biel, but a friend of mine had a problem with Cher being considered a viable romantic partner for Cage when a mutual friend attempted to show her Moonstruck. The difference between Nicholas Cage and Jessica Biel? 18 years. The difference between Nicholas Cage and Cher? 17 years. This isn't to pick on that friend, because the older man being a logical love interest is fairly common. After all, Sean Connery was a leading man through 1999, when he played opposite Catherine Zeta-Jones in Entrapment; she is 40 years his junior. Meanwhile, women in films become mothers. Sally Field played Tom Hanks' mother in Forest Gump; she is only 10 years his senior.

However, ageism doesn't seem to be the case in this instance with Cloris Leachman. A couple of other ads similar to Leachman's were also made by PETA, one featuring Alyssa Milano:


and Pippa Black:

Both dresses show a bit more skin than Leachman's. They're both more flirtatious (and I kind of covet that pepper necklace Black is wearing), but all of the cabbage dresses are reminiscent of formal wear. 

The problem comes with the promotion featuring Alicia Mayer:


While the others are stylized ads, this one does just seems to be a candid photo much in the vein of PETA's usual publicity protests. The others are of white women. This ad is of a Filipino woman. I don't think we can ignore that aspect of the overt and specific sexualization contained in this image versus the sexy but not exploitive pictures of the other three. This could just be a product of the different environments. But this isn't the only picture treating women of color differently than their white counterparts. The same kind of ad as the Cloris Leachman, Alyssa Milano and Pippa Black ads features the model Kadra:

Her outfit is once again in a different league than the white women who are also focused upon. This demonstrates a similar kind of distinction between the ads Ophelia was concerned with in regard to the Cloris Leachman ad. Different categories of women are being treated differently by PETA. And that difference is incredibly problematic. It is again a reminder of the different ways women are sexualized, and how minority women are oftentimes over sexualized. The ads are a serious issue, no matter how much I like the Leachman, Milano, and Black ads. In the light of other PETA ads, these seem to recognize that their treatment of white women was an issue; but they continue to pull the same old sexist crap in relation to women of color. And it leads to this question: if the way white women are portrayed is changed, why continue framing other women in the previous fashion? Why create a series of ads with different visual stimuli? Why not place all of the women featured in vegetable formal wear, or all of the women in vegetable bathing suits? I doubt PETA could offer a cognizant explanation for the differences.

26 comments:

MediaMaven said...

I will never understand PETA.

I take exception, though, to the criticism directed toward Cloris Leachman and her ad. Pippa Black and Alyssa Milano aren’t showing that much more skin than Leachman is, and the fact that Leachman’s dress is form-fitting and gorgeous, and Leachman herself looks great, disproves that she “must be covered to protect our sensibilities”. All the dresses are in the same style, in terms of length and cut, so this argument doesn’t wash here. Those three ads aren’t sexy in an overt, vulgar way, the way the other ads are, which is why I don’t dislike them. As you say, those ads are “a win”. I don’t see a problem with making the girls in ads attractive; most of us, when photographed, want to look attractive, and those ads are done in a classy, cool way. The ads featuring Leachman, Black, and Milano are all done well, and I see no reason to single out Leachman’s treatment, and in fact salute PETA (this one time), for using her in addition to the other women. Why PETA did not have the entire ad campaign based around those photos and incorporate the other women is beyond me, and just illustrates their wacked-out thinking and terrible management.

Truthfully, I dislike large age gaps in romantic couples, no matter who is older, and I mock twenty-five year-old men for dating eighteen-year old girls just as much as I do forty-five year-old women dating 32 year-old men. In Moonstruck, for me, the pairing just seemed off. Maybe it was shallow—Cher, with her gray and white streaks, looked far too grandmotherly to me, especially in comparison to Cage. And the rest of the romantic storyline (which I don’t remember at all) just didn’t compensate for the all-around oddity of the pairing.

petpluto said...

"I take exception, though, to the criticism directed toward Cloris Leachman and her ad."

To be fair to Ophelia, though, I don't think she saw the rest of the ads. I did some investigating because I wanted to see if there had been any previous "Let Vegetarianism Grow On You" ads, and there were. But I don't think she was aware of that at the time. Given that, I don't think it was wrong to wonder if Leachman was treated differently given her age. It was proved that she wasn't, and maybe Ophelia should have googled to find other ads before that to double check, but I understand the gut reaction to think that PETA was probably not on the up and up.

"In Moonstruck, for me, the pairing just seemed off. Maybe it was shallow—Cher, with her gray and white streaks, looked far too grandmotherly to me, especially in comparison to Cage."

They don't tell you how old Ronny is supposed to be in Moonstruck, though. You assumed that the age of the actors transferred over to the age of the characters they were playing, which isn't necessarily true. After all, Loretta was only supposed to be 37 in the film. Which is part of why I found it funny. That, and I think Moonstruck is positively brilliant.

John said...

I think the reason they gave Cloris Leachman the dress they did is because she's known to be a classy dame, in a way that Alyssa Milano, Pippa Black and Alicia Mayer are not explicitly known to be. Putting her in Alicia Mayer's outfit would look downright strange because we KNOW Cloris Leachman would never be caught dead wearing something so trashy.

Also, that Alicia Mayer ad looks like a cheap knock-off done by a competitor or fan. And the Kadra one is just plain odd. Why the low production values and decidedly different visual style, PETA?

MediaMaven said...

Cloris Leachman's dress is, and I hesitate to say this, "age-appropriate". I'm not advocating strict age-based guidelines nor the idea that older women should wear mom jeans and mumuus, but that one should wear clothing that fits and looks well but also meshes with the person's personality, body, and stage of life. Having Cloris Leachman wear a short dress a low neckline would look downright strange. It's the same premise as if a 8 year-old also wore a short dress with a low neckline.

I don't want to get into a debate about Moonstruck, mainly because I don't remember the movie at all. True, I probably shouldn't assume that the characters are the same age as actors, but unless explicitly told, I'm going to base the ages on how old the actors appear to be. How else am I to judge? So Jennifer Aniston's character in He's Just Not That Into You is in her mid-late 30s (I vaguely remember hearing she turned 40 recently, but that was after I saw the movie), while Ginnifer Goodwin is in her mid-20s. Casting directors routinely mess with age, which is why so many teen dramas are staffed by adults a good half-decade older than their characters.

The opposite works the other way, too. My brother and I were both astounded that Demetri Martin is 35. I swore he was 27 or 28!

MediaMaven said...

Maybe Cloris Leachman had some decisions over the dress as well.

And I understand your point regarding Ophelia, but I still feel that that her ad on its own merit absolutely disproves the notion that they are trying to hide her away and cover her up because of her age. After all, even she concedes she looks "sexy". Without knowing PETA's history, it seems unfair to go into the viewing of the ad with the assumption that they will treat her wrongly--that's looking for something that doesn't exist. It's biased thinking.

petpluto said...

"True, I probably shouldn't assume that the characters are the same age as actors, but unless explicitly told, I'm going to base the ages on how old the actors appear to be. How else am I to judge?

Well, I don't know how meaningful it is to put an exact year on a character; but I also think that even if not explicitly told, there are implicit signals in a lot of cases and oftentimes film is more about getting wrapped up in the characters and the plot than it is about the actors playing those characters - unless it is a bad movie. When I pop in a film, I usually have no clue as to the age of the actors, and I think that helps. Like:

My brother and I were both astounded that Demetri Martin is 35. I swore he was 27 or 28!

I have no clue who that is.

Without knowing PETA's history, it seems unfair to go into the viewing of the ad with the assumption that they will treat her wrongly--that's looking for something that doesn't exist. It's biased thinking.

I think Ophelia does know PETA's history, and knowledge of that history is what informed her reading of this particular image. What Ophelia seems not to have had is knowledge of this particular campaign. I think Leachman's is the first one of this series Ophelia has seen, which would put it in stark contrast to a vast majority of other PETA ads/demonstrations that primarily use nude or semi-nude women to get their point across. As a contrast to that, Leachman's image doesn't exactly flow. I think Ophelia's wrong, due to Milano's and Black's pictures; but I don't think she was wrong to be biased against PETA. There are many reasons to view what they do with suspicion.

MediaMaven said...

I had meant to say that whether or not one knew PETA's history, going into the image thinking negatively of the ad is still biased thinking. You're purposely trying to find something that backs up your point when there is evidence to the contrary.

Demetri Martin is a comedian. He (to me) looks like he is in his late twenties, which is not the case. His show, Important Things, premiered on Comedy Central a few weeks ago.

Well, I don't know how meaningful it is to put an exact year on a character; but I also think that even if not explicitly told, there are implicit signals in a lot of cases and oftentimes film is more about getting wrapped up in the characters and the plot than it is about the actors playing those characters - unless it is a bad movie.

Age is not something I always think about when watching something, but there are times when it does cross my mind, through either cues in the story or the absence of them. And sometimes the age--or relative age--of the characters is important. The context of the film should provide guidance, especially when the casting is off the mark. Teen shows, for example, get away with hiring older actors because the audience is specifically told how old the characters are by the setting and other external factors, yet even then (are they 17, 18, juniors, seniors?) there often isn't clarification when there should be.

petpluto said...

I had meant to say that whether or not one knew PETA's history, going into the image thinking negatively of the ad is still biased thinking. You're purposely trying to find something that backs up your point when there is evidence to the contrary.

I don't necessarily think that is true. I don't think there is a problem with recognizing past behavior and using it as a rubric for judging current actions. If the organization in question has given you ample reason to distrust them in the past (opposed to just having no reason to trust it), then I think it makes sense to look at the ad and say, "Why is this one different from the others?"

The truth is, PETA has a history of sexist, racist, classist advertising. And I think that should definitely be taken into account when their new advertising comes out, and if it deviates from the norm it makes sense to ask questions as to why it does.

Since PETA has such a bad track record, I don't think it is wrong to think, "Where's the catch?" They've been so bad for so long that question immediately pops into mind. It turns out that the ads really weren't bad, and were even good (or, the ads featuring the white women were). But I do think it is important to ask the questions - and then possibly come up with another issue entirely.

mikhailbakunin said...

Doesn’t Ophelia’s faulty conclusion show that there is a problem with making assumptions based on past behavior?

petpluto said...

"Doesn’t Ophelia’s faulty conclusion show that there is a problem with making assumptions based on past behavior?"

I think Ophelia's conclusion demonstrates there is a problem with reaching a firm stance without first doing a bit of research. Looking at this ad in particular and thinking, "Well, it's good that PETA's covering up their models" could be missing part of the picture - and it was, just not the part Ophelia focused on. I don't think an organization such as PETA gets an automatic check in the box, given their history. I think it is important to not give them the benefit of the doubt and think they've suddenly seen the error of their ways. I also think that teh Google is a brilliant tool, and it could clear up any issues of ageism right away; but having the suspicion that PETA could have moved from sexism, racism, and classism to ageism is not a bad way to read problematic organizations' advertisements.

I don't believe in clean slates in this regard. I don't think we can take PETA ads individually, and I think it is important to go into an ad like this with the recognition that something else could be happening. I also think it is important to do the research. I have no problem with Ophelia questioning this ad, because I did as well - and my questioning only happened because of what I know about the organization in question. My only problem comes in when she stops short of trying to find out if this ad was only utilized in Leachman's case or if it was an actual campaign.

On the other hand, it gave me a blog post when I've been suffering from writer's block, so from a 'benefit of me' perspective I'm also kind of cool with it!

mikhailbakunin said...

I realize this isn’t the focus of your post, but I think that calling PETA’s ads “sexist” or “racist” kind of misses the point.

Often, PETA’s goal in producing these ads is to compare the objectification of people to the objectification of animals – trying to link racism or sexism to “species-ism.”

When confronted with accusations of sexism or racism, Ingrid Newkirk – the founder of PETA – usually says things like:

“If you're against violence, domination, slavery, and the abuse of the vulnerable . . . [but] you only believe that women should be treated with respect and not as chattel because you're a woman . . . then you have a very narrow and selfish perspective that has nothing to do with the fundamental principle.”

I don’t agree with Newkirk, but it seems a bit disingenuous for PETA opponents to label these ads “sexist” or “racist” without acknowledging that they’re intended to provoke this reaction. PETA doesn’t see the ads as racist – they see you as “species-ist” for making a distinction between human suffering and animal suffering.

This is the philosophical framework for the animal rights movement. So, I think that simply calling these ads “racist” without addressing PETA’s purpose in creating them is sidestep the larger issue.

If you want to attack PETA, you have to explain why there is a distinction between racism and “species-ism.” You can’t just take that for granted. Many of these ads are supposed to be overtly sexist or racist – not only to grab headlines, but also to generate discussion about moral equivalence.

Of course, PETA does sometimes objectify people for no good reason. A great example is the “Sexiest Vegetarian Next Door” contest – but this contest features both male and female contestants.

...

I’m also interested in how you define the term “sexism.” PETA claims that the women who pose nude for them typically approach the organization, offering to “use their bodies” to advance the cause.

Whether or not this is true, I was wondering if you think it’s always sexist for a woman (or a man, for that matter) to promote her political agenda in this way?

petpluto said...

PETA doesn’t see the ads as racist – they see you as “species-ist” for making a distinction between human suffering and animal suffering.

I'm just going to address this quickly, because I am at work, but the reason I call PETA sexist and racist is that their ads often utilize already marginalized bodies - bodies we as a society see as being less, or who's suffering we take less into account - and then draw a line between those bodies and animals. They use women and minorities as a way of illustrating how animals are treated without taking into account that many minorities have been historically compared to animals, and women in general have occupied a lower position in society and treated as less than men.

It is therefore not only not revolutionary to equate women and minorities with the suffering of animals, it also reinforces that reading of those marginalized bodies. There is nothing revolutionary about putting an African American in an outfit reminiscent of an animal; they have already been coded as animals for far too long in American history for that to be in any way jarring.

There are far less PETA ads that utlize men, and less still that utilize white men. There are distinctions even then between how they pose men in ads versus how they pose women in ads. Men are given active poses, strong poses, and take up much more of the image. A man nude in a PETA ad still occupies a position of power, whereas a woman in a PETA ad tends to still follow the sexually alluring, passive images women tend to occupy in our society.

This is very much a problem, and why their ads are sexist and racist, no matter what Ms. Newkirk says.

For an organization seeking to limit the suffering of animals, they refuse to take into consideration how their own framing of marginalized bodies can hurt those bodies - or how seeing people dressed up as the Klu Klux Klan may be triggering or how continuing to equate the deaths of 11 million people in Nazi camps because those people were seen as animals to animals could continue to hurt those bodies still underprivileged by society.

I’m also interested in how you define the term “sexism.” PETA claims that the women who pose nude for them typically approach the organization, offering to “use their bodies” to advance the cause.

One, I think PETA needs to rethink how naked bodies help them and their cause. But two, this strikes me very much of the "That isn't racist/sexist/heterosexist because I've got black/women/gay friends" persuation of thought.

There are always going to be women who will disrobe for something. That's how Girls Gone Wild is so popular. But as an organization that is seeking to raise up the value of animals in society, I think they should at the very least acknowledge how using nudity in the fashion they tend to reinforces the lower position women hold in society. I said above that a huge problem with PETA is how they choose to frame the various images - how men are used so much less than women, how women are placed in passive poses - and that is a huge problem. If they didn't continually reinforce the dominant themes of society when it comes to different bodies - men versus women, white versus POC - then I do think that nudity isn't always sexism.

I would point to the musical HAIR and what its use of nudity represents as a counterpoint. I don't find that sexist, both because men and women are represented and because the men and women aren't sexualized in order to get the message across. It is the way PETA uses nudity - and the way they use other methods - that strike of sexism and racism.

petpluto said...

One more thing about PETA's sexism -

I often find PETA's ads sexist because they are constructed with the male gaze in mind. There are virtual stripping games on-line, and there are the nude ads in alluring poses. Their Anti-Fur ads are more like Brooke Shields' old "Nothing Gets Between Me and My Calvins" ad than not. This not only presupposes that men are the target audience (ignoring the fact that PETA supporters tend to be women), but it also does something I'm not too fond of, and something that the "Girls Say 'Yes' To Boys Who Say 'Obama'" ad did: it makes women and women's bodies the reward for male change in behavior. It makes it so the reason to become a vegetarian (or vegan, or animal rights activist) is to see naked chicks. And I'm frankly pissed that women are still being used as currency, as commodities, in this way.

If PETA can't make its case without giving the general impression that women are there for men's enjoyment, then it is inherently sexist.

MediaMaven said...

There are many problems with Ophelia’s post, one being that even though she questions Leachman’s ad on the basis of PETA’s problematic history, she has no evidence to back up her point. The ad on its own doesn’t support her conclusions, which she wants to draw based on PETA’s past ad campaigns. The fact that she didn’t do her research here is a secondary concern. My problem is that Ophelia’s conclusions are taken as fact despite evidence to the contrary—and she contradicts herself with the “sexy” comment. In short, she didn’t deliver a full argument.

PETA doesn’t need to be lauded for covering up their models, but an acknowledgment that they changed tactics and that this ad doesn’t follow in their usual (or the usual) standard of beauty/nudity/etc found in either their campaigns or in the culture at large would be far better than automatically attacking based on what could be an issue.

It’s like Bill O’Reilly attacking Eminem’s video for “We Made You” as being sexist based on previous beefs without bothering to view the video in context.

I don't think we can take PETA ads individually, and I think it is important to go into an ad like this with the recognition that something else could be happening.

Hmm. I believe things should be looked in context, but what if PETA is trying to change? I have no proof of this, but it is possible that PETA might be rethinking strategy, or at least that’s something that I hope will happen eventually, possibly with new management or advisors. The Leachman ad can and should be viewed on its own merits and as part of a larger campaign—I can definitely see how one image can ruin an entire campaign because of some oversight, or how it can misrepresent something (even if positively done).

This not only presupposes that men are the target audience (ignoring the fact that PETA supporters tend to be women), but it also does something I'm not too fond of, and something that the "Girls Say 'Yes' To Boys Who Say 'Obama'" ad did: it makes women and women's bodies the reward for male change in behavior. It makes it so the reason to become a vegetarian (or vegan, or animal rights activist) is to see naked chicks.

Who is PETA’s target audience? Women seem to be the ones who care about this issue, and tend to make the biggest fuss, from the little I’ve seen, and that’s because they tend to inflame feminist beliefs. It seems that they are trying to get men’s attention, and to do it in the most eye-catching way possible—naked girls—which also pushes away who would most likely be their target audience. The reward here is too high-minded, too theoretical. There’s not a direct link in terms of consumer behavior that I see between naked girls and treat animals humanely.

mikhailbakunin said...

Yeah, I’m not sure that men are PETA's target audience; I think these ads are generally geared toward women.

Women tend to dominate the ranks of PETA; women react most publicly to PETA’s campaigns; PETA’s ads and articles are often featured prominently in women’s media outlets. Even the much-panned Alicia Silverstone PSA was kind of – I hesitate to say – girly. And the ads that I think are sexist and offensive – like the “Fir Trim” ad – are clearly directed at women.

Many of the most-ridicule ads – the “Milk Gone Wild” video, for example – are satire of something else that is sexist.

Again, the argument that these ads are “treating women like meat” seems to be missing the point.

The purpose of these ads is clearly to show that if we oppose this kind of objectification toward women or minorities, we should also oppose the objectification of animals. PETA doesn’t support treating animals as less than humans – so, their ads likening humans to animals don’t really mean what Ophelia implies. They’re interested in raising animals to the ethical level of people, not lowering people to the ethical level of animals.

PETA uses “marginalized bodies” because they’re trying to parlay social opposition to sexism and racism into social opposition to “species-ism.”

I understand that this is offensive to certain marginalized groups. But consider that many black Americans who oppose gay marriage are highly offended by comparisons between the Civil Rights Movement and the Gay Rights Movement. The fact that they are offended doesn’t make the comparisons any more or less accurate.

petpluto said...

PETA uses “marginalized bodies” because they’re trying to parlay social opposition to sexism and racism into social opposition to “species-ism.”

But they are still perpetuating racist and sexist memes to do so. In effect, they are ruining their own campaign if that is the message they want to send. What is their message? "Aren't these ads offensive due to their sexist/racist imagery? Yeah? Well, think about the animals!" It's bullshit. There are better ways to draw attention to animal rights without utilizing images that are highly offensive and that continue the marginalization of the very groups of people they use. That just pisses off would be supporters.

Yeah, I’m not sure that men are PETA's target audience; I think these ads are generally geared toward women.

I think the stripping game and the rejected Super Bowl ad are definitely geared toward men. I suspect some of the other ads, like those using Dita Von Teese are as well.

I understand that this is offensive to certain marginalized groups.

It isn't that it is offensive (though it is). It is that it perpetuates these specific ways of seeing these specific bodies.

PETA doesn’t support treating animals as less than humans – so, their ads likening humans to animals don’t really mean what Ophelia implies. They’re interested in raising animals to the ethical level of people, not lowering people to the ethical level of animals.

Why don't they use men more often, then? Why do they follow societal norms when depicting women? Why are men and women sexualized differently in PETA ads? That's my problem with PETA. They use the people who are most often lower on the ethical treatment totem pole, and use them in the ways they are lower. It is like a hipster kid using racist language to be 'ironic'. At the end of the day, it's still a racist statement, and at the end of the day, PETA's ads are still representative of the sexist and racist imagery they seek to utilize to further their cause.

I'm not against animal rights (though I think the people of PETA are whackjobs). I'm against throwing other groups under the bus in an attempt to gain rights for animals.

There are many problems with Ophelia’s post, one being that even though she questions Leachman’s ad on the basis of PETA’s problematic history, she has no evidence to back up her point. The ad on its own doesn’t support her conclusions

I think absent the rest of the "Let Vegetarianism Grow on You" campaign, the ad would seem to support Ophelia's conclusions. That doesn't mean that Ophelia's conclusion would be automatically correct or that it wouldn't be subject to other interpretations - like my own beginning thought of the ad being extremely cool. But her interpretation of the ad would have more teeth. If the Leachman ad was all there was in contrast to many, many nude PETA ads, then I could see there being possible ageist concerns. I also think there should be an option for PETA changing tactics, but being on guard while being optimistic, expecting the worst and hoping for the best, wouldn't be out of line.

PETA doesn’t need to be lauded for covering up their models, but an acknowledgment that they changed tactics and that this ad doesn’t follow in their usual (or the usual) standard of beauty/nudity/etc found in either their campaigns or in the culture at large would be far better than automatically attacking based on what could be an issue.

I think that depends; I wouldn't want to give credit too soon, but I also wouldn't want to shut down conversation right away. In terms of this ad campaign (if this were the first ad or if I didn't Google), I personally would have had the initial response of "This could be ageist, I'm throwing that possibility of that out there; and I'm waiting for other ads in this particular campaign to compare it to. However, it being ageist is my initial impression". That way, all the bases would be covered.

MediaMaven said...

To be honest, I was never much aware of PETA until confronted by arguments and debate from the two of you. I never thought of their reasoning behind their campaigns. I find the angle of “raising animals to the ethical level of people, not lowering people to the ethical level of animals” and the tactic of social opposition to sexism and racism as analogous to social opposition to species-ism interesting, but one that is too high-minded, abstract, and too easily misinterpreted to be effective. PETA, due to their hard-lined stance and questionable tactics, also undermines their own message a lot of the time.

MediaMaven said...

How is the ad ageist? Leachman looks pretty proud to me, even regal—as John put it, a “classy dame.” I guess this falls under different interpretations, as I did not see it at all like she is being covered, hidden away, nor that she is meant to be eaten. The vegetable-like cloth or design of the dress did not scream out at me; I didn’t recognize it as being cabbage, nor of any vegetable in particular. This is probably because I merely viewed the version on your post. I did notice the giant leaves on Alyssa Milano’s dress, though.

I don’t have a problem with the three ads, though; I don’t find them offensive, I find them pretty cool and creative, and had I run across them in a magazine, I would stop and contemplate the ad, probably impressed that they came from PETA.

mikhailbakunin said...

There are better ways to draw attention to animal rights without utilizing images that are highly offensive and that continue the marginalization of the very groups of people they use. That just pisses off would be supporters.

I agree that there are better ways for PETA to accomplish its goals. But PETA claims that these campaigns are often the most effective - mainly because they're so controversial. More provocative ads get people thinking about fundamental moral issues; they also garner more media coverage.

I don't think that these ads promote marginalization; quite the opposite. I do think that they turn people off.

Why don't they use men more often, then?

There are ads that feature men. But, again, PETA membership is predominantly female. I'd assume that most of the celebrities who offer to pose for these ads are female.

'm not against animal rights (though I think the people of PETA are whackjobs). I'm against throwing other groups under the bus in an attempt to gain rights for animals.

I am against animal rights. And I agree that the PETA people are nuts.

I find the angle of “raising animals to the ethical level of people, not lowering people to the ethical level of animals” and the tactic of social opposition to sexism and racism as analogous to social opposition to species-ism interesting, but one that is too high-minded, abstract, and too easily misinterpreted to be effective.

I absolutely agree with that.

james oh said...

We, at http://liftyouup.blogspot, do not understand PETA.

We do not like to condemn based on judgment, but rather un-rightneous. Whatsoever, we have done, we always give some benefits of doubts.

mikhailbakunin said...

Good point, James

Pet,

I was wondering if you think it's equally offensive when Peter Singer compares animals to black slaves, or when he compares apes to the mentally handicapped (another traditionally marginalized group).

Is there something about the nature of advertisements that makes these comparisons more offensive?

Singer points to traditionally marginalized groups precisely because these groups were treated inhumanely - just like animals. I don't think it would have the same emotional impact if Singer equated the suffering of animals to the suffering of white men.

I think you're right that if the KKK were to run these ads, the aim would be to dehumanize black slaves - and, ultimately, to diminish their suffering.

But it's not the KKK.

You have to place the ad in the context of PETA's larger argument, and that argument isn't racist by any means. In fact, it's an argument against marginalizing and dehumanizing certain groups. PETA is holding up the dehumanization of black slaves as an example something that's wrong - and that we should all recognize as wrong. That's the starting point.

james oh said...

We, at the http://liftyouup.blogspot.com, do not like to pass judgment on surface because we do not really know their true intention. Thing may not be true apparently and it may very misleading. Sometimes, people do not say what they mean, and don't mean what they said. Maybe they are really innocent and do not know what they really do.

petpluto said...

We, at the http://liftyouup.blogspot.com, do not like to pass judgment on surface because we do not really know their true intention.I like to pass judgement about anything and everything. That's why I blog.

james oh said...

I do respect your view, despite having totally view from yours. You have your point to let people to air and share their views/ thoughts for discussion and better understanding purpose. It is equally good so long as they do not let the bitterness to hold them back. I am so sorry for not make the point clear to you much earlier.

petpluto said...

It is equally good so long as they do not let the bitterness to hold them back. I am so sorry for not make the point clear to you much earlier.Don't worry about it. I was just engaging in some good natured snark. It's just my nature. Or my nurture. I really can't decide which.

james oh said...

Thanks for your kind understanding. I am glad that to know such a great blogger friend and being so honest to me. It is a great pleasure to know you. Thank and i am decided to sign up as your follower. God bless,