PETA’s Use of Women

PETA takes a lot of grief from the animal advocacy community and from feminists for its use of naked or sparsely clad women in its public events.  This blogger offers a contrasting view.  For my part, though I find the controversy surrounding PETA’s methods interesting and worth having, I worry that the resulting schisms in the animal advocacy community undermine the movement.

–David Cassuto

6 Responses

  1. I understand why people see this as an objectification of women, but at the same time I don’t. We often criticize other countries, religions, or cultures that require women to wear burkas, I assume under the theory that it doesn’t give women any choice and freedom of expression in what they choose to wear, yet at the same time we want to restrict women who choose not to wear anything at all. I always thought feminism stood for the principle that women should choose what they want and not be told by men how to act, dress, and think. So if women want to be naked I don’t see why feminists support a culture that restricts this choice. I understand that we focus and emphasize the physical and sexuality of women to a ridiculous degree, and it often leads to insecurity in women and girls who feel that they cannot reach these standards of “model perfect” women. But if we have a problem with this, then we should address it in terms of which women are being chosen to pose naked and the body types that are considered beautiful, and in this case with PETA, it doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with their physical appearance and whether it stands up to weird societal measures beauty, but rather on their beliefs and personal and moral choices, (or ‘lifestyle’ for those of you that prefer this odd term). In retrospect, women (and men for that matter) have appeared nude for decades, in art and sculptures. I was once told by a professor, when a student asked why renaissance paintings always showed full figured men and women, that back then it was revered as a sign of wealth, because the wealthy could afford a rich diet while the poor could not. Today we seem to revere beauty itself, or what we have coined as beauty, which in a way still incorporates wealth, as it can be argued that many models and celebrities have the wealth to hire trainers and chefs to keep slender bodies. So in some respects we have always tried to emphasize what we think is desirable, and it just so happens that today it is beauty. Also, from my observations, many people subscribe to this emphasis of beauty on girls from a very young age without even realizing they are doing so. When I take my niece and nephew out in the public, usually my niece receives comments such as “oh you look very pretty in your dress” or “oh she’s really cute” whereas my nephew receives comments like “oh what a smart young man you are” perhaps “oh he’s funny” or more likely “what a trouble maker”. So it starts from such an early age that I don’t think these PETA ads are really having that much impact on a society that praises women’s beauty from the very early ages of life. I think PETA is trying to appeal to a target audience that might not otherwise be concerned with the plight of animals, specifically those in fur farms, and if it brings attention to this issue, I don’t see why this should receive anymore criticism than regular advertisements and catalog pictures which show attractive models. If PETA were to start a campaign where women stressed that they only wore make up that was not tested on animals, wouldn’t this also be an endorsement of beauty and sexuality, as women are often expected to wear it? I suspect many feminists wouldn’t even bat a mascara, eyelining eye at this.

  2. Make-up is one thing; nudity is another. That’s why the one doesn’t interfere with ordinary work and the other one does. Modesty is at issue.

  3. Women are not walking into work naked. I don’t see the difference between looking beautiful with makeup (which has a lot of sexual undertones in case you didn’t know) and looking beautiful as a human being in your skin, except in one of those situations the woman is more natural and less fake than the other (take a guess). Modesty is subjective.

  4. I implore you to examine how many women you know that wear make up vs how many women you know that pose nude. I suspect you know more women of the former than later. The only difference between the two is that the women that wear make up emphasize physical beauty where as the women that pose nude emphasize the human body and sex in general (regardless, and even if, they are beautiful). Ask a woman that wears make up normally, consistently, regularly if they feel beautiful without it, I suspect many do not. Ask a woman who poses nude whether she feels beautiful with clothes on and I suspect she does. Its not nudity that is the problem, its this idea of beauty in the first place, which emphasizes physical, facial beauty in ways that apparently have become almost unrecognizable, vs nudity that for some reason has become a sin.

  5. With all due respect to the blogger, I thought his post was inane. PETA uses – and I intentionally selected the word “uses” – slim women who are supposed to be archetypically desirable. Even if, as he suggests, PETA means to portray those women as standard-bearers for moral virtue, only women who are model-thin and pretty satisfy PETA’s standard for virtuous beauty. Men and fat chicks – oh, I’m sorry, “whales” – need not apply. The ads exploit women repeatedly to appeal to heterosexual male desire and to pick at women’s insecurity about their appearance, and to link both with animal rights. I do applaud radicalism generally speaking but I am completely appalled at PETA’s cynical disrespect for women in the cause of animal advocacy.

    This particular controversy – divisive as it might be – is all down to PETA, which chose attention getting/shock value over respect for women. I don’t think women should have to suck it up just so PETA can continue to have its say.

  6. […] end it has achieved a lot for animals.  Others echo David Cassuto, professor of law and author of Animal Blawg.  Cassuto […]

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