Saturday, January 27, 2007

state of the union

No, not the address, the undress.

If you don't care to click the link, here's what happens: it is a PETA-produced video of a young woman stripping from a business suit to full frontal nudity while explaining the current animal rights situation. After she's done, there are scenes of animal cruelty from a variety of industries.

I am for animal rights. I am for animal liberation. I don't think nonhuman animals are property, and if they can't consent then using them is no less unethical than using human animals against their will. I don't eat them or things that come from them, and I don't buy things made from them or tested on them. I absolutely, without hesitation agree with PETA's stated goals. But PETA drives me nuts.

A video like this doesn’t even have the (weak) justification that some of PETA’s other sexist campaigns do. For example, at least PETA can argue that when they put women in cages, or wrap them in cellophane, it’s not that they are saying women are equivalent to animals, but rather drawing attention to the idea that animals are just as worthy of fair treatment as women. The problem, of course, is that in a culture in which women are often actually treated as proverbial animals, the campaign is utterly counterproductive. Not only is it perpetuating the idea that women are things to be ogled, but it makes people who might actually agree with PETA’s point think of the animal rights movement as silly and frivolous at best — and actively harmful at worst. It’s the flip-side of the ALF, which makes people think of the animal rights movement as radical and dangerous.

If people really don’t think animals are property to be used for our benefit, skip all the stunts and do the thing that will actually help them: stop buying, using, and eating them, and encourage others to do the same.

I did notice that they managed to get a not-stick-figure-model-type woman to strip, which in it’s small way was kind of refreshing. Granted, she’s still pretty in the conventional sense, but at least she’s not emaciated. I guess it’s pretty sad that the best to be said for the objectification of a woman is that they didn’t pick the most stereotypical one around.… It's not that I'm against nudity, or stripping, or porn. But get naked for nakedness's sake, or art's sake, or for sex's sake. Sex shouldn't sell anything but sex, even metaphorically.

The worst thing about PETA is that if it weren't for these self-serving pranks, they might be a fairly awesome organization. Their websites are some of the more informative and accessible sources of information for new vegans or curious animal-rights-friendly people. If I were someone new to animal rights and I visited their website I would think they were completely respectable and right on the money, and I'd probably want to join and get involved. Hell, even as someone who knows better they've tempted me from time to time. The bullshit they put out totally overshadows the potential for good, and they don't seem to realize that dropping the bullshit would only make the good that much better.

1 comment:

  1. I could not agree more. The only time I ever considered PETA a useful organization was when I first became a vegetarian, at age twelve and thought PETA was the only group in the world working for animal rights. I thought their shock tactics were all that were needed to wake people up. (This was in the days before they had begun what I can only describe as campaigns to set feminism back 100 years instead of advance animal rights.) I was probably 14 when I realize that I couldn't find anything good coming from PETA, and my own radicalism died down and productive activism rose up in its place.

    I've found PETA useful again for one thing: every time I teach critical reasoning or logic, at least 2 or 3 quotes from PETA make it on to the final exam so that students can name the fallacies committed.