Several advertisements produced by the non-profit organisation, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), were deemed “too hot to air” by the Super Bowl executives. While the organisation claims that their advertisements “take a light-hearted approach” to the serious matter of the abuse of animals raised and killed for food, the content in the advertisements have touched heavily upon mature themes, especially on the topics of sexual potency and sexual references. This has stirred netizens and online newspapers to slam PETA for their controversial advertisements.
I was particularly disgusted by their “Veggie Love” advertisement, which portrayed women performing sexual acts on vegetables, whilst clad in revealing lingerie. This was simply outrageous, with clear themes of the objectification of women and the infantilism of sex. Therefore, I have decided to write an online opinion column assuming the persona of well-known feminist columnist – Jessica Valenti, who founded the feminist blog, Feministing, and has co-authored four books on women issues. She is currently active as a columnist at The Guardian and is mainly focussed on women issues.
Due to Jessica Valenti’s fame for her work as well as her ability to strongly capture female opinion, I believe that assuming her persona to write an opinion column would be effective in showcasing the role of media in mass communication. This written task will closely follow the conventions of an online opinion column and will contain the author’s personal nuances. Thus, the language used will be informal and will be laced with the author’s emotions. However, due to Jessica Valenti’s personal views and experiences, the opinion column may be biased as the subject matter involves the degradation of women.
Outrageous, Appalling, Simply Unacceptable
t seems that the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) place women below animals in their hierarchy. Remember when GoDaddy produced ads which featured scantily-clad women – Danika Patrick, Jillian Michaels, to name a few? Yet, this was completely fine with PETA. In fact, PETA advocates for their “ethical treatment of animals” in the same manner as GoDaddy used to promote their website by objectifying girls, making them no better than their bodily assets. Of course, this is simply absurd! However, the moment GoDaddy featured a puppy falling off a truck and being sold to a new owner
in one of its Super Bowl ads, PETA immediately slammed GoDaddy for promoting puppy mills. If treating animals as equals is the PETA’s mission and goal, whatever happened to treating our female counterparts as equals?
In the last few years, PETA has embroiled itself in controversy for its extremely sexualised ads. From “Veggie Love” to “Milk Gone Wild” to “Last Longer” – I’ll stop here, the list really is inexhaustible. And yet, while they have such a large array of ads, it all boils down to one common theme – the usage of sex, revealing lingerie and in general, the degradation of us women. How advertisements promoting veganism require the almost nude women is completely beyond me. And while many of these ads – thankfully- have been rejected by the Super Bowl, PETA has not only uploaded them on YouTube, but has made individual websites for the videos.
In the 30-second video, PETA’s “Veggie Love” opens with shots of models dressed in bathing robes. This is quickly followed with all of them stripping to their revealing lingerie, whilst the tempo of the music gets harder and faster. And now the most appalling part, the models were made to caress phallic vegetables, including broccolis, celeries and leeks, by rubbing them against their bodies, breasts and vagina. One of them even licked a pumpkin! The ad ends with the caption of “Studies show vegetarians have better sex. Go Veg.”. Honestly, how on earth does this promote veganism at all? Is it because it shows that vegetables are somehow just so irresistible to women? Is it because vegans have “better sex”? Or is it simply because “sex sells”? Because I’m not buying it. To me, it screams of a lack of creativity and also the manner in which PETA conceptualises women – Nothing more than just their bodies. Worth nothing more than their sexual value. And of course, nothing more than an animal.
In another 30-second video, PETA’s “Boyfriend went vegan” was so horrifying that it sparked netizens and renowned organisations to speak up against it. Slutwalk Toronto told me that they were disgusted by PETA’s usage of the realities of domestic and sexual assault. The ad begins with a girl wearing nothing but a bra and a jacket, whilst donning a neck brace. It introduces her as a victim of “BFWVAKTBOOM”, otherwise known as “Boyfriend went vegan and knocked the bottom out of me”. It depicts a scene of the two having sex, before she was slammed into the wall because of her boyfriend’s new-found strength from his vegan diet. This is made out to be a joke and enjoyable – what! – for the girl as she is seen smiling at the end of the video, presumably for a second round of violent sex. Without doubt, this is outrageous. For such a prominent organisation like PETA to promote the eroticism of violence towards women, it only goes to show even further that the PETA conceptualises women as sexual objects and nothing more.
The eroticism of violence towards women puts a sour taste in my mouth and is absolutely deplorable. Despite all the feminist progress we have made, how could such an errant message of advocating violence against women is fine if done during sex be so plainly placed in an advertisement? Revolting, Repulsive and Repugnant.
What’s the worst part? PETA is not, in any way, repentant about their making of these abhorrent videos. They have, without shame, claimed that their lack of funding has forced them to use controversial and attention-grabbing methods, scantily-clad women, even making a webpage justifying their actions. How atrocious! This is not a matter PETA can justify itself for. How can one argue that the hyper-sexualisation of women is necessary for advertisements when other companies have so successfully advertised without using the bodies of women at all? Take Nike’s “Just Do It” Campaign or “Dos Equios: The most interesting man in the world”. These ads do not have a hint of sexualising women and yet, are considered as the most successful of advertising campaigns.
Should we, as women, be worried? The answer to that question is a resounding yes. Yes, we should be worried. For whom, you may ask? We should be worried for our daughters, our sisters, our female relatives, the world’s female population for that matter. Why? Because not only do these ads stink of the hyper-sexualisation of women, seemingly portraying women as bereft of their free will, as nothing more than a sex toy for men, it also infantilises the idea of sex for women all over the world, especially the younger women, the majority of which are ill-informed, gullible and lack experience. These ads form a certain ideal for women, that they should all have a model’s body, that they should be submissive and that they should appeal to a certain lifestyle – veganism. This ideal could affect the personal image of girls all over the world, leading them to believe that they are not beautiful enough and that they have to conform to veganism in order to become beautiful. For my daughter to live in that ideal, the thought of it is simply horrifying.