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One Plus Negative One Equals Zero: A Response to PETA’s Rapey Ad

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We get it, and we agree, veganism is healthy and health leads to better sex.  So we’re dumbfounded that PETA did this in an attempt to spread that message.

Um, PETA, good sex is mutual, consensual, healthy, and safe.  This video invokes rape and abuse.  The woman in this ad is clearly intentionally portrayed as unhappy, subservient, and HURT.  This is not okay.

With so many different directions, why this one?  We can’t help but notice that this ad is intended for a male audience.

What’s the real message here?  Rather than a sex-positive take on veganism, this ad plays on traditional and harmful notions of masculinity.  It perpetuates common norms, like power and violence, that support a culture of sexual violence and exploitation.  It sends the same old, tired message that being a man is all about power, violent and sexual power, over women.  We wonder if vegan men appreciate being portrayed in this light.  And what are women good for?  That’s obvious.

Strategies like this create huge barriers to connectionist work for a peaceful and just world. They perpetuate myths about fellow activists and those who adopt ethical behaviors.  Human rights activists, for example, often resist expanding their lenses to include animals because, they say, animal rights folks tend to ignore the very real oppression and violence humans face.  Honestly, given PETA’s history of sexist, fat-shaming, and racist campaigns, we don’t blame them.  Ultimately, these strategies turn people away from compassionate behaviors like veganism, making the work harder for us all.

Connecting the dots is about not only recognizing the connections between the well-being of all, but also striving to eliminate all forms of oppression.  We have said over and over again that we can’t use one manifestation of oppression to end another.  And we’ll keep saying it.  Any attention for the sake of attention is not always a winning strategy.  Take turning people vegan and add perpetuating harmful, sexist attitudes and the sum in ZERO.  One plus negative one.

No doubt that several media sources like Feministing, Jezebel, Bitch Magazine, Ms., and many, many more will present on-point analyses of this ad.  So we’ll leave them to it and post those article as they appear below.  Please share any articles you come across in the comments section.

Why this, PETA, when there were so many positive directions you could have taken?

For more:

I Will Not Live in a Vegan Bubble

Violence isn’t sexy

Assaulting Women: Veganism, Manarchism, and the Politics of Support

PETA: Sexy or Sexist?

PETA Invokes Sexual Violence to Promote Veganism

PETA: Enough with the sex and the vegetables and the “shock tactics” already! WE GET IT.

Embracing misogyny, PETA promotes violent sex with new campaign ad

PETA Mines Humor from Domestic Abuse in New Ad

PETA’s “Boyfriend Went Vegan” ad features young woman who appears to have been abused

 

Categories: Animals, Connectionist Perspectives, Humans

17 comments on “One Plus Negative One Equals Zero: A Response to PETA’s Rapey Ad

  1. Thanks for writing this response and giving a voice to those of us who support animal rights but not on the backs of survivors of sexual and domestic abuse! I would also add that not only does this new campaign support the tired notions that “real” men have power and control over women, but it also assumes all men are heterosexual. This limited and harmful portrayal of “healthy” sexuality is anything but that. As you said, PETA, and all of us, can do better!

  2. Ryan Patey on said:

    The answer is “no”. Vegan men, myself being one, do not appreciate this new PETA campaign at all. In fact, I’ve rarely ever appreciated a PETA campaign before or after I went vegan. This campaign is horrible for so many reasons, and the supposed goal of it deserves much better. Personally, I’m done with PETA and I wish I could easily remove them from the table of folks who represent veganism in this world (http://www.ilovetofu.ca/2012/02/15/peta-the-awkward-uncle-at-the-vegan-family-dinner/), but it seems like too many people are concerned with only one dot on the map instead of the many that need to be connected before we end up with a better world. The sad thing is that the campaign could have relied on so many excellent reasons to choose to go vegan, and none of them would have required putting someone else down. Instead, they chose the lazy, offensive, and easy route that really does nothing but encourage the same views that so many people are fighting against day after day. Including a lot of us vegans.

    • Stacia Mesleh on said:

      Hi Ryan, thank for commenting. Yes, that is just it! Peta is concerned about one dot and they alienate and hurt others in the process of highlighting it. I’m reading a book right now called Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America by Melissa V. Harris-Perry. She discusses how harmful myths and inaccurate social constructs (devised by and beneficial to the privileged) are to black women. She compares the experience of black women to that of trying to stand up straight in a crooked room. She cites a social science experiment where study participants were placed in a room full of crooked furniture and asked to stand up straight. A lot of people stand at an angle, even up to 45 degrees, while insisting that they are upright. A few people are able to stand straight and insist that the room is crooked. Whenever a group or a person wants to call attention to an injustice or bring about change, it would be a great idea to consider, “Am I making the room crooked for anyone else?”

  3. Alex@Fatcow on said:

    The ad is very controversial it’s just disgusting for me. I feel like I want to take a shower after watching it. I thought that the core mission of Peta is to stop the animal abuse but this ad shows only some disrespect to women. Very disappointing ad…

  4. Fireweed on said:

    I feel like I’ve been trying to do damage control around PeTA campaigns for decades. I hope others are sharing the petition started on Change.org

    http://www.change.org/petitions/tell-peta-violence-against-women-is-never-okay

    Commentary from Carol Adams: http://caroljadams.blogspot.com/2012/02/sigh-sexual-politics-of-meat-once-again.html#.Tz09ZXd9MGI.facebook

    Interesting paper by Julius Marina:

    http://sdsu-
    dspace.calstate.edu/xmlui/bitstream/handle/10211.10/1767/Julius_Marina.pdf?sequence=1

  5. I think you need to have a sense of humor to get this ad. I got it and thought it was cute. Yes I am a vegan lady. The guy in the ad was depicted as gentle sweet and apologetic.

  6. BTW didn’t you guys notice her smirk at the end, she was very satisfied with his performance!

  7. Breeze Harper on said:

    I honestly think PETA know what they are doing, whenever they create a new ad or some other marketing ‘strategy.’ They aren’t stupid. They knew that this ad would be hurtful and triggering. They knew that ‘hurtful’ and ‘triggering’ = ‘ controversial’ = ‘more exposure.’ I don’t agree with these tactics, but I think that PETA just doesn’t care. It’s about exposure to “save non-human animals” at the expense of using sexism, racism, transphobia, fatphobia, as well as supporting rape culture mentality. Expose people to information about non-human animals abuse through the abuse of human beings.

    • Ryan Patey on said:

      I agree with Breeze. PETA has been doing this sort of thing long enough to know that people concerned about more than just animals will find it hurtful and regressive. They don’t care. If they did, they would have apologized long ago and started using different tactics.
      I’d like to see their numbers in terms of effectiveness. I know it’s hard to measure, but I wonder what they would find out if they did a follow-up survey to all the veg starter kits they send out thanks to this campaign. I would be surprised if a majority of people were still vegan after they found out their sex life had changed in only minimal amounts.
      Sadly, hits on the website and the number of views on the videos are going to be their real numbers, and those will be big. Thus, there will be no lesson learned from this, except that, as Breeze said, controversy equals attention.

    • Stacia Mesleh on said:

      Yes, I think they are completely aware as well. They play into the worst of pop culture, which contains tons of hurtful myths and inaccurate information, rather than finding humorous and creative ways to get the information out without hurting anyone. It says a lot about our culture, how crooked the room is, that people get accused of not having a sense of humor over campaigns like this. The human mind can be creative and amazing. Peta could find funny and innovative ways to get the message out there if they focused on the ethical treatment of all.

  8. bloodfoot on said:

    I haven’t even watched the ad yet but felt a need to comment. Having not seen the ad I can only say that while I don’t often like the campaigns PETA runs I do understand marketing and publicity very well. PETA waves around their big Shit stirring stick for one reason, to stir the Shit. they create a forum for dialogue. Whether or not these tactics are fruitful to the mission I cannot say, but that is what they do, they create controversy and conflict to invoke dialogue and questioning of one’s own authority.

  9. Hey Missy! I just wanted to weigh in on your comment and respectfully disagree. I think everyone who watched it and was bothered by it (myself included) isn’t necessarily lacking a sense of humor. My shock came from how the idea that sex be painful and harmful was normalized. As someone who works with survivors of sexual and domestic violence, I see how turning a blind eye to such images leaves many members of our society, and especially survivors, questioning whether the violence was their fault or was even wrong in the first place. The culture of violence that we all see every day has direct impacts on violence that happens through all of our abilities to recognize it, respond to it, and even try to prevent it. When I see the PETA ad, I feel disappointed that yet another image of women being harmed is being normalized. This ad and countless others that are even more explicit than this one create the opposite environment that we all are seeking through a vegan diet and lifestyle. And, possibly even more importantly, when I see this ad, I think that it is likely to make victims feel that harmful behavior is minimized and shouldn’t be talked about. While when an abuser sees this, they are more likely to feel that what they are doing is being accepted or normalized. We need to be careful…if we are doing something that makes abusive people feel comfortable and survivors of abuse feel minimized, then I think we are doing something wrong.

    And with regards to the smile the woman gives…well, I just frankly see that as an added gesture from the people putting this marketing campaign and ad together…a relatively hollow gesture meant to erase all the other messages that came before it. But it doesn’t.

    • Ryan Patey on said:

      Not to mention the fact that the smile can simply be seen as the abuser condoning the abuse. There are far too many cases of such a thing happening. I’m not an expert on it, so I’m not going to get into detail about it, but I suspect that, viewing it from the perspective of an abuser or the abused, it mirrors so much of their reality, and that’s not what an organization supposedly fighting oppression should be doing. Not one bit.

    • Stacia Mesleh on said:

      Alexa, I had the same experience when I worked with victims of domestic and sexual violence. Many who had been substantially harmed were not sure that they even had a right to ask for help or access services. Violence is so normalized in our society and abusers also use emotional abuse to make the victims of their abuse question their own judgement and experiences. There is also internalized oppression that can come from various places including the home a person grew up in. If a person did not see any healthy modeling of relationships based on mutual and equal power and respect, he or she may not even know that it is okay (or even how) to ask for or seek respectful and kind treatment from others. The mythology of what “real rape” is was also very alive in many of the law enforcement personnel I interacted with and even in some of the other practitioners that performed sexual assault and domestic violence exams. We have a long way to go as a society when it comes to creating attitudes around sexuality that are healthy and safe for everyone. It is unfortunate that Peta capitalizes on the confusion and misperceptions surrounding sexuality and blurs the lines about what is safe and acceptable.

  10. Pingback: PETA Invokes Sexual Violence to Promote Veganism « Media Watch

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