It’s impossible to write a post about PETA without referencing their (somewhat) recent trend in advertising to use sexual images of nude or almost-nude women in order to bring attention to issues pertaining to the animal rights movement. I’ll admit that animal rights is certainly an important issue, and there is a lot of work to be done to educate people about the various choices they can make to improve conditions for animals. And I suppose there is something to be said for shock value. The ad campaign has definitely attracted a lot of attention. Unfortunately, a good chunk of the attention is negative. A lot of people find it to be irritating and self-righteous, and for the most part PETA has only really achieved seeming kind of like hyper-liberal jerks. But it isn’t just smug: a lot of people, particularly in the feminist community, think it’s kind of weird that they’re using images that degrade and sexualize women in order to forward their cause. I’m not sure what I think about this; I think it’s possible that they are very aware of the problematic nature of their pictures and that they are using that to emphasize the way animals are mistreated. Or, you know, something. I could write a lot about what I think, but that isn’t what this post is about. This is about an ad that I found to be genuinely offensive and not just in a self-aware shock value way:
There’s a lot to be said about this ad. First of all, there is absolutely no nutritional evidence that going vegetarian will help you lose weight. In fact, it’s more likely that the opposite will happen: a lot of vegetarians, especially when they start out, make up for the meat they aren’t eating by loading up on carbs, sugars, and fats. There’s a lot of meat out there that totally fits in a healthy diet. But anyway, that isn’t what’s so offensive to me about this ad, obviously. I’m really surprised that this made it onto a billboard. I’ve been doing a lot of reading about the Fat Acceptance movement lately, but you don’t have to be a radical thinker to see how hurtful linking overweight people with whales is. The woman drawn in the ad isn’t even that huge–definitely nowhere near huge sea creature proportions.
If only PETA would come out with a press release explaining their thoughts behind this…oh wait. They DID publish a press release without addressing ANY of the relevant issues. In fact, I think the release does more harm the good, with such delicious tidbits as: “Anyone wishing to achieve a hot “beach bod” is reminded that studies show that vegetarians are, on average, about 10 to 20 pounds lighter than meat-eaters”, and my personal favorite, “Trying to hide your thunder thighs and balloon belly is no day at the beach.”
There are a lot of reasons to be a vegetarian. LOTS. And yes, there are plenty of healthy diets that exclude meat all together. But citing cosmetic reasons to avoid the meat industry is just dumb. Instead of insulting women, PETA should be trying to, you know, share actual information about the meat industry and reasons to stop eating meat that are like, actually valid and stuff.
In conclusion: shut up, PETA.