Hyper-sexualized images of abused women are being increasingly used in animal rights activism as a way to grab attention and gain publicity. Frequently, women are featured because these ads are often done to bring attention to the parallel between seeing women as ‘pieces of meat’ and seeing animals as ‘pieces of meat’. For a feminist who is also an animal rights activist, this poses a big question: “Should activists use sexualized images of brutalized women to sell animal rights?”
While there is absolutely nothing wrong with nudity or expressing oneself, we need to remember that we do not live in a vacuum where sexism is not a reality. We live in a patriarchal society that views women as objects. There is a big difference between an image of a naked woman and an image of a naked woman who is chained, bruised, and cowering away from the camera in the context of the society we live in.
When we objectify women in animal rights campaigns, we give society permission to continue objectifying all beings because we cannot eliminate the objectification of one group by perpetuating the objectification of another.
How do we expect people to stop seeing animals as commodities if we are still portraying women as commodities? How do we expect people to stop brutalizing animals if we are further normalizing the brutalization of women? One does not have to literally “go naked rather than wear fur” to prove this point.
“Slut-shaming” is wrong and there is nothing wrong with dressing in a revealing way or promiscuity and neither one necessarily has anything to do with the other.
In addition to these campaigns being sexist, they are also confusing and distracting. Using sex as a way to raise awareness for the cause of animal rights takes focus away from animals and shifts it to things that are often so far removed from the original point the activists are trying to make that they become confusing.
Our focus should be on animals, not on spectacles that not only steal attention away from the real issues but trivialize them.
If you are currently supportive of campaigns like PETA’s Lettuce Ladies (right), the “I’d rather go naked than wear fur” campaign, or the “PETA porn” idea because you want to attract much needed attention and awareness to the cause of animal rights, why not instead point to the horrendous atrocities we are trying to put to an end? There should be plenty of material to get people’s attention. What happens to animals on farms and in labs is the only shock value we need. We don’t need to confuse the situation by distracting people from the real issues by shoving tits and ass in their face.