People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) does not see fit to extend the same moral courtesy to human animals, specifically the female kind. In the organization’s latest sexist campaign for vegetarianism, an overweight woman in a bikini is faced with the emboldened slogan: “Save the Whales”. Beneath the words runs a helpful tagline: “Lose the blubber: go vegetarian.”
Come on gals, take a joke. What’s a little fat-shaming in pursuit of a good time?
There’s no shortage of adjectives (or profanities) that come to mind to describe such a mean-spirited billboard. And if you can get through the confusion of it – don’t be a whale! wait, save the whales! don’t be a whale so we can save the whales! whales are great, except you, blubber butt! – it’s also very telling.
A friend of mine, John Haslett, is a professional adventurer and author of the sea memoir, Voyage of the Manteno. In the book, he writes about the behavior of people in survival situations – that is, people under extreme stress. An inevitable few will rapidly decline into paranoia and eventual insanity. Some – many more than you would think, observes Haslett – simply give up. Some rise to the challenge, while others become childish or cheat. I think we can figure out which part of the life raft we’d find PETA hugging.
With admirably relentless energy, PETA has managed to jump from the margins of activism and enjoys frequent mainstream media attention. To the dismay of many vegetarians, when Newkirk speaks, people do listen. A group like PETA has just as much potential to wear at our social fabric as any loudmouth pundit. These are not just crazy tactics; PETA’s stunts are part of a carefully-woven, and unfortunate, strategy. Deliberately divisive, PETA is antisocial in a wide cultural sense. Desperate to win, they resort to the ridiculous and alienate those whom they hope to convert. What a dark, lonely world these small-minded people inhabit! I don’t know about you, but I don’t want anyone this stressed out trying to advocate for anything except another cocktail.
The woman who is concerned with social and environmental justice should be quick to leave PETA to the spiral it’s so enthusiastically sliding down. Sociologists explain that it’s common for oppressed groups to target each other as they jockey for autonomy. PETA abusing using women as a tool to achieve their goals is just one more example in a long history of horizontal violence. Not very original, is it? One can easily imagine that in the hive-mind of PETA headquarters, there is only room for the conflict view of reality: it’s either women for animals or women over animals. I guess PETA can’t conceive of women and animals, or at least not for the blubbery among us!
Any position worth defending can be done with integrity. If you have to take a cheap shot to score a point, you don’t belong in the game. Or put another way, when the end justifies the means, the means become the end.
Recommended reading on this topic: Feministing, Deceiver, Jezebel, Huffington Post, The Frisky, DoubleX