Animal Rights and Misogyny: The Problem with PETA Advertisements

original-print“In recent advertisements, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has released intensely grotesque images of women, hoping to stop animal cruelty. In the process of dehumanizing female figures in their ads, PETA contributes to the normalized misogyny of image-based advertising, and thereby fails to fulfill a humane approach to animal rights. By examining PETA’s advertisements through an ecofeminist lens, we show how the organization contradicts their own claim that animals deserve to be treated with respect, by implying that women do not deserve the same.”
—Katie Lawrie, Lauren Milliet, Anna Wermuth, and Willis Zetter (Block 4 2016)

“The severing of the female body in the print ad corresponds to what Jane Caputi calls ‘symbolic dismemberment’ in ‘The Pornography of Everyday Life.’ In this case, the dismemberment is more literal than symbolic: it plays on the “male sexual objectification, and possession unto death of both women and the Earth’s substances” (Caputi 379). The symbolic aim of the advertisement appears misguided and confused—while it associates the harm and mutilation of non-human animals with images of an abused and dismembered female body, it does so in a way that aims to shock and arouse the (presumably male) viewer rather than educate him.”

“To suggest that these women enjoy more pleasurable sexual encounters is one thing, but to source that pleasure from vegetarianism and the use of vegetables as sexual objects is another. Ultimately, the commercial fails to communicate anything legitimate about the relevant environmental benefits of a vegetarian diet. It only perpetuates hegemonic standards of sexuality, and emphasizes the marketability of the sexy female body. In doing so, PETA degrades women to a commodified status like that of animals, and thereby effectively dehumanizes them.”

new-print“Resisting PETA in the actual sphere of advertising might look like an ecofeminist-minded organization which campaigns for animal rights in a more just manner; therefore, we attempted to conceptualize such an entity. Even the abbreviation for our organization’s name, EFFWAR, is an allusion to anti-war and anti-violence principles adopted by feminists all over the world, and is a way for us to articulate a rejection of the problematic violence seen in PETA’s advertising.”

“In today’s culture, advertising companies feed off the new and rising consumerism, or an undeniable need to ‘keep up.’ Due to this social comparison and manifestation in the bigger, better, and faster products, advertising companies prey on the ethos of viewers instead of logos. Therefore, our new company targets the critical thinking of viewers by using a helpful and informational narrative to stand out in an advertising world dominated usually by the objectification of women in flashy, sped up images.”

The Reinforcement of Masculinity through Violence

nemethBy Jade Frost (‘17)

Last September Fidel Lopez disemboweled his girlfriend, Maria Nemeth, after she screamed out her ex-husband’s name during sex. According to Lopez, he and Nemeth were having “rough sex” in their Florida apartment when he became angered by this Freudian slip and proceeded to shatter glass, punch walls, and take doors off their hinges. When he returned to Nemeth, she was passed out unconscious on the bed. He proceeded to shove various objects into her vagina and anus and then put his forearm inside her, at which point he started to rip out her intestines. Lopez then carried Nemeth to the bathroom to try and revive her with water. When that obviously didn’t work, Lopez washed his hands, smoked a cigarette, and then called the police. Lopez at first told police that she died from the rough sex that they had and it wasn’t until later that he told the authorities what really happened. Fidel Lopez is currently being charged with 1st degree murder.

The disturbing thing about this story is not just the blatant horror of this murder, but that this is not the first time we have seen physical and emotional domestic abuse reinforced through various mediums of media. In Victoria E. Collins and Dianne C. Carmody’s “Deadly Love: Images of Dating Violence in the ‘Twilight Saga’,” they site James W. Messerschmidt and write, “Under hegemonic masculinity, which is both youthful and heterosexual, force may be acceptable in romantic relationships. Such gender stereotypes, reinforced by mediated messages may certainly encourage dating violence and perceptions of romance that reflect traditional gender roles” (357). With this, I think that Lopez felt that his masculinity was threatened when Nemeth didn’t scream his name and thus reverted to violence to assert power and reinforce his masculinity.

We also see this violence in pornography that focuses on objectifying the woman rather than pursuing pleasure. Jane Caputi uses E. Ann Kaplan’s definition of pornography in “The Pornography of Everyday Life,” writing, “Pornography in this view is not about the ‘joy of sex’ but about the domination and ‘denigration of women and a fear and hatred of the female body” (374). The way that Lopez mutilated Nemeth’s body appears to be out of pure hatred and even possible fear that he might be emasculated. Lopez wanted to dominate his girlfriend and wanted to be in complete control. Caputi goes on to write in her article, “The rightness of male sexual domination of women is assumed, even when there seems to be a challenge” (375). The way that Lopez sodomized and violated her body seems very deliberate and premeditated. I think he saw the disembowelment as a challenge in itself, and then once that was conquered the new challenge was how he was going to tell the police. Later, Caputi writes, “When the penis is represented as a weapon, rape becomes its purpose, intercourse becomes a kind of murder, and the will to hurt becomes definitive of being a man” (377). Violence in relationships is nothing new in our society. Lopez is one of the many products of what happens when masculinity becomes so fragile that murder is the only way to strengthen it again.


The Block 1 2016 Monthly Rag


Dress Codes in the Senate?

Mitch Holmes

Senator Mitch Holmes (R-Kansas)

By Josie Stern (‘19)

This month, Senator Mitch Holmes (R-Kansas) imposed a strict dress code on female legislators who testify in front of his committee. Holmes issued the dress code to deter women from distracting the committee by wearing clothing he deemed “revealing.” Holmes claims, “Put it out there and let people know we’re really looking for you to be addressing the issue rather than trying to distract or bring eyes to yourself.” Specifically, the Senator’s dress code for women prohibits those who are testifying on bills from wearing low-cut necklines and miniskirts. However, he did not specify what was considered a low-cut blouse or miniskirt. Reports indicate that Holmes considered issuing another dress code specific to male testifiers, but decided that men were able to dress themselves without guidance. Female senators, his own colleagues, were rightfully outraged at Holmes’ guidelines. Senator Carolyn McGinn (R-Kansas) claims, “I am more interested in what they have to say about the direction our state should go than what they’re wearing that day.” Subsequently, Holmes apologized for his demeaning language, saying, “My failure to clearly specify that all conferees, regardless of gender, should strive to present themselves professionally is unacceptable.” However, it is unacceptable on probably more levels than he had intended.

Today’s culture is caught up in the idea of what constitutes a “professional woman.” By proclaiming that a woman’s outfit is “too distracting,” Holmes, like much of society, is putting the blame on the women, rather than those who are supposedly “distracted.” That being “said,” dressing “professionally” in a workplace does influence the way a colleague views a co-worker. However, this dress code, like ones enforced at schools and workplaces, tells women to cover up in order to not be subject to male gaze, but refuses to hold men and boys accountable. The dress code supposes that women are not able to determine for themselves what acceptable, professional dress is. On another level, it is interesting how Holmes’ apology failed to acknowledge that women are often considered subordinate to men. Along these lines, in “Inventing the Cosmo Girl: Class Identity and Girl-Style American Dreams,” Laurie Ouellette problematizes this subordination when she claims, Helen Gurley Brown, Editor-in-Chief for Cosmopolitan from 1965-1997, “clearly understood women’s subordination in the office, but she did not directly challenge it because in an ideal world, we might move onward and upward by using only our brains and talent, but since this is an imperfect world, a certain amount of listening, giggling, wriggling, smiling, winking, flirting and fainting is required in our rise from the mailroom” (267). Perhaps the women who testified in “revealing” clothing felt that, like Brown, the world in which we exist does not allow for them to only use their brains and talent to be heard and taken seriously. Perhaps they thought that they must also use their sexuality to advance and have their thoughts and ideas heard.


Senator Carolyn McGinn (R-Kansas)

Dress codes allow for women to be objectified and not taken seriously, if they are not dressed in what men see as socially and professionally acceptable. Dress codes like this give women the idea that how they dress is how they are going to be perceived in the professional world. However, men do not have to deal with this type of control. There is a lack of consistency between the guidelines for men and women. As Jane Caputi points out in “The Pornography of Everyday Life,” “Patriarchal cultures such as our own also associate nakedness and sex with shame and sin, and identify women with the essence of sex” while men are seen as above this negative identification” (374). This double standard in our culture opens the door for a flurry of negative associations with regards to the choices women make in this case with regards to appearance. Women wearing short skirts and low-neckline blouses are automatically assumed to be purely sexual beings and not serious in their work. This assumption is further troubling, because it completely objectifies the wearer of “provocative” clothing.  In short, Caputi claims, “Men can be viewed as sexual but are seen as having other attributes as well, such as intelligence” (374).  Women, like objects, cannot possibly have other attributes, right? Not in my opinion.