Saturday, 10 March 2012

Why Ingrid Newkirk is not an Inspiration to this Woman


Thursday was International Women’s Day; a day to raise awareness of issues facing women across the world. For over 100 years, 8 March has been used as a campaigning opportunity for women’s groups calling for equality, and this year was no difference. My twitter feed was filled with disturbing statistics of crimes against women including rape, domestic violence, trafficking and genital mutilation.

Reading about all of these horrific crimes over breakfast reminded me why feminism is so important today, and how much work still needs to be done.
International Women’s Day is also used as an opportunity to celebrate inspirational women and the amazing things they have achieved.
I checked Twitter in the morning, and something I read put me in a bad mood for the rest of the day. This year, Peta (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) decided to celebrate their founder, Ingrid Newkirk, as an inspirational woman. It’s true that she has achieved a lot for animals by founding one of the biggest organisations campaigning for animals rights in the US, but I don’t think she has done much good in the fight for female equality.
I’m vegan so I totally support the aims of Peta, and I believe animals should not be exploited. But I’m also a feminist and believe women shouldn’t be exploited either. Unfortunately, Ingrid Newkirk and the rest of the Peta staff disagree.
Year after year Peta put out offensive and demeaning campaigns that objectify women as mere sex objects. They obviously like to cause uproar because it gets them publicity, and in fact a lot of the time they deliberately aim to get their adverts ‘banned’ to create hype and drive traffic to their website, videos and information. In fact, I think it’s a strong tactic to have an advert ‘banned’ because the scenes of animal cruelty are deemed too shocking because this makes people aware the levels of abuse animals are subjected too. But, I don’t think having adverts banned because they are sexist is a smart campaigning move.
Peta have employed various misogynistic tactics over the years mostly including the objectification of naked female celebrities such as porn stars, glamour models and actresses. Airbrushed images of naked women; most Peta campaigns could easily be mistaken for page 3 of The Sun. Animal rights and women’s rights shouldn’t be competing ideologies, they should be part of the same theories of equality. Why does Peta insist on repeatedly using the ‘sex sells’ theory of advertising to try and promote the message that animal exploitation is wrong? It makes no sense to me.
Their latest advert is the most infuriating yet. I’m not going to link to it, because that’s what they want: to p*ss people off and ensure the video goes viral. The video was sent to me by outraged vegans and feminists alike, Peta have once again annoyed everyone and, in my opinion, achieved very little.
The ‘My Boyfriend went Vegan’ campaign message can be summed up as the following: My boyfriend went vegan and now he is so rough during sex that I have physical injuries that require me to wear a neck brace. And I love it.
Firstly, using sex to sell a vegan lifestyle makes me wince because it is such a desperate tactic. It’s true that vegan men are less likely to suffer erectile dysfunction, but I’m tired of seeing campaigns claiming vegans & vegetarians are astounding in the bedroom. I can’t imagine that this would convince anyone to adopt a vegan lifestyle anyway (although saying that I can't actually believe the Lynx adverts convince teenage boys to pay for a product that makes them smell gross).
This advert glamourises sexual violence against women as being masculine, desirable and attractive. It even shows the girlfriend going back for more, a great message to be sending out to the next generation of vegan activists I’m sure you’ll agree. This advert is offensive on so many levels it actually makes me want to scream.
This advert isn’t going to persuade anyone to go vegan, it doesn’t even address any of the issues people choose a vegan lifestyle (unless there are actually assholes out there who avoid animal products to ensure they can injure their girlfriends in the bedroom??). All it does is offend, aggrovate and, of course, get people talking about Peta. But not in a good way. And I don’t believe that all publicity is good publicity. This campaign not only strengthens my dislike for Peta and their exploitative methods, it makes Peta (and by association vegans in general) look like idiots who desperately make everything about sex in a bid to get inches (of newspaper columns, yeah).
Ingrid Newkirk founded an organisation who, for over 30 years, has been using a misogynistic discourse to raise the issue of animal rights. This doesn’t sit well with me, and I know many of my friends feel the same. Please Peta, stop degrading women to get publicity. Stop using images of airbrushed celebrities which inevitably make 'real' people feel bad about themselves. Please stop telling the world that sexual violence is not only ok, but that women enjoy it. Please don’t imply that men go vegan so they can have violent sex. Please don’t keep trying to attract would-be sex offenders to our cause - they won’t do it any favours.
Please don’t pretend that Ingrid Newkirk is a feminist. She isn’t. And she definitely shouldn’t be celebrated on a day when the rest of the world is trying to raise awareness of sexism, inequality and violence against women.
Rant over. And Breathe. What do you think about Peta's tactics?

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