The Feminist eZine

Toronto Website Design & Toronto SEO

Response to PeTA's "I'd Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur" Campaign

By Cathleen & Colleen McGuire

While we greatly respect PeTA's formidable work on behalf of animals, the "I'd rather go naked than wear fur" ad campaign strikes us as disturbing and problematic, as does PeTA's acceptance of money generated from soft core pornography. Joining the ranks now of Kim Basinger, Christy Turlington and other top models who have posed nude for the PeTA billboards is Patti Davis, daughter of Ronald Reagan. Davis has chosen to pose with Hugh Hefner's dog no less, and also has agreed to donate half her fee from a recent Playboy spread to PeTA.

In her letter of support of PeTA's actions, Ingrid Newkirk makes the classic assumption that activists who counter oppressive images of women in the media believe "all depictions of female nudity are categorically wrong." This is the so-called "neo-Victorian feminist" charge constantly hurled at us. We do not have a "blanket condemnation of female nudity."

What we do have is a developed understanding of when certain portrayals of nudity perpetuate the objectification and debasement of women. We want to see more images like the ancient goddess ones of strong women with upraised arms, standing tall. We don't need another tired cheesecake shot of a naked woman flat on her back with a lobotomized "come hither" look.

Newkirk understands the problems presented by Cosmopolitan covers, yet is convinced that the PeTA campaign does not fall in this category. Frankly, we could barely tell the difference between the Fur Age Weekly ad and PeTA's ad. Both depict nude women atop animal skins with negligible difference in their demeanor or expressions. Remove the text in the PeTA ad and what remains is remarkably similar imagery. For some communities such as illiterate people, non-English speakers or young children, the soft core pornographic image is the only message.

What is the point of the nudity? The ad could have portrayed models shivering in less than warm clothing saying "I'd rather freeze than wear fur." Such a campaign would still preserve the message to stop wearing fur. The answer is obvious. Sex sells. Women's bodies sell. And not just any woman's body. Beautiful, young, thin, cosmeticized, shaven bodies of women sell.

Newkirk herself agrees she doesn't meet this criterion, but then conveniently ignores the primary issue: that PeTA is replicating the dominant culture's usage of a particular depiction of women's bodies to convey their point. However unintended, PeTA's unfortunate subliminal message is that women are sexual objects for the male gaze.

Newkirk also adds that she as well as men have participated in "naked stunts" similar to the ad. The impact of street theater, though, pales compared to the power of mass mediated messages disseminated to millions of viewers. More importantly, the participants in the "naked stunts" are presumably displaying their true animal bodies--not the false, technological makeovers constantly marketed to the public as natural women.

Newkirk feels that the ad is OK because none of the models were coerced or exploited to do the ads. While we think it's a coup that PeTA has recruited models as allies for animal rights, we do not believe it is necessary that PeTA capitulate to the fashion industry's traditionally sexist mores in which women's bodies are continually represented as impossibly perfect objects.

Sexy does not have to mean sexism! We are opposed to this sophisticated form of propaganda "educating" women how to look (and be) based on values dictated by patriarchal standards. Who benefits from these stereotypes? Who is harmed? We believe such imagery causes downwind damage to all women.

We support eroticism and nudity (ex., going barebreasted and breastfeeding in public), but we are tired of women's sexuality being used commercially and inappropriately. Who created this ad anyway?

In sum, this is a classic case of championing the rights of one group (nonhuman animals) at the expense of another group (female human animals). We want PeTA to continue to be a strong force in the liberation of animals, but find their current ad campaign insidiously damaging to women. PeTA is short for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Where's PeTA's concern for the ethical treatment of women?

About Us - Advertise - Blog - Art History - Automotives - Canada - Entertainment - Environmental - Fashion - Feminism - Gothic - Health - Politics - Technology