People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals — aka PETA — has done it again. Yes, the self-righteous, protector of all living things, has managed to ruin a great idea by following what must be a successful strategy: objectifying women.

The last time the organization did something so foolish was when PETA ran advertisements during the Super Bowl showing scantily clad women engaging in sex acts and gyrating with vegetables. The group that was hopping mad about Michael Vick’s abuse of animals ran an ad campaign that objectified women in a very traditional, stereotypical way. I guess they decided to overlook the studies that link the sexualization of women to domestic abuse and sexual violence against women.

Instead of addressing the issue — cruelty to animals — head-on, PETA made a poor attempt at being subversive at best and tongue-in-cheek at worst, highlighting only one thing: the continued hypocrisy of the organization.

PETA is full of contradictions. It seems as if they want to put Michael Vick in a gas chamber, but have folks like Pamela Anderson as a spokesperson. Now how exactly can you advocate for a “natural” lifestyle, like being a vegetarian, when you’re completely unnatural (hair, breasts, nails, etc.)? Don’t abuse animals but abuse women by making them sexual objects in Super Bowl ads?

PETA has great goals, which is why I never quite understood why they insist on undermining them with ridiculous and mean-spirited ad campaigns. This is an organization that takes itself very seriously, but does not take the treatment of humans seriously at all.

In its recent “Save the Whales” TV ad, an outline of an obese woman in a bikini is positioned next to the words “Lose the blubber: Go vegetarian.” Likening women to whales and trying to convey an important message at the expense of fat people. Classy. I guess whoever designed that ad never read Judy Blume’s classic, Blubber. If he or she did, they would know the damage that this kind of language causes.

A so-called high-brow organization continues to take the low road in an effort to get people energized around their message, which is … what exactly? The group’s president, Ingrid Newkirk, thinks that all actions are justified if it will highlight the “cause” of PETA. Fat people suck. Women are bitches and whores. Men are Neanderthals who can only receive messages if some young, hot, sexy girl is giving it to them. (more)

This article originally appeared in Creative Loafing, where Nsenga serves as cultural critic. She is also managing editor of and an Assistant Professor of Communication and Media Studies at Goucher College.


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