Lettuce be thankful!

April 6th, 2009 7:06 pm by Kelly Garbato

Updated, 5/26/10: Upon further reflection, I think I have to agree with commentators who noted that PETA’s failure to sexualize and objectify Ms. Leachman is, rather than a step in the right direction, simply further evidence of their rigid beauty standards. As in, PETA didn’t refrain from stripping Leachman down to her skivvies as a sign of respect, but because of ageism: Who wants to see an old lady nekkid? Yuck!

Who knows, perhaps I’m being too harsh on PETA. Be your own decider person.

FWIW, I meant to post this update ages ago, forgot (naturally!), and was only reminded when this post saw a huge uptick in views this past month. My skepticism (cynicism?; tomato, tomahtoe) re: everything PETA isn’t a recent phenomenon, is what I’m sayin’.

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Last week, Stephanie at animalrights.change.org gave a tip of her (faux suede) hat to PETA, for their latest ad featuring Cloris Leachman:

I’m a strong believer in acknowledging–and encouraging–the good while criticizing and discouraging the bad, especially if our plan is to effect change, both in people and in organizations. And although it’s rather unusual for me to talk about PETA two days in a row on this blog, and even more unusual for me to write about PETA in praise of one of its ad campaigns, I’m going to do both. Their latest ad has just been revealed today, and my initial reaction was “Oh my god, it’s stunning, and I love it.”

I couldn’t agree more – it’s important not just to criticize those campaigns that we find objectionable (whether from a human or animal rights perspective), but to offer solutions and praise organizations when they get it right.

PETA (Cloris Leachman)

The Cloris Leachman ad is classy, eye-catching and gorgeous – all of which is accomplished without objectifying Ms. Leachman. It’s also nice to see an older woman featured for a change. More often than not, PETA’s print models are young, thin, white, conventionally attractive, heterosexual (or amenable to lesbianism for the male gaze), and sexually available. PETA bucks several of these trends with Ms. Leachman’s advertisement.

I’ve always liked the “vegetables, fruit and assorted plant-based matter as clothing” concept; PETA’s execution of it (read: skimpy lettuce bikinis), not so much. Ms. Leachman’s red cabbage and lettuce ball gown demonstrates how yummy vegetarianism can be, thus promoting animal rights without engaging in misogyny. (Though a pro-veganism message would have been even better.)

Not to mention, when the campaign slogan is “Let Vegetarianism Grow On You,” more clothes are better, no?

After the jump are several more PETA ads that I like – none of which you’re likely to see on certain feminist blogs (*cough*cough*).

PETA (Maureen Shea)

Unlike Olympic swimmer Amanda Beard, PETA allowed pro boxer Maureen Shea to pose with clothing – and her boxing gear, at that, which makes her look all the more badass. Again, I’d prefer a pro-vegan message, but that aside, I love this ad: here we have a strong, athletic woman, posing in what could be considered not that much clothing (for men, at least), yet not reduced to a compilation of titillating body parts. Her pose is strong and confident – most definitely not constructed for the male gaze. Love it.

PETA - Jason & Kori of Mates of State

To the best of my knowledge, PETA’s only made a few print ads featuring equally naked couples; this ad featuring Jason & Kori of Mates of State is one example. I actually like this ad, because I don’t think it’s pornifying to either of the two models. There’s also equal-opportunity nudity – a standard I think PETA needs to meet if they want to claim that their naked ads aren’t sexist, but merely sexual and fun. As it stands, they’re much more likely to depict women models partially or completely naked than they are men.

Still, I think there’s room for improvement: I’d love to see some same-sex couples (nude or otherwise), as well as a woman/man pairing in which the woman is fully clothed and strategically positioned so as to cover up her male partner’s, ahem, naughty bits. (Similar to John and Yoko, but with less skin for popular viewing.)

PETA (David Boreanaz)

Is there anything more adorable than a cute guy snuggling an even cuter pair of dogs? Methinks not!

Since the masculine gender role dissuades men from being compassionate, kind, empathetic, emotional, etc., ads which depict men being all of these things help to promote a very feminist message – while also showing support for animal welfare/rights causes. (Now if only PETA would permit more women to keep their clothes on while cuddling up to non-human animals.)

This ad is also reason #2 to add Bones to your Tivo schedule.

PETA (Shirley Manson)

My girl crush on Shirley Manson aside, I like this ad because, instead of insulting women who wear fur (and by “insulting,” I don’t mean insulting their moral character, which is well within the bounds of legitimate criticism, but insulting their physical appearance, usually through the use of sexist slurs), it shows the audience from whence their fur came. Namely, once-living, breathing, sentient animals. Robbed of their skin, now all that’s left of these creatures are bloodied, lifeless corpses, which will be disposed of like so much garbage. (I blogged about this ad series in greater detail here.)

More of this, but with some dudes, please!

PETA (Kathy Najimy)

Last but not least, we have Kathy Najimy, another girl crush of mine. Like Leachmen, Najimi isn’t your typical PETA model (as Kathy Griffin might joke, Najimy’s thighs say that she takes a bite out of life). And yet, this ad depicts a larger, not-so-conventionally attractive woman as – gasp! – a sexual being. Oh, the shock and horrors! (I think it’s worth noting here that I’m just echoing mainstream sentiment. Me, I think Najimy’s funny and beautiful.)

Yes, one might argue that the dudes are objectified in this ad, but they’re really not showing much more skin than Najimy. That, and I think the bar for objectifying 1) the “greater” sex and 2) the sex that is assumed to have greater agency and drive vis-à-vis sexual relations is set that much higher.

Also, PETA has on occasion depicted acts of (implied) lesbianism for the male gaze, as well as showing group shots of naked women. Rarely do they include multiple naked dudes in a group shot, and they’ve never (ever!) shown (implied) acts of homosexuality. (Feel free to correct me if I’m mistaken – I’d actually like to hear that I am.) One singular shot of a ménage à trois involving one woman and two men is a start, at least.

How about you? Is there a PETA ad you’re particularly fond of? Tell us in the comments!

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3 Responses to “Lettuce be thankful!”

  1. ARPhilo Says:

    I like some of the “Ink not Mink” ads they did.

    I mean, like many AR advocates, I have my issues with PETA. But some of the ads you have shown here are tasteful and are not chauvinistic. I also have no problem with nudity. I grew up an artist drawing nudes as a young teenager so I understand the difference between a naked bidy and pornographic exploitation of someone.

    I like this one: http://static.squidoo.com/resize/squidoo_images/-1/draft_lens1930873module8982080photo_franka-ink-not-mink.jpg1207324117 Partially because “Run Lola Run”‘s Franka Potente is in it and the nudity is tasteful.

    Ink not Mink also has a lot of nudity (of people of different genders and colors) without it being sleezy and a lot of it is with men (some are still on the nasty side but most tend to pass). http://images.google.com/images?q=ink%20not%20mink&oe=utf-8&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=N&hl=en&tab=wi It has a way of being radical and even a bit rude- giving the finger to the fur industry- (which I always like) without being gross about it.

    I do think sometimes the PETA people have good intentions with the ads, but they often end up showing that they are one of the groups that doesn’t understand all of the human issues involved in the animal rights movement- dividing the movement and as a result, weakening the larger movement at hand.

  2. Kelly G. Says:

    Hey, thanks for the links! There are a few ads up there that I haven’t seen before.

    Some of my other favorites are Steve-O’s series. He’s butt-naked – literally – but it’s really fun and silly, and plays to his personality. I’d love if more of the ads involving women were like that, but the women tend to be depicted in typical porn positions – on all fours, backs arched, looking all passive and submissive. You rarely see women running around, being goofy and stuff.

    I was surfing around on Flickr last night, and found a set of vegan t-shirt photos that really illustrate this difference: http://www.flickr.com/photos/veganstraightedge/sets/72157606990641119/

    Notice how some of the women models are positioned like they’re in a Maxim photoshoot, while none of the guys are. In fact, dare I say that the dudes would look ridiculous posed like this?: http://www.flickr.com/photos/veganstraightedge/3114345654/in/set-72157606990641119/

  3. Intersectionality ‘Round the Interwebs, No. 2 » V for Vegan: easyVegan.info Says:

    […] NY Daily News) are from PETA’s various nude ads; most involve women. There’s good naked and there’s bad naked…and there there’s perpetually resembling an American […]

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