Revenge of the Furred

November 23rd, 2009 10:31 am by Kelly Garbato

When first I spotted this series of ads from Fur Free Alliance on Ads of the World, my mind immediately perceived the naked, brutalized human form as “female.” (Because, hey, isn’t it always?) “Ah, great, another hot, sexy, naked dead ‘chick’ getting all hot and sexy and naked and dead ‘for the animals.’ Just what we need!” So you can imagine my surprise, upon closer inspection, at finding a naked dude showing some abused skin for a pro-animal cause. A reversal of gender roles – hot damn!

Fur Free - Angry fox, 1

In case you can’t view the images, here we have a series of three ads, each of which shows a naked, white male being hunted and tormented by a gleeful fox – who is obviously another human, most likely also male, decked out in a fox outfit, all mascot-like.

In the first ad, the human victim appears in the background; he’s sprawled unconscious on the ground, most likely dead, his naughty bits obscured by a strategically placed tree trunk. The fox stands off to the human’s left and in the foreground, legs spread shoulder-width apart, arms raised triumphantly. In his (her?) right hand/paw, the fox holds a gun. Most likely Mr./Ms. Fox went hunting, and “bagged” a human. (It’s worth noting that this slang – “bagged” – can be applied to sexual “conquests” as well bloodsports. Sex and violence, sex and death.) The caption reads, “Fox like this doesn’t exist.” (Fur Free Alliance is an international anti-fur organization; its website, which is in English, is “operated on behalf of the Fur Free Alliance by the Humane Society of the United States.” So while the caption appears to be broken English, I can’t tell whether this is intentional or not.)

Fur Free - Angry fox, 2

The next ad in the series shows the fox, still toting a gun in his right hand, dragging the now-conscious man through the underbrush. Again, the man is stark naked, this time with a pile of leaves (or is that a bush?) covering his groin. With his left hand, the man is trying to grab onto a tree; with his left, he reaches toward the fox, as if imploring him for mercy. “How does it feel?” the caption demands.

Fur Free - Angry fox, 3

In the third and final ad, the fox is chasing his victim around the forest. All we see of the victim is part of his face and naked chest, blurred in close-up. Mouth opened wide, the man is screaming bloody murder. The fox, taunting, stands a few paces back, seemingly laughing at his prey’s terror. “I need his skin for my jacket” – no matter the cost.

If the naked victim in any or all of these ads was female, I’d be quick to point out the obvious sexism: too often in our culture, women are sexualized and objectified, treated as (sexual) parts, rather than the sum thereof. While there’s nothing sexy about violence, torture and death – quite the opposite, in fact – when the victim of said horrors is female, the victim’s sex(uality) and the violence she’s suffering is conflated. More often than not, the victim is impossibly beautiful, scantily clad, provocatively posed. Perhaps she appears to be enjoying the violence inflicted upon her; possibly she is simply detached, empty, vacuous. Absent from her own (hijacked) body. Violence is depicted as sexy, arousing, enjoyable. Or at least to the (presumably heterosexual) male gaze that is taking it in.

In contrast, the male victim here is rather average looking: thin and wiry; neither particularly “attractive” nor “ugly”; not hairy, not bald. Just…average. Though he’s naked, he’s not “sexed up” or objectified. Nothing sexual is implied in any of his poses. (For example, his ass isn’t thrust into the air; he’s not shown crawling on all fours; his face and/or torso always face the camera; there’s no threat of sexual violence, real or implied.) These photos, in short, could not just as easily be at home in the pages of Playgirl magazine – something that cannot be said of so many similar ads featuring naked and victimized female bodies. (So the “reversal of gender roles” I referred to earlier? Not so much, it turns out.)

There’s also a comical, humorous edge to these images that’s hard to describe in words. The fox’s mask/face is laughable eerie – with its empty black eyes and a snout that always seems to be turned up into a smirk, the fox has a maniacal air about him. The human, on the other hand – and whether this is intentional or a result of “bad acting,” I know not – seems to be choking down a laugh himself. The model/victim appears to know that this is a joke. Fur is a (deadly) serious issue, yes; but the scenes presented in these PSAs from Fur Free Alliance are overdone, cheesy, cheeky. The violence is not real, and everyone knows it.

Could such a scenario be staged with a nude woman model? In theory, yes. There’s no reason an average-looking woman couldn’t be substituted in for the man, made to play out the same poses and scenes, etc., etc., etc. But. I think these same ads, with a woman victim, would evoke a much different response in an American (Western?) audience circa 2009. As I noted above, we live in a culture where women are routinely sexualized, objectified, reduced to parts and repackaged for the male gaze. Women who don’t or can’t play along – women of color, older women, women with disabilities, gender nonconformists, lesbian and bisexual women, etc. – are dismissed as ugly, bitchy, unlovable, untouchable, unrapeable. Because men are not subject to these abuses (though the kyriarchy most certainly harms men, too, just in different ways), the ad plays out as intended with a male victim.* Alter the victim’s sex, though, and the ad’s dynamic will inevitably change as well; we’re just too thoroughly conditioned to view women as sex objects, ready for public consumption (whatever form that may take).

Why else do you think my mind instinctively categorized the victim as a “she” – before my eyes could even register and recognize what they were seeing?

* Nor do I think one could easily swap a white human for a person of color. Again, this would change the ad’s vibe – if not intentions – in a number of ways.

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2 Responses to “Revenge of the Furred”

  1. otis henry Says:

    … dug the “hot damn” part ! also know / feel as a male, th@ i do not quite fit in @ this particular street corner. but hey … the merge of woman & animal rights is accurate. prejudice & practice of said, is bad news. i had been told (in high school), many years ago, th@ copernicus was verily tronced for his “idea” of this world being spherical ! of this world being a peaceable kingdom. O K ! so where’s the king. why would “he” allow for such disharmony. maybe “he”‘s got no real control over “his” subjects. maybe he’s (i’ll drop the gender quote/unquote – for it could be her or it could be it) not as benevolent as we’ve been led to believe ! well it is 2013 now – & if nothing else, our human family needs to either * Swim or Sink *. male female neither – no dif. “hot damn”

  2. otis henry Says:

    … ps. – i think the word is spelled – trounced maybe not – meaning : stomped upon !

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