Intersectionality ‘Round the Interwebs, No. 21: Campaign WIN/FAIL edition

May 15th, 2010 6:29 pm by Kelly Garbato

MTV's Retro Hit Girl Poster

“MTV’s Retro Hit Girl Poster”: In a reimagining of J. Howard Miller’s iconic “We Can Do It!” poster, a purple-wigged Hit Girl flexes her bicep, gun in hand. The purple bubble emanating
from her head reads, “We Can Kick Ass!” Message brought to you by the Women’s Ass-Kicking Committee. (This photo has absolutely zilch to do with today’s post; rather, it just makes me smile. The warm and fuzzies, I sure needed ’em after wading through not one, but two PETA campaigns. Maybe you will too?)
——————————

Okay, so there’s much, much more FAIL than WIN in this edition of Intersectionality ‘Round the Interwebs, but seeing as I’m all about the power of positive thinking, half-full beer steins, and all that fluffy fun stuff (sike!), I had to lead with WIN. In the title, anyhow. Had you fooled, didn’t I?

The Discerning Brute: Rape of Africa in “A Bid to Save the Earth.”

So this is…interesting. In honor of Earth Day, Christie’s hosted an auction to benefit several environmental organizations. One of the art pieces – David LaChapelle’s “Rape of Africa” – is unsettling, to say the least. Click on over to the Discerning Brute to view the image (which is totally NSFW as it depicts, among other things, Naomi Campbell’s bare breast). Joshua Katcher’s interpretation of the photograph is worth a read as well, particularly as he links the exploitation of farmed animals to that of human women, to wit:

[S]itting beside Naomi Campbell are farm animals, which suggest the failure of programs like Oxfam and Heifer International as well as making the statement that, like domesticated farm animals, Naomi is a chattel.

WIN or FAIL? Well, I dig the piece, though it’s not exactly something I’d hang over the fireplace, if you know what I mean.

Catholic Vote - Earth Day 2010

Her Authority: Women’s Bodies Are… Pieces of Land?

In this Earth Day-themed ad, the anti-choice group CatholicVote.org links women (particularly mothers, o givers of life!) with the natural world by superimposing an image of the earth over the womb of a heavily pregnant woman. A cute (read: white, blond-haired, appropriately feminine, etc.) little girl rests her head against her mother’s belly; index finger pressed to her lips, she seems to be saying, “Shhh! My little sister is trying to sleep in there!”

With this imagery, CatholicVote.org is romanticizing two “homes,” if you will: that of the developing fetus (baby!), i.e., a womb which belongs to an adult human female; and planet earth, i.e., home to all of humanity (and a trillion other creatures, as well). Women are not individual beings with their own thoughts and desires, but rather pieces of land. And what do we humans do with land, the earth, and the natural world, class? That’s right – we conquer and dominate them! Nice.

Which makes the romanticization of each – women/mothers and the earth/nature – all that much more distasteful and disingenuous. Throw me on the bottom of the shitpile and tell me that I live on a pedestal, why don’t you?

PETA (Pro-Life)

The PETA Files: Pro-Life? Then Let Animals Live

Speaking of abortion (So fun, it is! I never get testy when defending my basic humanity, nosiree!), PETA does it again! Capitalizing on two pieces of anti-choice legislation that were recently signed into law by Nebraska governor Dave Heineman, PETA seized the opportunity to erect the above billboard in Lincoln, Nebraska. Featuring an image of three super-cute, recently-hatched chicks, the tag line reads, “Pro-Life? Go vegan.”

Don’t get me wrong, I love veganism; legislation which strips women of their right to a basic and common medical procedure, not so much. Nor does the message of the billboard (i.e., “pro-life” should mean all life, you fucking hypocrites!) escape me. But appropriating the suffering of women in order to promote veganism – all while refusing to take a stand against the very form of oppression that you are using to advance your own cause – is, well, odious. Condemnable. Exploitative. Wrong.

For example, over at the PETA Files, a blogger dismisses a woman’s reproductive rights thusly:

No matter where you stand on abortion, we hope that you appreciate the billboard that we’ll be erecting in Lincoln, Nebraska, to remind everyone that electing not to take animals’ lives is always a sane choice.

“No matter where you stand on abortion.” As if a woman’s struggle for control over her own body is comparable to the great Crunchy vs. Creamy PB debate. Fuck that noise. And fuck you, PETA.

Also, on a side note: these two anti-choice bills, which were signed into law on the very same day, provide an excellent illustration of a point that came up in the comments of my Blog for Choice Day post. Namely, that the more radical elements of the pro-life movement – you know, the ones writing and passing this legislation – aren’t so much pro-baby as they are anti-woman. That is, the goal is to control women’s bodies – and their lives – using fetuses/babies as a pretense.

This morning, the Nebraska state legislature approved the most extreme state law in recent history. The law (LB 1103) would ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. And yesterday, the legislature passed another extreme abortion restriction (LB 594)—the first-of-its-kind— which requires doctors to perform extensive screenings of women for any “risk factors” before providing an abortion. (source)

Let’s break this down, shall we? On the one hand, pro-lifers argue that abortion must be restricted after 20 weeks because that’s when the fetus develops the ability to feel pain – thus making abortions performed after this point especially egregious. On the other hand, they’re actively throwing up additional roadblocks in the paths of women who seek abortions before the 20 week mark – all the while, not-so-secretly hoping (and praying, youbetcha!) that these obstacles will delay women past the point of no return, thus forcing them to carry the pregnancy to term and give birth. See how that works?

(The cost of all this screening – which is both unnecessary and kinda-sorta impossible to carry out as legislated – will presumably be footed by women. Women who may or may not have that kind of extra money lying around. Inevitably, some women will have to delay the procedure until they manage to save or scrape the required funds together. Inevitably, many women will fail. And also: the screening makes what is usually a simple medical procedure much more onerous and time-consuming than it needs to be. Possibly it will mean that women have to take an extra day or two off of work in order to undergo the mandated screening. Again, many women – particularly working- and lower-class women, i.e., the already-disadvantaged and marginalized – cannot easily afford to do this. In this way, anti-choice legislation is racist and classist as well as sexist and misogynist.)

“Twisty the rescued egg-laying hen often preferred cat food kibble to chicken feed because her beak deformity made it difficult for her to pick up small bits of chicken food.” CC image via Ariana Huemer of Oakland, California by way of the HSUS on Flickr.
——————————

The Vancouver Sun: Group chucks chickens into B.C. minister’s office;

Liberation BC: Chickens used as “props” in a media stunt;

Liberation BC: Dogwood Initiative – apologize for throwing live chickens! and

Dogwood Initiative: Executive Director of Dogwood Initiative’s response to the controversy around releasing chickens in Ida Chong’s Office

On March 23, several members of Dogwood Initiative (an environmental organization based in British Columbia), in conjunction with some students from the University of Victoria, staged a protest against Canadian Healthy Living and Sport Minister Ida Chong, reportedly for her “silence over the government’s decision to allow private land to be removed from tree-farm licenses without compensation.” The group of activists stormed into Chong’s office in Victoria during a Dogwood Initiative rally, releasing six hens into the room.

“Releasing” is the euphemism employed by Dogwood & co. in defense of/apology for the stunt; other accounts frame the protesters’ treatment of the hens in much rougher terms. For example, an assistant in Chong’s office described the incident: “[B]oom, they were in and throwing chickens everywhere.” I think Liberation BC’s characterization is apt; to this group of activists, the hens were nothing more than props, items, objects to be (mis)used at whim. Somethings instead of someones.

The stunt immediately caused a backlash from animal welfare and rights activists, and while Dogwood Initiative initially blamed the actions on a few rogue activists, within a few days the group had issued an apology. A halfhearted one, at that. For example, in its March 25th statement Dogwood continued to disassociate itself from the protesters, and also denied that the fiasco caused the hens any harm.

In addition to providing a graphic illustration of the disconnect between mainstream environmentalism and animal advocacy (Hello! The “environment” you purportedly want to “save” includes billions of living, breathing, sentient beings, beings whom you exploit on a daily basis! Buy a clue, will ya?), this unfortunate incident also demonstrates the power of language. Words matter. Consider that the activists’ choice to “use” hens was no coincidence; these animals were designated props because of their linguistic significance: “Protester Sophie Waterman said chickens were appropriate because Chong is ‘chicken’ to talk, and squawks a lot but doesn’t do anything.”

In stereotyping a species or group of animals, reducing them to nothing more than a negative quality, and employing speciesist slurs that reflect this prejudice, we are tacitly promoting this sort of violence. “Bitch,” “cunt,” “spic,” “kyke,” “cow” – when used in a demeaning manner, all of these terms Other both target and referent, thus encouraging others to view the marginalized group as something different or less than. With speciesist (etc.) slurs, we dehumanize, bestialize, objectify. And when one thinks of a beautiful, sentient individual as nothing more than a prop, this is what happens.

(This isn’t to discount the role of generalized speciesism – humans vs. everyone else – in this particular incident. Chong might have just as easily been called a “baby” – in which case the activists certainly would not have (ab)used human babies in a similar manner. Rather, speciesism aimed at chickens converged with that directed at all nonhuman animals in a very ugly and violent way.)

treehugger: Protesting Orangutans Invade Nestle Shareholders’ Meeting

Note to Dogwood: watch and learn. In protesting Nestle’s purchase of products derived from dwindling Southeast Asian rainforests – rainforests which are home to endangered species such as the Bornean and Sumatran Orangutans – Greenpeace manages to employ animal imagery (and antics!) without disrespecting the animals linguistically or abusing them physically and psychologically. In fact, by having activists masquerade as orangutans, Greenpeace places most of the audience’s attention where it belongs – on the plight of the nonhuman animals who will suffer and die (and the species that will become extinct) with the loss of their habitat.

My only criticism? Many of these part-time apes could benefit greatly from the tutelage of Terry Notary. Just look at Tim Roth, who has yet to shed his chimp-like gait!

KFC & Komen - Buckets for the Cure 01

KFC: Buckets for the Cure;

Feminist Peace Network: Finger Lickin Bad–KFC Pepto Pinkifies Itself To Cure Our Titties (Updated);

Random Curiosity: “You can’t make this stuff up, folks.”;

The Colbert Report, April 29, 2010: Tip/Wag – Scientists & KFC;

Natural News: Susan G. Komen for the Cure sells pink cigarettes for cancer fundraising and

Think Before You Pink: Tell KFC and Komen to stop the pinkwashing!

In which the Susan G. Komen Foundation partners up with Kentucky Fried Chicken in order to raise money for….wait for it…breast cancer research (!). There’s so, so much wrong with this campaign – much of which is covered in detail at the links above – so just the bullet points, kay?

1) Those buckets that Komen wants you to buy, ostensibly to “save (women’s) breasts”? THEY CONTAIN THE DISMEMBERED BREASTS – AND THIGHS AND WINGS AND ASSORTED FLESH – OF OTHER BEINGS, MANY OF WHOM WERE FEMALE. That chicken Komen’s hawking? “It” used to be someone’s mother, daughter, sister and friend (or someone’s father, brother, son and cousin). Speciesist much?

2) The consumption of “meat” is associated with an increased risk of cancer. Essentially, Komen is trying to raise money to cure one form of cancer by selling an item that may cause other types of cancer. (As Natural News so hilariously demonstrates, this is akin to partnering with Virginia Slims and accepting a percentage of every pack sold.) Shortsighted much?

3) Fast food joints such as KFC have a nasty business practice of setting up shop in urban, working-class and impoverished areas – thus disproportionately dumping its artificially cheap “food” (and the attendant health risks) on already-disadvantaged and marginalized populations. These are the same areas, it’s worth noting, that are lacking in grocery stores that sell fresh, nutritious, whole foods; and the same populations that have diminished access to regular and preventative health care. In this context, Komen is funding cancer research on the backs of poor and work-class folks, many of them men and women of color. Classist much?

4) Pink is so infantalizing, yo. (Not specific to the Buckets for the Cure campaign, no; just sayin’.) Sexist much?

5) While I understand why businesses are eager to convince the masses that they can solve all the world’s most pressing problems simply by buying more and more of their crap (see the Stephen Colbert clip above for a brilliant deconstruction of this nonsense), I cannot for the life of me grasp why nonprofit organizations play along – particularly when the business in question works to undermine the NPO’s own mission. Consumerist much?

Dear social justice orgs – fucking stop collaborating with the green-/pink-/rainbow-washing of not-so-just capitalist death dealers already, mkay? Much love, me.

6) DID I MENTION THAT KFC KILLS 1 BILLION ANIMALS – APPROXIMATELY 500 MILLION FEMALES – PER YEAR!?

PETA - Kentucky tots campaign

vegansaurus!: The Geniuses at PETA Strike Again!;

PETA Media Center: Group Wants to Help Franklin County Public Schools Warn Kids That Meat Is Linked to Childhood Obesity and

The PETA Files: PETA Offers Lifeline to Tubby Tots

PETA made the Franklin County (Kentucky) public school system an offer it most certainly could refuse: a boatload of “free” veggie burgers in exchange for advertising space on the school’s playground equipment. (“Free” is in scare quotes because this proposal strikes me as more of a business deal than a charitable donation. A gift is hardly “free” if you require something in exchange.) Instead, the Board of Education – which “doesn’t support direct advertising to students” – countered with another proposal: “PETA could submit fliers or handouts, which parents could pick up in the school office or at open house events.” PETA declined, taking its “free” veggies burgers and going home.*

Normally, this is where I’d launch into an obscenity-laden rant about the fat-shaming nature of PETA’s proposed ad, which is pictured (in action) above. The image depicts a chubby-cheeked white boy of nine or ten, about to tear into a hamburger with obvious glee. The text reads, “Tot teetering on obesity? Go vegan.” In PETA’s promotional photo, the ads – oversized stickers – are placed, oh-so-clever-like, on seesaws (teeter totters, get it!?). But Mumbling Mynah at vegansaurus did such an awesome job, I’ll just refer y’all to her. (Him? I love the gender ambiguity over there!) See also: my comments at The Other Blog, re: PETA’s “Save the Whales” billboard of last August.

Instead, I’d like to add that the so-called “Tubby Tots” ad is especially egregious, as it targets children. In contrast to adults, kids have little control over their diets; most likely, a child’s parents/guardians are in charge of the grocery shopping, menu planning, meal-cooking, etc. To target them for lecture and ridicule – on their own turf, when surrounded by their peers, and in a situation that they cannot opt out of, nonetheless – is misguided as well as cruel.

Doubly so when PETA is, in effect, further punishing Franklin County children for the decisions made by the adults in their lives, i.e., by withholding all those “free” veggie burgers until ad space materializes. If PETA’s goal is to “help” kids combat obesity with a vegan diet – rather than garner publicity for itself – why not donate healthy, vegan food to the school system regardless of whether or not it’s permitted to advertise on school grounds?

I think we all know the answer to this one. Something smells rotten in Kentucky, and it’s not the decomposing animal carcasses.

* To be fair, I should mention here that I asked a PETA rep, via Twitter, whether PETA would “gift” Franklin County the veggie burgers, irregardless of the ad space. She didn’t have an immediate answer for me, but said she’d check into it. I have yet to hear back from her, so I think I’m safe in assuming that the answer is a big, tubby NO.

The Food Empowerment Project: F.E.P. Alert, Our birthday, new section on website & vegan fideo! and

The Food Empowerment Project: F.E.P. Alert, March 18, 2010 – New Website, Blog and Upcoming Events

The Food Empowerment Project has a new(ly revamped) website! With an entire page dedicated to eating vegan on the cheap! And last but not least, a shiny new blog, with an even shiner name! All this and more in the latest newsletters.

From shaming (PETA) to empowerment (FEP) – this is how it’s done, folks.

Lib Now!: CFP: Critical Animal Studies Book Series

European publisher Rodopi Press recently announced the launch of a new academic book series called Critical Animal Studies. Me likey. Learn more at Lib Now!.

————————

Tagged:

Be Sociable, Share!

Filed under , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply