The following is the transcript of a dialogue I, Lee Solomon, had with my feathered friend, Vishnu. In case you missed our first conversation, Vishnu is a hen empowered to speak through a machine that translates Vishnu’s chicken thoughts into human language. *Warning: Links are to Graphic Images*
LS: Hello, hello…
V: Hearing you loud and clear.
LS: Great, it works. So, how are you, Vishnu?
LS: Eh? How’s that?
V: I’ve just been reading something on this organization called PETA.
LS: Ah, yes– People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. What’s amusing?
V: Well, that they lobby so ardently against animal testing and experimentation, fur, animal products in the food industry, animals used for entertainment, and so on, when their very presence on Earth is a serious threat to the health and well-being of other animals around them. That, and that they distinguish between “people” [makes quote motion with wings] and “animals”. We…animals are always the Other, you know?
LS: So I have come to realize. Well, don’t you think they’re doing some good work?
V: I guess it’s better than doing nothing.
LS: Oh, come on, they have achieved some pretty admirable things, don’t you agree?
V: Such as?
LS: Such as… Well, getting some pretty famous celebrities not only to stop wearing fur, but also to campaign against the killing of animals for fur. That’s pretty remarkable, yeah?
V: Oh, you’re talking about this. [Holds up ipad.]
LS: Since when did you get an ipad?
V: Since I started saving money by selling my eggs.
LS: [pause] Oh. [Takes ipad; browses webpage.] What…the f***?!
V: Ha ha!
LS: [Shouting.] Vishnu, you’re not funny! I know you think you’re funny, but you’re not!
V: Come on, you have to admit, this is pretty funny. [Pause.] In an ironic way.
V: It’s rather incredible…[sarcastically] don’t you think?
LS: [Frowning.] Sometimes you’re just mean.
V: So what do you think is wrong with this ad campaign. Doesn’t it serve a good purpose?
LS: If they reinforce the idea that the female body can and should be use to sell something, then to me it defeats the purpose. The ends does not justify the means.
V: Maybe, but it’s not so bad, is it– how exactly are they commodifying women?
V: It is disturbing the way they are posing nude with those rabbits… [Shudders visibly.]
V: They look rather silly, yes.
LS: The women– oh wait, and this one guy, too [holds up ipad]… But even this picture is not hypersexualized, the pose is not erotic or suggestive, he is just standing on a runway with this sign. Anyway, the women in these ads are not on a level with animals, or as you say, V, the Other– they are like pieces of meat. The underlying tone of these ads, [makes quote motion] “CONSUME ME”, speaks louder than their so-called “good message”.
V: That’s a little dramatic, don’t you think?
LS: What’s dramatic are these ridiculous taglines. Is sexual double entendre really necessary to convince people to respect animals, even if it worked? Which it doesn’t, by the way. The idea that PETA, who are supposedly all about the rights of animals, would use tactics so degrading the rights of human beings makes me doubt that any outsider would possibly take the issue seriously. When has that ever worked? [Mimicking a man’s voice.] Oh, well, this sexy ad has caused me to reevaluate my moral position on eating animals. [Scoffs.] Yeah, right. Not to mention it’s playing on detrimental norm-enforcing dogma. I mean, look at this one. [Holds up ipad.] Masculine stereotypes are also being reinforced in these ads, though virtually never in a sexual way– no, no, that would be too feminizing, emasculating. The men are necessarily shown in strong, powerful poses with forceful, aggressive expressions. Or they just general look like bad-asses. The women, on the other hand, are posed suggestively with seductive looks. I’m sorry, but how does soft-core porn encourage one to become a vegan?
V: [Smiles.] Indeed. It is surprising that a group so devoted to the rights of animals would not see a problem in their using this particular kind of animal– humans, specifically women, I mean– in such a way… [Silence for some moments.]
LS: [Browsing with ipad.] What the– really? Not all…? [Sighs.] Here’s your ipad. [Hands back ipad.] Let’s watch a movie or something.
[End of Transcript]
Addendum: A brilliantly written article from Lucy Uprichard on Huffington Post Students. The real problem with PETA– couldn’t agree more.