Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Sex sells...

Aussie singer/actress Sophie Monk has put out this advertisement in conjunction with peta. (Click for more details.)

This isn't a new tactic. Peta has put out sexy ads featuring Alicia Silverstone and other celebs, and they use women wearing only lettuce leaves to promote vegetarianism. What do you think about using sexuality to sell animal rights?

I am torn on the issue. On the one hand, it is attention grabbing, which is the goal. It refutes the idea that vegans are all sickly and pale, or hippies. On the other hand, it's playing into patriarchal values--women's bodies can be ogled and used. To me, this is part of the same system of exploitation that allows meat-eaters to remain disconnected from the suffering they cause; how many vegans have heard the argument, "They're only raised for food". To top it off, they only seem to use models and actresses who fit into very narrow definitions of sexy. What about all the sexy veg*ns who don't fit into that cookie cutter?

So, are they simply playing the system by using the most effective ad campaigns there are, or are they supporting one form of oppression while arguing against another?

Update: Rather than replying to comments on other people's blogs, as I sometimes do, I'm responding here because I think the discussion is a good one. If you've left a comment, check back every now and then!


cristy said...

I think that they are supporting one form of oppression in a way that undermines their fight against another. It is really disappointing that they feel the need to exploit women in order to stop the exploitation of non-human animals. An organisation that fights against injustice should aim to be consistent in their objection to all forms of injustice. (In my opinion at least...)

kristy said...

Me too!!!

I'm so glad to see your post and cristy's comment because I seem to be in the minority in the vegan community for thinking so and it makes me so sad.

Check out this vegan forum thread about the same topic:


I wonder if you can guess which is my response!

Kati said...

I have issues with many of peta's ad campaigns, these not excluded. Obviously, I agree with peta's vegan message, but how is one supposed to deduce a vegan message from these advertisements? Do they really think they're causing people to think about their food choices? Sure, the ads grab your attention, but then what? It doesn't seem like there's a logical conclusion here - the viewer is simply left hanging and then has little other option than to move on with their life, making the exact same destructive choices they always do. Despite the gruesomeness, I find more value in ads that depict the conditions factory farm animals are forced to live in, for example, rather than these. At least they make sense.

Pink Theory said...

ditto what has been said already. also, I think "ads" like these that use women to promote veg*nism only reinforce the idea that eating meat is "manly" and vice versa. I am not a fan of these types of campaigns. I recall seeing a youtube video of a girl who decided to "try going vegan" because she "liked Alicia Silverstone" (she had seen the PETA commercial with A.Silverstone in it). To me, that says that the campaigns are not educating people at all about veganism. And most likely the young girl will not stick to veganism due to starting for the wrong reasons (unless hopefully she learns along the way...).

Ashasarala said...

I am a little bit torn.

I think on the one hand, a lot of people think vegans are ugly, sickly prudes who don't enjoy life. I always saw what PETA was trying to do as leveling with the masses, trying to prove that caring about animals, the environment and what goes into our bodies actually makes us healthier, happier and often more attractive! I also think it's a way to pull in some of those people who wouldn't otherwise pay attention.

On the other hand, it is still using sex to sell. I am a firm believer that the body is a beautiful thing and I see it as art. However, when it's a sleezy ad just trying to get some guys excited and buy into the product, I'm against it.

Being a lead singer in a metal band, I have to deal with the public seeing me as a 'sex symbol' just because I'm female. If someone happens to find me attractive, I don't mind! Heck, I like to feel pretty! But I don't go up onstage wearing bikini tops and short shorts. I want people to respect me and enjoy our music and show for the talent, the creativity, the hard work, the skill and the emotion. It's the same with selling people on the idea of veganism. I would want someone to learn about it because they were inspired and influenced by positive, educational sources and for their love of all animals.

I guess, in closing, it all depends how tastefully it is done and how relevant it is.

reiskeks said...

I think that the topic is difficult, because we live in a world which is not as we hope and dream it should be...

To be honest, this was the major reason for not adding Peta to my linklist or anywhere on my pages, some of their ads are simply :-( For example, once there was a campaign against circuses on Peta Germany, and literally, the next photo to the chained elephants and apes was a chained and tied nude lying on the ground [face down], and the descriptions were disturbing me - the animals "needed to be free", under the woman's photo was something like "yeah, sexy xyz now nude for Peta, poster click here"... and the chained nude was NOT any part of the "free circus animals campaign", it was...

Now, within the boycott, I prefer adding Peta than letting such inhumanity to grow and spread around. But I suppose I would not become a Peta member, if there are other organizations, who can endorse animal rights and a vegan lifestyle without switching from animals to other parts of life, a little bit like "so, I am a goood person now, I cannot harm animals, so, what to harm next? yeah, let's take my girlfriend and let her wear sadomaso stuff"... or something like that *sigh*

On the other hand our world IS like that, naked "sexy chicks" is the all times top hit not only on Google, and so...

But I for sure have to say, if my hubby would ever state something like "I love this playmate xyz, soo sexy", I would be screaming and would know he is not the right guy for me!

VeggieGirl said...

These ads are so puzzling... it's like, "I'm naked, look at me, I'm sexy - oh by the way, go vegan." Um, ok? haha, I just wish these ads focused on the REAL issue they're trying to advertise about!!

Theresa said...

Thanks for all the comments, everyone. You've all raised something I hadn't totally thought about--they're not actually selling veg*nism, or animal rights, or a healthy diet. They are selling sex, sex, sex. They are selling a celebrity who is veg*n. Totally lame.

This begs the question: I've never heard someone say they support Peta with no reservations, so why are they still doing what they do?

Larro said...

Well...I'm a guy after all and that is sexy. However, if Sophie Monk was entirely consensual with this campaign then more power to her. It's her free-speech right. Far be it from me to impinge on somebody else's free speech. If this is what she wanted to do for the cause then so be it (I just hope she's really vegan. If she isn't then I have a problem).

In essence what most people will find disagreeable is the so-called morality of sex exhibition. And the probability that it would be linked with the message that PETA is proffering. I don't see the connection myself. Could this hurt the vegan/animal rights cause? I don't think so.

Conversely, I do agree with kati as I myself can stomach (with tears) the gruesome depiction of our friends suffering. After all, this is why I became vegan. But the vast majority of self-described human carnivores on this planet are immured of this kind of suffering and hence it is quite probable that a different tack may be appropriate to reach out to them.

Myself, I would like to see more mainstream advertising (like that's gonna happen). Why not? Capital...money...profits...ratings.
There's no money to be had (for vegan messages) in this world of meat-eaters. Their cravings are insatiable beyond education of the unethical lives they live.

Jeez, that sounds so pessimistic.

Pink Theory; "unless hopefully she learns along the way..."

I think this is exactly the point. A nudge might just be enough.

reiskeks; "...I would be screaming..."

This is what I was alluding to above. The morality of it. I would have no problem with my wife reading here that I said Sophie was sexy. We've been happily together for 11 years now. This is a whole different subject so I think I'll leave it alone.

LOL. This is kinda funny. Don't bash me please! Just reading the comments I could tell that most of you were commenting under the assumption that no guy is gonna even read any of this. It really is kinda funny in that respect.

Theresa, we live in a capitalist society in which sex sells. I don't think [PETA] had any other alternative for now. Until the day comes when society moves beyond this money making agenda espoused in corporate greed I think there is no other choice but to play by "their" rules. Inevitably the vegan cause will NOT be pushed forth through ethical reasons but by public health messages. The same that happened with big tobacco.
Most of us know the sever health effects that occur from living a non-vegan life-style. I don't think the initiation of the quit smoking campaign had anything to do with the notion that second-hand smoke cause cancer too (an ethical dilemma), but rather it was initiated with the message of a personal health risk.

It's unethical to not be vegan and I strongly subscribe to that, but we are not going to get those who DON'T see it as unethical to do the same. It's a pipe-dream to think we can, unless we break down piece-by-piece the fabric that holds their notion of what right and wrong in this regard really is wrong.

Sorry if I offended anybody.

Theresa said...

Larro, don't apologise, I genuinely want to hear people's opinions on this. However, I think that moral maybe isn't the right word to use when describing why many people are opposed to the ad. I think it's ethical in the same way that veganism is ethical--I think that most of the commenters are opposed to the notion of exploiting women to sell something. I didn't get the feeling that anyone thinks nudity is wrong, or that the female form shouldn't be appreciated. Does that distinction have any effect on what you've said?

I do agree with what you've said about playing into capitalism becaue that is the system we live under. That's what I was trying to say in my post, but couldn't quite articulate. This *is* the system we're living in, whether we like it or not. I'm still torn on whether we should pre-figure alternatives (ie not buy into their crap) or use the "master's tools to dismantle the master's house".

As for what you've said about reaching people on the health issue, do you think this ad does that?

Larro said...

Point taken Theresa about the health issue in relation to the ad.

However, I do think it is a moral issue with the "sex sells" argument, but this ventures into issues other than veganism and into the roles of women in society (feminism/misogyny). That's a whole other blog post not even relating to veganism.

Hmm, I myself might blog about this as [misogyny] does have it's roots in religious ideology.

"...pre-figure alternatives (ie not buy into their crap) or use the "master's tools to dismantle the master's house"

I think both to be honest or at least get our own footing and develop our own "tools". Until then the message has to be gotten "out there" somehow.

bazu said...

I don't usually criticize PETA, because that plays into larger cultural stereotypes and narratives about mocking the "freak vegan" group. Usually I think their ads are embarrassingly naive and off-base, but I agree with their motives. However, when it comes to the sex/womens bodies/vegetarianism thing, I take exception because like you, I think objectifying women goes hand-in-hand with objectifying farm animals as meat. However, when they have events like the running of the naked humans (to protest the running of the bulls in Pamplona) I object less, simply because there are equal numbers of nude women and men, and then it's a little more fun/quirky, a little less tacky/sexist. But this is a complex issue.

One thing I DON'T buy is the "people are free to do what they like, more power to them"- I think that argument is way too facile. Just because an individual makes a decision to do something doesn't mean they are not playing into the hands of larger cultural ills.

reiskeks said...

@ Larro:
If I said "screaming" so I meant "screaming", and not any kind of "morality", especially as I suppose something like "OMG, pornographic, how shocking, how rude, how idontknowwhat". And I would be screaming because he would have hurt me deeply, the same as I would have hurt him, if I would say "oh honey, I looove this male nude xyz model, I have seen this ad recently, soo sexy". Anything goes for people who do not love each other and do not even know what love is.

"I would have no problem with my wife" - I am so sorry for her. She should kick your fat ass and go find her real soul mate. She will of course disagree, no woman would admit for free, that she spend 11 years of her life with the wrong person.

I prefer to be human to "moral" or "ethical" or whatever other brainy constructs of any oh-so-important cynics should be.

Btw. Whenever I see a male nude in the ads, if he's not similar to my hubby it's disgusting, if he's similar, I get like "sigh, where is my cutie pie, and why not naked in my arms again...". It NEVER occurred to me that ANY guy could be more attractive than my husband, because he is not HIM. This would be like trade the sun against a light bulb, but well, some people do not like heat...

Vegan Stiletto said...

Other than the 'i'd rather wear ink than mink' or 'naked than fur' campaigns which I think were brilliant, i really don't see what this (boring) nudity has to do with veg*anism. I applaud Alicia Silverstone for the good work she does for animals in an ongoing basis, she seems to me to be a very intelligent and articulate woman, however her ad was kind of senseless. I'd rather hear her speak about the topic than see her waft around in a swimming pool. That doesn't explain to people the reasons she refuses to exploit animals. Sure, the ad grabs your attention, but what is it actually telling anyone?

Having said that I firmly believe that all spotlights and attention focused on the cause are a positive thing, I really hope that all these celebrities DO walk the talk (ie: does Sophie Monk wear leather bags/shoes?).

cristy said...

Great to see a good discussion going on around this issue.

Theresa, you left a comment on my blog and asked me to email you, but I can't get to your email address in my comments (have forgotten my log in details), so I was wondering if you could email me instead - nopod.blog@gmail.com

It would be lovely to have a chat about our Phds (either while you are in Canberra or via email).

Theresa said...

Thanks for the interesting comments, everyone. I agree, vegan stiletto, that vegan celebs are great for the cause, because they do have an audience already so they can bring up important issues. I'd love to hear *why* Sophie Monk thinks veg diets are better, rather than see her lounging seductively on some chillis.

@bazu, I hadn't heard about the naked human run in response to the running of the bulls, but I think that would be a much more effective statement than Sophie's ad!

re: larro & reiskeks, I don't think Larro was trying to offend anyone, but it seems to have upset reiskeks. I think it can just be boiled down to diff'rent strokes for diff'rent folks. One relationship doesn't necessarily follow the same logic as another, so I don't think blanket statements can be made.

I don't want to stifle discussion by any means, but could we stay on the topic of patriarchy's link to animal exploitation, and this ad in particular?

Monika K said...

One of the problems that I've always had with PETA is their exhibitionism. I mean, it seems like they're always more concerned with putting on a show or making a point with naked women than actually causing change. But maybe that's just me?