Let me state this first to avoid any confusion: I love animals, support animal rights, am a member of the ASPCA, boycott companies that test on animals and am vehemently opposed to the use of fur in fashion. Having said that, I’m also opposed to anything or anyone that thinks the sexual exploitation of women is a handy means by which to push your own agenda (no matter how noble it is).
Last week, PETA spokesperson Lindsay Rajt announced plans for the organization to launch a pornographic website in an effort to show “tantalizing” images and videos that ultimately lead to messages about animal cruelty. Huh? I’m not quite sure how you can possibly marry the two considering one is about personal pleasure and the other is about immense agony, torture and ultimately the death of a living thing.
At the time I chose not to say anything, but as the days passed, I started to think about all the young teen girls I know who look up to PETA and do grass roots work in an effort to emulate their mission. What kind of message does this send to them, I wondered? In a world where Disney stars are sexting, underage models are continually objectified and celebrities bare all on the covers of fashion magazines, should an organization that upholds the rights of animals look past the fact that women are being exploited left and right and then take it a step further by following in that same practice? Doesn’t this send a conflicting message that once again, putting your body on display is somehow empowering?
I felt my anger and frustration grow when I saw on Monday that PETA was up in arms over the fact that Prince William and Kate Middleton had participated in a bird hunt over the weekend. While I don’t agree with this practice either (hunting of any kind turns my stomach), spitting in the eye of two of the most famous and POWERFUL young role models out there (that actually are trying to create positive change globally) seems somewhat counter-productive.
Shock value has its place in brand messaging and advertising, but so does education and global awareness. You don’t have to get naked to get your point across — just offer a reasonable compromise or solution. Look at the success of brands like Toms and The Body Shop. By showing the difference one consumer can make, they’ve been able to encourage even the most die-hard fashionistas to ditch edgier fare in favor of shoes and cosmetics that make an impact.
Memo to PETA: Sometimes crossing the line hurts more than just animals. It hurts the next generation of activists who aspire to do more with the world than just put their bodies on display.
(Do you agree or disagree? Add your two cents in the comments below.)