Dove “Real Beauty” is a Real Nightmare for Animals

Dove Real Beauty Veganism
Palm oil is produced by extremely exploited, practically enslaved humans in developing countries. Production is also extremely destructive to the environment, and orangutan populations, in particular, have been hit hard.  Many Nonhuman Animal rights activists have stopped consuming palm oil and have urged vegan companies to switch out the offending ingredient.

Recently feminists have joined the dialogue as well with parallel campaigns against palm oil. Unfortunately, their claimsmaking tends to overlook the intersectional nature of this social problem as their efforts tend to focus on nonvegan products. Without vegan praxis, feminism undermines itself.

orangutan-orphan-palm-oil

Organizations such as Fem2pt0, for instance, have targeted Dove (a product of Unilever) insisting that the soap brand to go “slavery-free” and drop the problematically-sourced palm oil.  Yet, even with the most ethically produced palm oil, forced labor remains fundamental to Dove products.

Most name brand soaps available in major supermarkets rely on the oppression of vulnerable Nonhuman Animals. Unless the soap is specifically marked vegan or vegetable-sourced, chances are very good that the soap is composed of slaughterhouse renderings. That is, one of the main ingredients in Dove is the body tissues of Nonhuman Animals. These “ingredients” never gave consent, never received compensation, and ultimately lost their lives in the exchange. This violence should be identified within the feminist critique of Unilever and similar corporations, but, unfortunately, it is not.

Consider also that Unilever, like many name brand cosmetic companies, is a company that tests on Nonhuman Animals.  Unilever claims to be moving away from vivisection, but it continues to test nonetheless.  Nonhuman Animals are tortured with abrasions and blinding with the chemicals and detergents found in nonvegan soaps.  Many companies hold trials in which animals are force-fed ingredients until at least half of the sample population dies to determine toxicity.  Dove soap is always sourced from oppression, torture, and death, palm oil or no. These products are made of the bodies of the nonconsenting, from the products of the nonconsenting, and are tested on the bodies of the nonconsenting.

Dove has a weak record in demonstrating its concern for the suffering of others. Remember the feminist Facebook protest of May 2013?  Because Facebook was unresponsive to the rampant misogyny and violence against women and girls promoted throughout the platform, feminists began to pressure its advertisers instead.  Many companies quickly pulled out, but Dove stubbornly remained with Facebook.  Neither has Dove been popular with feminists with its shallow representation of women’s self-acceptance in the “real beauty” advertisements. Everyone is beautiful to Dove, but not quite beautiful enough to forgo its beauty products.

Dove ad featuring seven women in their underwear happy and posing

Ethical consumption is, in other words, far from simplistic and many angles must be examined. For those feminists who are concerned about the suffering of others who are commodified in the products we consume, it is necessary to consider veganism.

Step one? Go vegan and dump Dove; switch to vegan brands.  Affordable vegetable glycerin soaps are available in most supermarkets, and countless vegan companies offer amazing upscale soaps and body washes as well. Just steer clear of LUSH, it has a history of exploiting women and perpetuating rape culture.

 


Corey Lee WrennDr. Wrenn is the founder of Vegan Feminist Network. She is a Lecturer of Sociology and Director of Gender Studies with Monmouth University, council member with the Animals & Society Section of the American Sociological Association, and an advisory board member with the International Network for Social Studies on Vegetarianism and Veganism with the University of Vienna. She was awarded Exemplary Diversity Scholar 2016 by the University of Michigan’s National Center for Institutional Diversity. She is the author of A Rational Approach to Animal Rights: Extensions in Abolitionist Theory.

whyveganism.com

Feminism, Veganism, and Vaginal Beer

Vantage Points

Editor’s Note: Despite the publication date of this essay, this is not an April Fool’s Day joke, and we encourage you to actually view the campaign linked below. In a porn culture, the consumption of women’s body parts is normalized and fetishized. Shocking as it may seem, products and projects like this one are the predictable result.

Here we go, as if the daily reminders of women’s bodies as objects through the media are not enough, consumer culture has concocted yet another way of degrading women. As of last week an IndieGogo campaign has been created to fund the first vaginal beer. The pitch is that they will use a Czech model’s lactic acid bacteria from her vagina and implement it into a beer. Their long-term plan is to expand the line to involve other women in the production of this beer.

Before getting too deeply into this topic, it is important to point out that not all women have vaginas and that men can also have vaginas, so the pairing of the words “woman” and “vagina is problematic. Although as a cisgender person myself, I cannot accurately critique this from a transgender perspective. Therefore, the light referencing of this issue is not meant to undermine, but rather it is the recognition on my part that it would be disingenuous of me to deeply dissect this project through such a lens.

To start off, the campaign video for project is riddled with sexist language and makes no effort to hide the high levels of objectification being used to appeal to a straight male audience. In the first ten seconds of the video the viewer is presented with the words, “Imagine a woman of you dreams, your object of desire.” The first words of this video flat out refer to women as an object of desire. The hook of this campaign’s video starts off strong with these words, which are accompanied by a sketch of the behind of a naked woman. The first couple seconds presents us with the reality that referring to women as an object in a patriarchal society can be done in such a casual manner without any pressure on the speaker to defend such a statement.  Even more so, this statement is intended to drive profit.

This campaign is not unusual in that sexualized women’s bodies are used to sell everything, especially consumptive products. The term consumptive product here is used in the literal meaning of “things that can be ingested into the body”. It is not new information that these sexualized tactics are used to sell an array of animal products such as hamburgers and steaks in commercials and other forms of media. Although, this campaign takes it even farther by creating a product that literally allows men to drink particular female bodies. This is the actual bottling of vaginal secretions to be sold, so that men can ingest “the essence of femininity and women’s instincts”. Not to mention that there is an intentional use of beer to be the subject of this product, being that beer is a notoriously male-marketed alcoholic beverage.

Pinup woman holding glass of beer

The creators of this project also make sure that they sexualize women, while also shaming them. They explain that the drink does not taste or smell like a vagina. Through doing this it can be understood that women’s bodies are only profitable as long as they are represented in this particular fantasy framework of desire. The natural functions of a vagina are not desirable; in fact, they are something to be disgusted by. Therefore, any arguments that women are being honored in this product should pay attention to this distinction of the smell and taste by the creators while unpacking the true intentions of this product. A true honoring of women would recognize the diversity of women and a true honoring of vaginas would entail an honest representation of the functions of a vagina, beyond a representation deeply entrenched in sexualization and commodification.

Even more so, the language used to describe what a consumer will supposedly get from this beer provides an overbearing amount of gender norms. The video describes flavoring the beer with female essence, femininity, and instincts. The use of these terms reduces women to the idea that they inherently encapsulate these terms (so inherently that the origins can be traced, extracted, and sold). This ignores the fact that gender is a social construction; the biological female essence or instinct does not exist. Furthermore, as stated before, not everyone with a vagina is a woman and to have such a strong link in this product between these two words is harmful towards those who are transgender. Of the terms used to describe the ingredients of this beverage, the term femininity is particularly oppressive. This term is rooted in a burden on everyone who appears to be a woman to interact with the world in a particular way, regardless of whether they identify as women or their actual personalities. This way of characterizing women is not inherent or natural; it is a way in which society restricts women. One cannot scientifically bottle up femininity or women’s instincts in a bottle, but you sure can put your sexist social constructions into a bottle and start a crowdfunding campaign!

This project further frames the need for an intersection between animal rights and feminism. In this example it is clear that the female human-animal body has been reduced to an object to be ingested into the bodies of others for pleasure. This has been a constant in plight of non-human farm animals. In both cases there is a sense of entitlement of those in a position of power towards the bodies of these persons and what these bodies produce are subject to commodification. The reduction of a person to a product that is purchased and enjoyed so fleetingly is a reflection of the level of worth that person is assumed to have in society. Here specieism and feminism intertwine in the need to recognize that the bodies of persons are not to be objectified and commercialized, but to be respected as individuals with autonomy. The only way this can be achieved is through recognizing that the oppression of marginalized groups is not mutually exclusive, but that they are intertwined and reproduce each other.

 


AlexusAlexus is an animal rights activist, who is in a constant state of trying to unlearn indoctrinated forms of injustice. She spends the majority of her days reading to get her degree in Environmental Policy, she is also a writer for the EPIB Trail (an environmental justice newsletter), and on the weekends she waitresses at a vegan café.

El Veganismo no es “La Ética de los Alimentos”: El Veganismo tiene que ver con la Justicia Social

Translation by Mariángel Villalobos. You can follow her on Twitter @mvillabe. The original English version of this essay can be found here.

Mother cow and calf nuzzling

Por Syl

Me quedé más que decepcionada después de leer el reciente post de Olivia (de Skepchick) y la discusión que le siguió en la sección de veganismo. Primero que todo, no hubo en absoluto una conversación sobre las conexiones entre el ateísmo y el veganismo. Siempre me parece una pérdida completa de tiempo tratar de explicar la falta de interés en el veganismo en espacios ateos. Los ateos parecen ser suficientemente críticos siempre y cuando ellos permanezcan en la pequeñez de la conversación relacionada con la creencia de que el veganismo es una acción basada en la acción ética del individuo, en lugar de una posición propia de justicia social y un movimiento fundado en ciertas creencias éticas. Algunas de las características clave de esta construcción miope del veganismo son:

(a) Fundamentalmente, el veganismo es un asunto ético fundado en el individuo.

(b) El veganismo es un ideal inalcanzable. Es una guía en lugar de una meta realizable.

(c) El veganismo es una práctica relacionada con la alimentación, una ética de alimentación, y/o una dieta.

(d) El veganismo consiste en intentar hacer “lo mejor que se pueda”.

(e) Naturalmente, el veganismo conlleva momentos de “culpa” porque uno no puede ser un “vegano perfecto”.

(f) El veganismo es una práctica aislada conceptualmente de otras prácticas de justicia social.

En su post, Olivia se refiere consistentemente al veganismo como “ética de la alimentación” o una “dieta” (c) y resto de (a) a través (f) se puede ver en solo un pasaje:

Podemos ver que no todas las conclusiones éticas abstractas demandan una perfecta conformidad, porque nuestro propio bienestar debería ser parte de nuestros cálculos éticos. Cada uno de nosotros tiene una cantidad limitada de tiempo, dinero, y energía, y tenemos que decidir en cuáles áreas vamos a concentrar esos recursos. Hay una sorprendente cantidad de cosas que podemos hacer para mejorarnos a nosotros mismos y a nuestras comunidades, y simplemente no podemos cumplir con todas. Si cambiar nuestra dieta agota nuestros recursos profundamente, nos puede lastimar, o dejarnos ansiosos, enojados, infelices, e incapaces de actuar éticamente hacia las personas que están a nuestro alrededor (como un ejemplo, yo sé que soy una perra irritable cuando no consumo suficiente proteína). Si una preferencia ética en particular nos deja sin más energía o recursos, puede que no sea la manera más efectiva para mejorar el mundo.

Déjenme referirme de (a) hasta (f).

(a) El veganismo, fundamentalmente, es una posición de justicia social basada en el colectivo político. Esto significa que la explotación en masa y la tortura de los animales solo puede ser erradicada con la reestructuración política y social. Demandamos reestructuración política y social para también dirigirnos a las situaciones de otros grupos oprimidos… porque ser anti-racistas, anti-sexistas, anti-homofóbicos, etc., es tomar una posición de justicia social. Estas no son posturas éticas del individuo (aunque ellas son fundadas en preocupaciones éticas e implicaciones éticas le siguen). No hay charla sobre “y tú!” (“do you!”) cuando se trata de posturas de justicia social, porque adoptar una postura de justicia social es hacer cierto reclamo sobre tus propios derechos. Los derechos son un concepto universal, no un concepto de “y tú!”.

El veganismo no es solo una postura de justicia social sino que también se basa en una postura crítica. Es una postura fundada por la crítica de nuestra heredada narrativa de consumo con respecto a los animales. Tomamos la cuestión con la suposición de que los animales deben pertenecer a nuestra narrativa de consumo y nosotros mantenemos que es en parte por esta fallada suposición de que los animales deben permanecer sin derechos. Si los animales simplemente son seres para que nosotros consumamos y usemos, ya sea como alimento, vestimenta, entretenimiento, sujetos de investigación, etc., entonces es contradictorio también mantener que ellos son seres que merecen ser protegidos de los abusos. Mientras asumamos que los animales pertenecen a la narrativa de consumo, a ellos nunca se les concederán derechos. (Les remito a mi post anterior).

(b) Alcanzar metas veganas es sin duda un proyecto que se puede realizar. El único obstáculo en el camino para ver esto es la tendencia a reconstruir el veganismo como un proyecto basado en la ética del individuo! Obviamente, los esfuerzos éticos hechos por individuos aislados no podrían desmantelar el mito sobre el papel de los animales en la narrativa de consumo actual. La narrativa de consumo es una historia sistémica completa con fuerzas económicas, culturales y políticas; entonces, si vamos a encontrar una buena estrategia para embestir el problema, va a tener que ser a un nivel sistémico. La abolición de la esclavitud no fue simplemente la suma de proyectos basados en la ética del individuo. Más bien, fue el resultado de llamadas hacia la reestructuración social y política. Ciertamente, la abolición pudo haber sido un ideal inalcanzable si los abolicionistas no hubieran conseguido ver que la raíz de esta tradición opresiva estaba basada en una narrativa sistémicamente sostenida. En otras palabras, nuestras grandes injusticias sociales no existen simplemente porque hay personas “malas” que no están dispuestas a luchar por ideales abstractos e irrealizables. Las grandes injusticias sociales existen porque hay estructuras construidas y mantenidas que funcionan para perpetuar esas mismas injusticias. Estas estructuras son lo mismo que alimenta la ilusión de que deshacernos a nosotros mismos de ciertas injusticias sociales son ideales “abstractos” desprovistos de realidad o simples fantasmas del optimismo que la naturaleza humana nunca puede acomodar.

(c) El veganismo no es una simple práctica alimenticia, o ética alimenticia, o una dieta. Esto no es para decir que las prácticas alimenticias no son asuntos de justicia social. Ciertamente lo son y merecen más atención. Sin embargo, el veganismo es una posición de justicia social con la meta de asegurar los derechos de los animales y, como tal, no se agota por lo que comemos o vestimos. Me disgusta hasta escuchar los términos “veganismo”, “prácticas alimenticias” y “éticas alimenticias” en la misma oración. Si, como hemos argumentado, los veganos propiamente llegan a la posición de justicia social criticando la suposición de que los animales deben pertenecer en la narrativa de consumo, entonces le sigue que los veganos no miren conceptualmente a los animales como comida. Llamar al veganismo “ética alimenticia”, o una “dieta”, o una “práctica alimenticia” es un perezoso nombre errado.

(d&e) El sentimiento de culpa solamente tiene sentido cuando se ve el veganismo de forma miope como un proyecto ético del individuo. Voy a tener que apoyar este argumento con un ejemplo. Una de mis películas favoritas por desgracia tiene una corta escena con una innecesaria estupidez misógina. Cuando la temida escena se acerca, yo -como una firme feminista- no me siento culpable. Más bien, me siento frustrada y –como mucho (y a lo peor)- impotente como un individuo. Como vegana, soy consciente de que en la actualidad no puedo vivir una vida libre de explotación animal. Como he mencionado anteriormente, nuestra sociedad ha sistematizado e institucionalizado la dependencia humana de animales y de la explotación y tortura animal. Cuando aprendo que las paredes en mi casa (muy probablemente) contienen productos de animales explotados, parece inapropiado sentir culpa. Yo no soy culpable en este caso. Más bien, me siento frustrada por lo penetrante que el problema es y como mucho (y a lo peor)- impotente. El sentimiento de impotencia disminuye después de un rato y la frustración que queda me recuerda cuál es el lugar correcto para mi activismo: en el nivel sistémico. Sentimientos momentáneos de impotencia, que son naturalmente fundados en la impotencia individual, y la frustración, son emociones productivas porque indican que el problema trasciende al individuo. La culpa no es productiva porque indica que el problema deriva del individuo.

Shakespeare character holding a bunch of carrots asks, "To vegan or not to vegan?"

Algunos podrían objetar que yo he prestado poca o nada de atención al sentirme culpable cuando se trata de algún “desliz” o de ser “flexible” en cierta compañía, o de aquellos en ciertas situaciones quienes -independientemente de posiciones de justicia social- debemos depender de los animales para alimento y vestido. Con respecto a lo primero: como ya he manifestado, creo que el veganismo es debidamente entendido como una crítica a la narrativa de consumo y del lugar de los animales en ella, lo que significa que un vegano o vegana realmente cree que los animales son sujetos que merecen derechos. Creo que adoptando una posición crítica hace que los “deslices” o la “flexibilidad” sean imposibles. (Polémicamente), creo que los fenómenos de los “deslices” y la “flexibilidad” tienen mucho que ver con adoptar la posición ética del individuo, la cual se basa en nociones vagas de estatus morales y “crueldad” y no hace mucho para alterar conceptualmente o críticamente a la persona.

(De nuevo, polémicamente) no considero que situaciones que involucren dificultades extremas sean de preocupación inmediata para los veganos. Como veganos, debemos estar preocupados por la narrativa de consumo; estamos preocupados por la historia que nosotros como sociedad contamos sobre los animales y el lugar que ellos ocupan en nuestras rutinas de consumo. Cuando las personas usan animales para la supervivencia básica, ellos no están interesados en crear una narrativa de consumo en la cuál los animales son los perjudicados por algún privilegio percibido. Ellos no tienen el poder para institucionalizar estas nociones. Ellos simplemente están tratando de sobrevivir. El profesor Will Kymlicka se refiere a esta situación como una que reside fuera de las “circunstancias de justicias.” Este es un caso diferente a lo que debería preocupar a los veganos. (Similarmente, cuando rocías un insecto en tu cocina con un spray para cucarachas, consecuentemente matándolo, esta es una situación diferente de las que a los veganos les debería preocupar. Tales incidencias aisladas no tienen nada que ver con mantener la presente narrativa de consumo, de la misma manera que rociar la cara de un intruso con el mismo spray para cucarachas no tiene nada que ver con actuales violaciones a los derechos humanos.)

(e) El veganismo no es un asunto de justicia social aislado de otros asuntos de justicia social. Olivia declaraba anteriormente, “Cada uno de nosotros tiene una cantidad limitada de tiempo, dinero, y energía, y tenemos que decidir en qué temas enfocar nuestros recursos.” Tal punto de vista es rampante entre veganos y no-veganos. Conforme a esta mentalidad de “asunto-único” (“single-issue”), los activismos son estructurados para referirse a un asunto y se refieren a este asunto como siendo fundamentalmente independiente de y diferente de otros asuntos. Como resultado, tenemos que priorizar asuntos. El enfoque de asunto-único oscurece la realidad de cómo el racismo, sexismo, clasismo, discriminación en base a la diversidad funcional, homofobia, especismo, ecocidio, etc. no están solo conectados pero son dependientes el uno con el otro para formar lo que yo llamo un “holismo pernicioso”. Si uno ve esta realidad, el enfoque de el asunto-único parece complemente incoherente. Si todos estos asuntos contra los que luchamos están enredados en una profunda, interconectada red, entonces no tiene nada de sentido estructurar nuestro activismo como si ellos no estuvieran conectados o como si no fuesen interdependientes. Aislar un asunto de esta red es equivocarse sobre la raíz y profundidad del problema, por lo que cualquier activismo que siga de este aislamiento es fútil. La mayoría de las veces, los enfoques de asunto-único son desposados simplemente por la falta de diversidad. Puede ser difícil descubrir cómo ciertos asuntos en particular están conectados si no se tiene en cuenta con las experiencias relevantes.

Por ejemplo, históricamente, los movimientos feministas en su lucha se han centrado solamente en el aspecto de género, simplemente porque sus miembros y las mujeres a las que convirtieron en su objetivo y por las que hablaron fueron todas mujeres blancas de una clase en particular. Hasta hace poco, nunca se les había ocurrido a las organizaciones feministas convencionales que la raza y la clase sean fuerzas sociales que dan forma al género.  Aunque a las organizaciones veganas les guste comparar entre las similitudes de la explotación humana y animal, raramente lo llevan al siguiente paso lógico, concluyendo que estas similitudes tienen algo que ver con la misma estructura que apuntala estas explotaciones. La anatomía de esta estructura en la cual todas las explotaciones giran es el holismo pernicioso que existe entre todos los -ismos regresivos. Entonces, adoptar un compromiso en el camino correcto hacia el veganismo, no significa quitar tiempo, dinero y energía de otros compromisos valiosos.  Tener un compromiso con el veganismo es solo comprometerse en atacar la subyacente estructura del especismo, que está estructuralmente incrustada en todos los otros –ismos regresivos.

Como he mencionado en otro lugar, esto no es decir que el activismo vegano sea feminismo, sea activismo anti-racista, etc. Sin embargo, luchar contra la fuerza que le da forma a la explotación animal también requiere luchar contra las fuerzas sociales que le dan forma y se cruzan con tal fuerza. El género, la raza, la clase, las capacidades, la orientación sexual, etc. Este es el enfoque del asunto-múltiple o como a veces se le denomina “activismo interseccional”. Para una buena demostración de este enfoque, considera este punto que la Dra. Breeze Harper hace cuando ella argumenta que hay algo incoherente en llamar a los productos veganos “libres de crueldad” si han sido hechos por niños esclavos!

Conclusión. La moraleja de todo esto es que el ver el veganismo desde la perspectiva del individuo como una práctica que se agota a sí misma en tu ética personal es diametralmente opuesto al objetivo del veganismo, que es erradicar el mito de que los animales pertenecen a la narrativa del consumo. Puesto que las protecciones legales son las únicas cosas que podrían prevenir significativamente la explotación de seres vulnerables y puesto que el lenguaje de los derechos es el único lenguaje que puede asegurar la vulnerabilidad formal de los seres, nuestra tarea como veganos es asegurar los derechos de los animales si vamos a alcanzar nuestra meta. Las implicaciones éticas que siguen a este punto de vista son solo eso: ellas siguen la posición crítica que aumenta nuestra postura de justicia social y consecuentemente define nuestras prácticas. Necesitamos insistir que estamos involucrados primero y más que nada en el negocio de justicia social. El discurso de la moralidad meramente nos dice algo sobre nosotros– sobre nuestro carácter, sobre si nosotros somos buenos o malos. El discurso sobre los derechos nos dice algo sobre los animales– acerca de que merecen lo que aún no tienen.

 


Syl is a local activist and PhD student in philosophy in Chapel Hill, NC. She is currently working on her dissertation, which posits the “human” in the human/animal binary as a location of naturalized whiteness and in which she argues for an interpretation of the human/animal binary as racist. Syl also has secondary interests in black feminism, the history of philosophy and philosophy of animal death.

PETA’s Sexy Pregnancy Campaign Against SeaWorld

By Corey Lee Wrenn, M.S., A.B.D. Ph.D.

Trigger Warning: Discusses pornography and the sexual exploitation of pregnant women.

Not Safe For Work: Contains discussion of pornography and erotic imagery.

Anti-Seaworld ad by PETA featuring Marisa Miller, a young white woman, nude and pregnant in a bathtub covering her breasts with her arms and looking at the camera from below

Supermodel Marisa Miller, widely regarded as a “sex symbol” for her work with Victoria’s Secret, Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issues, and Maxim, has posed nude while pregnant for PETA’s SeaWorld ad campaign.

Because the media space is so saturated with sexualized images, pornographers consistently seek to push the edge with more and more taboo or sensational sexualizations.This means that children will be sexualized, grandmothers will be sexualized, pregnant women will be sexualized, etc. This is not to say that children, grandmothers, and pregnant women can’t or don’t feel sexual or enjoy sexual agency–the point is that pornography tries to encroach into spaces where women and girls are traditionally honored and protected from being viewed as a sexual resource to men as a marketing ploy. It is the taboo that sets them apart and sells product. Of course, with, many pornographers taking this route, what was once “taboo” is now accepted and normalized.

PETA protest against Seaworld float in Macy's Parade. Two nude women with body paint like orcas sit in a bathtub holding a sign, "Could you live in your bathtub? Boycott Seaworld!"

PETA also takes a more “traditional” approach in its Seaworld campaign by featuring nude women in public protest who do not appear to be pregnant.

There is definitely a connection between SeaWorld’s imprisoned whales and women in PETA’s ads, but it is not the connection PETA hopes we will decipher: vulnerable demographics are exploited for gain, and this exploitation is seen as entertainment.

We, the viewer, are invited to feel good by consuming, to feel good by gazing at a naked woman and then (maybe) donating to PETA, and to feel good by gazing at a trapped whale and paying admission and buying stuffed Shamus. More importantly, we see it as something the participants “enjoy” doing, and we are discouraged from thinking about the ugliness that lies behind the scenes. In all likelihood, Miller probably did enjoy it, being a supermodel is a career for her. However, we should consider how pornography hurts vulnerable women who do not have the same privilege and access available to wealthy white women. It is important to acknowledge how capitalist framing can obscure the exploitation involved with consumption with imagery of choice, independence, individualism, enjoyment, pleasure, and other good feelings.  SeaWorld uses the same rhetoric to justify the imprisonment of their whales: they love what they do. They’re enjoying themselves, so sit back and enjoy the show.

While lacking a feminist critique, Jezebel covers the campaign and admits similar confusion:

A pregnant Miller chilling in a tub makes me think SeaWorld is a place where pregnant Orcas chill in tubs. While that’s by no means a great life for an orca, it’s not exactly the right message.

Clawfoot bathtub with orca reclining inside, a baby orca is diving into her belly

Image from Jezebel

But maybe the image isn’t meant to be a metaphor at all. Maybe it’s just a continuation of PETA’s long-used tactic of stripping celebrities down as a way of titillating their audience into some kind of low-level version of awareness.

OK, fine. It’s probably that. But it’s still a crappy ad.

Indeed, the level of awareness is quite low. Social psychological research demonstrates that using sex to “sell” ethics backfires. Protest observers actually find the degradation of women to be a serious turn-off. Outside of social movements, research also finds that “sexy” advertising can distract an audience to the point where they don’t even know what was being sold to them.

 

Corey Lee WrennMs. Wrenn is the founder of Vegan Feminist Network and also operates The Academic Abolitionist Vegan. She is an instructor of Sociology and graduate student at Colorado State University, council member with the Animals & Society Section of the American Sociological Association, and an advisory board member with the International Network for Social Studies on Vegetarianism and Veganism with the University of Vienna. In 2015, she was awarded Exemplary Diversity Scholar by the University of Michigan’s National Center for Institutional Diversity.

LUSH Cosmetics: Kind(ish) to Animals, Not to Women

By Corey Lee Wrenn, M.S., A.B.D. Ph.D.

Lush Not Vegan

LUSH Cosmetics is known for its handmade and largely cruelty-free bath and beauty products. While not a vegan company, LUSH has expanded into the realm of Nonhuman Animal rights advocacy. Under its “Fight Animal Testing” campaign, for instance, LUSH has been pressuring governments to end vivisection, even offering a large cash reward to anyone who can develop a solution.

While a concentrated effort to improve the condition of Nonhuman Animals is commendable, LUSH unfortunately replicates many of the harmful, misogynistic tactics favored by full-time animal rights organizations like PETA. Offering some vegan products in its stores and getting active to end some forms of Nonhuman Animal exploitation is obviously a good thing, but the damage LUSH could be doing to women is alarming.

Take, for example, its anti-vivisection street demonstration that featured a young woman in a nude body suit enduring graphic reenactments of torture at the hands of a male “researcher” for ten hours. The woman was dragged about by a rope tied to her neck, forcibly pushed into various positions, and force-fed. She was pulled by her hair, injected with saline needles, and her head was shaved. While the woman was a consenting professional performer, the pain she endured was clearly real. This event took place in a store window and was fully visible to the public.

lush cosmetics animal testing controversy

The use of a female actor was no coincidence. LUSH explains:

“We felt it was important, strong, well and thoroughly considered that the test subject was a woman. This is important within the context of Lush’s wider Fighting Animal Testing campaign, which challenges consumers of cosmetics to feel, to think and to demand that the cosmetics industry is animal cruelty free.  It is also important in the context Jacqui’s performance practice:  a public art intervention about the nature of power and abuse.  It would have been disingenuous at best to have pretended that a male subject could represent such systemic abuse.”

LUSH intentionally chose a female actor to endure 10 hours of torture in a public space to, in so many words, teach women a lesson. Incidentally, products marketed to women are much more likely to be free of animal testing, unlike men’s products. The next time you are in a store that sells toiletry items, check the packaging of men’s products. How many are cruelty-free? You will be hard pressed to find any. Furthermore, most animal testers, farmers, and slaughterhouse workers are men. Men are more likely to hunt and men consume more Nonhuman Animal products than women. It’s even men who are buying animal hair coats, as the ability to adorn women with “fur” acts a male status symbol. Is it really so disingenuous to question men’s role in the systemic exploitation of animals?

The truth is that women are easy targets. Women are LUSH’s primary customers, and I suspect that LUSH is hoping to frighten women into choosing LUSH products over its competitors. LUSH is drawing on and aggravating the reality of male-on-female violence to secure sales.

LUSH has hosted many similarly problematic promotional stunts. For instance, one anti-vivisection demonstration featured bound women on their knees lined up outside the store with their mouths taped over. A woman dressed as a scientist (drawing on male imagery) loomed beside them. At another store, female employees were dressed as foxes and coquettishly arched their backs, smiling as a man threateningly hovered over them with a kitchen knife.

White woman covered from head to toe in red paint wearing only underwear laying in the center of a Canadian flag as though she was dead in front of a LUSH store

Nonhuman Animal rights organizations frequently use a woman’s body that has been sexualized in some way to represent an abused, tortured, or dead victim. The intentional conflation of sex and violence is particularly problematic.

One store featured a 24 hour storefront display of an anguished woman in a leg-hold trap. In another, a woman was suspended by hooks inserted through the skin in her back to protest shark fishing. In a French store, a woman dressed as a rabbit cried out in anguish as her “fur” was peeled away, displaying her raw flesh below. Her naked body had been painted to resemble bloodied muscles.

LUSH is not afraid to use nudity, either. Protesting oil dependency, naked store employees wore mock oil barrel signs that cheekily read, “Time for an oil change or we’ll lose it all.” In one worldwide event, LUSH employees (who are mostly female) were paraded outside the store wearing nothing but aprons and high heels to hand out leaflets announcing LUSH’s “reduced packaging.” For some stores, aprons read: “Ask me why I’m naked.” Encouraging nude female employees to approach gazing men with LUSH leaflets is unsettling. But, handing out soon-to-be-trashed leaflets to men who are probably not in the market for bathbombs to advertise reduced packaging is just confusing. What’s the real objective here?

White woman wearing barrel sign, nude underneath in LUSH store

Entering a LUSH store is a magical experience, I can’t deny that. Stores are fragrant and colorful, and the staff is friendly and knowledgeable. I love having more than one vegan product to choose from (although I’m still confused as to why LUSH refuses to go completely vegan). I actually wore Karma perfume for 6 years, but I can no longer shop with LUSH (I switched to Pacifica, which is 100% vegan and does not demean its female employees). I also informed my friends to find alternatives to the LUSH gift certificates I often receive.

It is clear to me that LUSH is exploiting the victimization and sexual objectification of women for profit. If LUSH is sincerely expecting these stunts to combat oppression, it might consider that aggravating normalized violence against women is counterintuitive to a campaign hoping to end violence against Nonhuman Animals. A message of peace and justice cannot be clearly articulated through oppressive actions.

There are many completely vegan and genuinely cruelty-free companies selling natural, hand-made cosmetic products that don’t throw women under the bus “for the cause” (or for the company). When (and if) LUSH decides to grant the same respect to women as it purports to grant to Nonhuman Animals, perhaps I’ll be smelling of orange blossom and patchouli again one day. In the meantime, I’m shopping elsewhere.

 

 

Corey Lee WrennDr. Wrenn is the founder of Vegan Feminist Network. She is a Lecturer of Sociology with Monmouth University, council member with the Animals & Society Section of the American Sociological Association, and an advisory board member with the International Network for Social Studies on Vegetarianism and Veganism with the University of Vienna. She was awarded Exemplary Diversity Scholar 2016 by the University of Michigan’s National Center for Institutional Diversity. She is the author of A Rational Approach to Animal Rights: Extensions in Abolitionist Theory.

The $29.00 Vegan Poverty Challenge: Classism, Patriarchy and Animal Rights

By Dr. C. Michele Martindill

Let’s play the Gwyneth Paltrow Game, the ultimate food challenge! In this game each one of us has exactly $29.00 to spend on our food for one week and by playing the game we should all learn what it means to live in poverty—at least that’s what we’re supposed to learn according to the #FoodBankNYCChallenge. This $29.00 a week food challenge involves celebrities tagging each other in a game to try and subsist on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) weekly food budget of those living in poverty in the United States. Chef Mario Batali challenged Hollywood personality Gwyneth Paltrow and in turn, sparked a global…well, national…discussion about many things, but not poverty. As observed in numerous online Facebook chats, not even vegan feminist abolitionists could resist this game. How does it work, you ask? In accepting the challenge, Paltrow agreed for one week to eat only what she could purchase with $29.00 and made her purchases public news–one dozen eggs, lettuce, dried black beans, frozen peas, an onion, parsley, a sweet potato, green onions, brown rice, some garlic, a single tomato, one ear of corn, soft tortillas, one chili pepper and seven limes. NOTE: Paltrow confessed she only lasted four days before feasting on “…chicken and fresh vegetables (and in full transparency, half a bag of black licorice)” (Johnson, 2015). That’s the definition of privilege—knowing all along she didn’t really have to stick with the budget.

Family playing board game

Family playing board game and learning lessons of life.

So, how much have people who followed this story and discussed Paltrow’s shopping trip haul learned about poverty? What are members of the vegan feminist abolitionist movement taking away from the latest Paltrow media frenzy? Here is an opportunity to think reflexively about the white, classist and masculinized privilege that permeates the vegan abolitionist movement, to decenter the vegan perspective and achieve some kind of empathic understanding for those most affected by poverty—women and children.

Before looking at the vegan response to the Paltrow food budget, it is necessary to provide some context for the story. At least twice in the last week vegan abolitionist organizations made disparaging remarks about people looking for jobs in their organizations, and they were ostensibly referring to poor people or the working poor—the very people who don’t see a $29.00 food budget as a game. One author elaborated on why no one should donate to groups requesting help with vegan education and no one should expect to find work in the vegan abolitionist community:

So many ‘advocates’ are attempting to solicit donations to help with vegan education. If you have any spare cash you wish to donate to a worthy cause, please send it to where it will be used to directly help the underprivileged rather than to fund the business or living expenses of organisations or individuals involved in such activities. A conflict of interests–between wanting to end animal use and profiting from attempting to persuade others to end their participation in animal use–is inevitable when donations are needed to indirectly support work of this nature and there is something rather distasteful about those arrogant enough to hold the opinion that their ‘work’ is so valuable that others should provide the means to undertake it. (Grumpy Old Vegans, 2015)

The author is correct in recommending potential donors take care in knowing how their contributions will be used. It is also entirely possible that the author is warning people that vegan organizations should resist the pull of becoming large capitalist corporations with high salaried staff and executives who do little to stop animal exploitation, but do provide padded salaries to executives (Ritzer, 1975). One message is clear: there is no way to both end animal use and profit from the donations of supporters. As Corey Wrenn pointed out in an essay (Wrenn, 2015), there is no way to end animal oppression through capitalism when it is capitalism that is responsible for the oppression in the first place. Still, the language of the above rejoinder was not specifically anti-capitalist and sends a different message to those who might be looking for work just to survive, to be able to feed their families on something more than $29.00 per person per week. Someone could easily understand the author to mean that it is “distasteful” and “arrogant” for anyone—even someone living in poverty—to think their work is valuable enough to deserve a living wage. It was the first, but not last, vegan missive this week to demonstrate how much the vegan abolitionist movement needs to learn about living in poverty.

Women looking for job at job fair

Another statement made by a different vegan abolitionist organization correctly establishes how the animal rights movement loses momentum when organizations try to stand out from the crowd and make names for themselves by embracing single issue campaigns or doing other things just to garner donations. This group takes a stumble, though, when it presents the following:

Unfortunately, the problem can extend beyond the organizational level. It can threaten our movement even at the grass roots. Individual would-be advocates sometimes become more focused on carving out an activist identity and brand for themselves than on sincerely contributing to a movement focused on nonviolent abolitionist vegan education. Their motivating question switches from “How can I use my skills and opportunities to bring about a world where humans treat animals and each other with respect?” to “How can I differentiate myself from my fellow advocates?” Often due to a simple need for attention and acknowledgment (and, troublingly, sometimes due to the hope of a job, money, or future speaking opportunities) many thoughtful advocates have been driven toward brand-building and self-promotion. [Emphasis added] (International Vegan Association, 2015)

The author stresses that would-be vegan educators too often just want “attention” and maybe hope for a job or some other form of remuneration. That assumption is understandable from the perspective of the dominant white upper middle class ideology of the animal rights movement, but when seen through the eyes of people living in poverty the statement is problematic. Not everyone can afford the time, financial resources or the energy to be a vegan educator unless they are compensated for the effort—certainly not the working poor who often depend on multiple jobs just to survive. It can feel disheartening to want to help and yet know the organization is only interested in those who have time, money and energy to provide on a volunteer basis—and worse, to read that the poor actually “threaten our movement.” Telling a person that the only thing that matters is for them to “go vegan” won’t help them get over feelings of being on the outside of the movement and different from those who are able to be fully invested activists.

No, not every vegan abolitionist or animal rights organization collects donations, applies for and receives grant money or has resources available to hire paid staff members. The point being made here is that movement members have much to learn about living in poverty, and they need to refrain from calling those who seek jobs “disgraceful,” “arrogant,” “attention” seekers, or “threatening” to the movement. There is also no suggestion that vegans should get busy and cough up charitable donations for the poor. It is instead a call for solidarity. Charity moves from the top down. Solidarity, on the other hand, is horizontal with everyone standing side by side in mutual respect and possessing a willingness to learn. One example that stands out is a recent effort by the Vegan Intersecionality Project (V.I.P.) in Ireland that saw the organization stand in solidarity with squatters at the Grangegorman site, hearing their stories about police harassment and living in poverty (Vegan Information Project – VIP, 2015). The question remains, did vegan abolitionists miss the opportunity to stand in solidarity with people living in poverty in their analysis of the $29.00 per week per person food budget story? Unfortunately, their discussions did not hinge on poverty and would leave an outsider wondering about vegan priorities.

Poster stating charity is vertical and solidarity is horizontal

Among the first to respond to the circulation of the Gwyneth Paltrow story on Facebook were those who tried to explain what they would buy with only $29.00 to spend for groceries. One couple stated they already lived on approximately $100.00 a month or $25.00 per week. Others were quick to stress the value of bulk purchases of dried beans and frozen fruit. Oatmeal was a popular choice due in part to its low cost per meal. There was some debate over whether the rules of the challenge allowed for use of staples already on hand, e.g. spices and flour. It was established that they do not. Someone mentioned they would make use of the local food pantry, and the advice was offered that local farmers markets will count each dollar of food stamps as two dollars, up to a maximum of fifteen dollars—yet another helpful suggestion.

Questions were raised in other discussions about Gwyneth Paltrow’s food choices, thanks in large part to a Mother Jones (Oh, 2015) article that suggested the selected foods would only be good for a de-tox diet. At that point things deteriorated into a Gwyneth lovers vs. Gwyneth haters debate. Moving on to the next conversation there was finally someone—one woman–who voiced several key concerns, including: 1) society does not need a wealthy celebrity to explain how SNAP works, how SNAP doesn’t provide enough money for an adequate diet or to pretend to live on a SNAP food budget; 2) society will unfortunately not believe anything unless a celebrity says it; and 3) why doesn’t anybody ask SNAP recipients about their experiences? Why is it that only the voices of privilege are sought after and heard?

Poster for Equal Pay Day, April 14, 2015

Ironically, the Paltrow budget game coincided with #EQUALPAYDAY on April 14, 2015, a day meant to bring to everyone’s attention to the fact that women only make 78 cents to every dollar made by men, a pay gap that has held steady for approximately ten years (The Editorial Board, 2015). Women without any advanced degrees make only 74 percent of what men make. Other facts about poverty were mentioned in the equal pay stories. According to 2013 census figures, there are 46.5 million people in the United States living in poverty. Single-mother families living in poverty number 4.1 million, and the child poverty rate remained steady at 21.8 percent. How many of these people—very real people, not just statistics—are on food stamps? 15.8 million! That translates to 13.6 percent of all U.S. households—the highest level ever. Just over half of these households live below the poverty line and just over 40 percent have at least one person in the household who has a disability. Women comprise almost two-thirds of minimum wage earners, and mothers are the primary or sole earners in about forty percent of all households with children under the age of 18 (Shriver, 2014). Think again about why the world turned to Gwyneth Paltrow to educate everyone about poverty and food stamps. Aren’t there enough people, especially women, living in poverty who could teach us much more? These numbers barely begin to convey the realities of life for those living in poverty, but we continue to make the faces of these women invisible and their voices remain unheard.

Here’s one last observation about the vegans who played the Paltrow game and those who described people looking for work with utter contempt—at a time when the vegan abolitionist movement is trying to demonstrate its intersectionality through practice and to show that veganism is not just a diet, it is interesting that they managed to ignore their own privilege and its consequences. Women living in poverty are not statistical objects who just need to go vegan and poverty is not a game.

 

References

Grumpy Old Vegans. (2015, April 5). Grumpy Old Vegans. Retrieved from Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GrumpyOldVegan?fref=ts

International Vegan Association. (2015, April 8). International Vegan Association. Retrieved from Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/internationalvegan?fref=ts

Johnson, Z. (2015, April 16). eonline. Retrieved from E!: http://www.eonline.com/news/647045/gwyneth-paltrow-admits-she-cheated-on-her-29-food-bank-challenge-after-four-days-i-would-give-myself-a-c

Oh, I. (2015, April 12). Gwyneth Paltrow Confuses Her Latest Master Cleanse with Attempt to Relate to the Poor. Retrieved from http://www.motherjones.com/mixed-media/2015/04/gwyneth-paltrows-latest-master-cleanse-people-food-stamps

Ritzer, G. (1975). Professionalization, Bureaucratization and Rationalization: The Views of Max Weber. Social Forces, 627-634.

Shriver, M. (2014, January 8). The Female Face of Poverty. Retrieved from The Atlantic : http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/01/the-female-face-of-poverty/282892/

The Editorial Board. (2015, April 14). Women Still Earn a Lot Less Than Men. Retrieved from The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/14/opinion/women-still-earn-a-lot-less-than-men.html

Vegan Information Project – VIP. (2015, March 24). Vegan Information Project – VIP. Retrieved from Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/theveganinformationproject?fref=ts

Wrenn, C. (2015, January 9). On the Problems with Open Rescues: A Response to the DXE Position. Retrieved from The Academic Abolitionist Vegan: http://academicabolitionistvegan.blogspot.com/2015/01/on-problems-with-open-rescues-response.html