Demande-t-on le Respect et la Justice ? Ou juste des chamailleries ?

Content Warning:  Discute de pornographie et de sexisme
Not Safe for Work:  Contient du langage grossier et des sujets explicitement sexuels

Translation by Christophe Hendrickx. See more French translations of critical vegan essays by grassroots activists by visiting his blog, La Pilule Rouge. The original English version of this essay can be found by clicking here.

 

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

PETA a posté sur Vegan Feminist Network aujourd’hui en réponse à mon article qui déconstruit leur campagne « Veggie Love Casting » . La campagne dépeint des jeunes femmes en bikinis et hauts talons effectuant du sexe oral et autres actes sexuels sur des légumes « pour les animaux ». Le communiqué est reproduit ci-dessous. J’ai mis en évidence les passages problématiques et les analyserait plus bas.

Les femmes intelligentes et sensibles qui ont participé dans ce clip ont choisi de le faire car elles soutenaient l’idée et voulaient agir pour aider les animaux. PETA les admire pour cela et ne leur dirait jamais qu’elles doivent se comporter d’une certaine manière afin d’avoir l’approbation de quelqu’un d’autre. PETA applaudit tout ce que les gens font pour aider les animaux et tente de montrer quelque chose qui plaise à tout le monde.

Tout le monde n’approuve pas les tactiques de PETA – et on peut choisir de ne pas montrer nos vidéos si c’est le cas – mais nous serons certainement tous d’accord pour dire qu’il est plus efficace de concentrer notre temps et notre énergie sur les abuseurs d’animaux plutôt que de nous chamailler.

Si vous souhaitez en apprendre plus sur les autres campagnes de PETA, ou visionner nos publicités comprenant des hommes, vous pouvez visiter le site www.PETA.org. Merci encore pour tout ce que vous faites pour promouvoir le véganisme et pour faire de ce monde un meilleur endroit pour les animaux. 

A white woman deep-throating a cucumber.

Une image de la campagne.

PETA déclare ne pas avoir dit aux femmes d’agir de cette manière, mais c’est une justification malhonnête. De toute évidence, PETA a mis au point la campagne et a engagé les participantes. Ce n’était pas un mouvement populaire spontané pour la promotion du sexe avec des légumes pour les animaux non-humains. En parlant de cela, est-ce qu’avoir une relation sexuelle avec des concombres ce que sont supposées faire les femmes si elles veulent aider les animaux ?

D’une certaine manière, PETA a raison de dire qu’on ne « dit » pas aux femmes d’agir de cette manière. C’est parce que PETA normalise le militantisme sexiste comme militantisme adapté aux femmes. Les militantes s’engagent de plus en plus dans le mouvement pour les droits des animaux avec la connaissance de ce qu’on attend d’elles (Gail Dines désigne ce phénomène de socialisation comme « prête au porno »). Les campagnes pornifiées sont aujourd’hui normalisées dans l’imaginaire politique du mouvement. Elles sont considérées pour acquises comme étant utiles, malgré la recherche psychologique sociale démontrant que ce n’est non seulement pas efficace, mais également contre-productif.

Les tropes incorporées dans la réponse de PETA visent à protéger cette normalité et méritent donc qu’on s’y penche.

1. Choix

Le “Choix” est un concept qui fonctionne généralement pour détourner l’attention sur le problème de l’inégalité structurelle et qui place la responsabilité sur l’individu·e. Il masque les privilèges et renforces l’oppression.

Les femmes « choisissent » de travailler dans le porno car une société patriarcale leur offre des options extrêmement limitées. Les femmes font ce « choix » car elles grandissent dans une société qui leur inculque que leur valeur est liée à leur attractivité sexuelle et leur disponibilité sexuelle (au contraire des hommes à qui on enseigne qu’ils peuvent réussir grâce à leur force, leur leadership, leur intelligence, leur esprit, etc.).

The Girls Gone Wild tour bus. Depicts two blonde white women, reads "Do you have what it takes?"

La plupart des actrices porno proviennent de milieux défavorisés et/ou de foyers violents et ont des carrières extrêmement courtes (environ 3 ans, une durée qui a fortement diminuée). La grande majorité des actrices porno gagnent très peu d’argent. Nous parlons ici de quelques centaines d’euros pour chaque film, avec une proposition de film toutes les quelques semaines environ. Une fois qu’elles ont « tout fait », elles sont usées, et n’ont plus d’utilité pour l’industrie. Ça vous dit quelque chose ? C’est exactement la manière dont les humains traitent les poules pondeuses et les vaches laitières : comme des ressources sexuelles périssables. Les femmes continuent à consentir d’effectuer des actes sexuels de plus en plus dégradants, douloureux, ou dangereux afin de rester dans la course le plus longtemps possible. L’industrie expose les femmes à ces conditions de travail précaires et dangereuses sans aucune sécurité garantie. Si c’est là le « choix » qu’ont les femmes, il y a quelque chose qui cloche réellement avec notre système de travail.

Je ne blâme pas ces actrices (militantes?) qui travaillent pour PETA. Elles font juste leur travail, et essayent de gagner leur vie. Certaines se sont peut-être même amusées et ont aimé participer. Au lieu de cela, je blâme le patriarcat qui élève les femmes comme ressources pour les hommes. Je blâme un mouvement social qui est supposé être basé sur la paix mais qui à la place exploite les vulnérabilités des femmes pour la levée de fonds. Sous le patriarcat, les règles du jeu penchent en faveur des hommes au détriment des femmes (et des autres populations vulnérables, dont les animaux non-humains). Toutes les femmes sont des produits d’un patriarcat qui les incite à croire : « Votre valeur sociale = Votre disponibilité sexuelle ».

Le “choix” s’appuie sur un ensemble très restreint d’options définies pour les femmes par le patriarcat. Si nous voulons avoir une discussion sérieuse sur le « choix », je suggère que nous obtenions une réponse claire de PETA quant à leur choix intentionnel de femmes pour la levée de fonds et l’attention des médias, et la raison pour laquelle des femmes sont placées disproportionnellement dans des scénarios dégradants, souvent (même si pas dans ce cas-ci) en simulant la souffrance et la mort horrible d’animaux non-humains. Comme dans toute pornographie, les campagnes de PETA sexualisent l’humiliation et la violence envers les femmes.

2. Viser un large public

Les personnes susceptibles d’être attirées par la pornographie ne seront probablement pas intéressées de s’investir sérieusement dans la justice sociale. La pornographie consolide l’oppression et renforce la notion que certaines personnes sont des objets de ressources pour d’autres, plus privilégiées. C’est loin d’être le genre de structure qu’on est en droit d’attendre pour remettre en cause le spécisme. Pour rappel, la recherche démontre que les campagnes de PETA repoussent en réalité les téléspectateurs qui peuvent aisément reconnaître que les femmes sont rabaissées.

3. Critique de la culture du viol comme de la « Chamaillerie »

Une femme sur 3 sera violée, battue, ou abusée d’une certaine manière une fois au cours de sa vie. Cette violence est fortement liée aux médias misogynes, et PETA non seulement crée mais promeut les médias misogynes. Décrire la critique féministe de cette violence systémique comme étant de la chamaillerie est insultant et banalisant. Faire front contre la violence que j’endure, contre la violence que des millions de femmes endurent, n’est pas de la chamaillerie, c’est de la justice sociale en action.

4. Hommes contre Femmes

Nous ne vivons pas dans une société post-genre/post-féministe. Les corps des hommes et des femmes ne sont pas vus ou traités de manière égale. On ne peut pas simplement déclarer : « Nous utilisons aussi des hommes ! ». Ca ne compensera pas la misogynie utilisée dans la majorité des actions de PETA. 96% de l’objectification sexuelle présente dans les médias inclut des femmes. Les femmes sont également bien plus susceptibles d’être victimes de viol, d’abus sexuels et de violence conjugale. Il est injuste de balayer les représentations sexistes des femmes juste parce que le corps d’un homme est utilisé de temps à autre.

Cet argument est particulièrement absurde dans le cas de PETA. Les publicités de PETA mettant en scène des hommes représentent dans l’ensemble des hommes qui sont aux commandes de leur espace social, et leur pouvoir ainsi que leur statut sont renforcés. Certaines de leurs affiches représentent des hommes ridicules. A nouveau, il n’y a aucun sexisme sérieux en jeu. Nous trouvons ces affiches idiotes car les hommes sont rarement objectifiés sexuellement et représentés dans une position soumise. Les hommes ne sont pas affichés dans des positions sexuelles soumises ou comme victimes de violence, seules les femmes le sont.

Prenez par exemple cette image d’un acteur de Bollywood militant pour PETA. Remarquez le regard confiant face à l’objectif, son pouvoir sur la situation, et sa capacité de contrôle l’espace autour de lui et de créer du changement. Remarquez cette posture qui affiche la confiance.

Indian Bollywood actor freeing birds. He is shown giving direct eye contact to the camera and displaying his power and strength.

En revanche, examinez cette affiche typique de PETA représentant une femme nue. Elle est montrée dans une position soumise, vulnérable, pas sur ses pieds, à la merci du téléspectateur. Ses yeux ne font pas directement face à l’objectif, mais le regarde au contraire par le bas. Elle caresse doucement le lapin; il n’y a pas de contrôle sur son espace. Ses fesses sont relevées pour suggérer la disponibilité sexuelle.

Reads "I'd rather show my buns than wear fur." Shows a naked white woman prostrate on the ground touching a rabbit.

L’argument que le sexisme n’existe pas dans les campagnes de PETA car des hommes nus sont aussi utilisés de temps en temps est un leurre.

Nous ne pouvons pas mettre fin à l’objectification des animaux non-humains par l’objectification des femmes. Nous ne pouvons pas mettre fin à la violence envers les animaux non-humains par la violence envers les femmes. Il est temps de décoloniser le schema militant.

Les informations fournies sur l’industrie de la pornographie dans cet essai sont tirées du documentaire, The Price of Pleasure.

 

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. She is the author of A Rational Approach to Animal Rights: Extensions in Abolitionist Theory.

It’s a Man’s World for Talking Dogs

Closeup of a collie chewing food and talking from Beneful commercial

Why is it that almost every voice-over for dogs in commercials for flea & tick medication, pet food, or treats is masculine?

 


First, animals for whom we do not know the sex or gender we often presume to be male by default. Secondly, canines in particular tend to be masculinized. However, the predominance of masculine voices in media is well documented. Human or nonhuman, it really speaks to the patriarchal dominance of public spaces and experiences.1

Feminine voices only seem to be consistently ascribed to Nonhuman Animals on television in dairy commercials featuring farmed cows. These voices are often matronly, as well, likely in an attempt to frame the product as something that is nurturing, healthful, and familial.

 


One exception can be found in the 2015 Yoplait commercial that gives a masculine French voice to an American female-bodied dairy cow. In fact, cows are frequently represented as male despite being female-bodied.2 This not only demonstrates a general ignorance about the American food system, but it also lends evidence to the male-as-default schema.

Notes:

1. Voice-overs are also white-dominated, with few ethnic intonations represented.

2. Gender and sex are not one in the same of course, but human constructions of gender in the nonhuman world are even less consistent and tend to reflect gender hierarchies.

 

Corey Lee WrennMs. Wrenn is the founder of Vegan Feminist Network and also operates The Academic Abolitionist Vegan. She is a Lecturer of Sociology with Monmouth University, a part-time Instructor of Sociology and Ph.D. candidate with 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. She is the author of A Rational Approach to Animal Rights: Extensions in Abolitionist Theory (2015, Palgrave Macmillan).

Dr. Harper’s New Book, “Scars,” Brings Intersectional Theory to Life

I recently had the pleasure of reading Dr. Breeze Harper’s new fiction publication, Scars: A Black Lesbian Experience in Rural White New England and feel confident recommending the book for newcomers to intersectional theory, undergraduate students studying feminism, critical race, and other social justice issues, and seasoned advocates and scholars who might enjoy a fictional break that speaks to their interests. A trigger warning is in order because, as the title warns, Scars deals with many uncomfortable topics and visceral experiences, including racism, domestic violence, child molestation, and rape.

Although the concepts that shape the book are acute, Scars is an engaging read that both entertains and educates. The main character, Savannah (Savi), is a young college student that we can all look up to. As a poor white girl from Appalachia, I sat mostly silent in the classroom, absorbing what I was taught without question.  So, for me, Savi instantly becomes a hero of critical thinking as she challenges the white male normativity of the privileged world around her. She courageously speaks out against post-racial ideologies and the micro-aggressions of her more privileged peers, even when her friends and classmates resist. Savi is a little radical, and I love it.

Harper

Dr. Breeze Harper

But Savi isn’t a perfect superhero. She is certainly human, facing many structural barriers due to her race, class, and sexual orientation. Brave in some situations, she is scared and vulnerable in others. Her experience with racial slurs as a small child is heartbreaking. Her terrifying experience with a sexually aggressive customer alone in the gas station where she works brings chills. Her debilitating concern for her mother’s health and the constant burden of bills and cold temperatures reminds readers of the stark realities of difference in America.

There is also something to be said of the tension Savi faces in experiencing oppression. At times she is scrappy and outspoken, tackling challenges head on. Oftentimes, however, confrontation is pushed onto her and she feels quite helpless. We see this when she is engaged by her white male classmate who seeks Savi’s counsel in understanding his privilege, but we also see it with her struggle to come to grips with her lesbianism and the pressure to “come out” before she feels ready. Rarely does she feel comfortable admitting weakness and accepting help.

The book’s primary strength relies in its ability to carefully tackle the intricacies of oppression. Her best friend, who is hearing disabled, often engages his male privilege and abuses their friendship with near constant pressure for a relationship, seemingly unable to understand that no means no. Savi herself faces a considerable level of structural oppression, but she comes to recognize that she also maintains some degree of privilege as a human and as a Westerner. She learns that Coca-Cola is responsible for serious social and environmental injustices, but doesn’t want to give it up, so she creates rationalizations. Though she is lactose-intolerant, she continues to eat animal flesh and balks at the thought of giving up McDonald’s.

CocaColaInjusticeNone of the characters are perfect in understanding oppression; everyone is still learning. We see this in Savi’s heavy use of sexist and disableist language, the fetishization of animal bodies as food by most of the characters, and her vegan friend’s wool clothing. Oppression is never straight forward, and Scars helps readers to navigate these complicated concepts and relationships.

When all is said and done, Scars is not a doom-and-gloom story. Harper is careful to point out bright spots, altruism, and room for hope. There are characters that are willing to learn, and many individuals seek to disrupt violence in any way they can. Although there are definitely hierarchies of privilege, no character lives unburdened from some sort of systemic barrier or personal tragedy. Everyone has scars, but everyone has the potential to heal.

 

Are You Demanding Respect and Safety or Just Bickering?

Content Warning:  Discusses pornography and sexism.

Not Safe for Work:  Contains coarse language and sexually explicit subject matter.

PETA posted on Vegan Feminist Network today in response to my article that deconstructs their “Veggie Love Casting” campaign.  The campaign depicts young women in bikinis and high heels performing oral sex and other sex acts on vegetables “for the animals.”  The statement is reproduced here. I have emphasized the problematic statements and will unpack them below.

The smart, compassionate women who participated in this spot choose to do so because they supported the idea and wanted to take action to help animals. PETA admires them for that and would never tell them that they must behave a certain way in order to gain someone else’s approval. PETA applauds all that everyone does to help animals and attempts to have something to appeal to everyone.

Not everyone agrees with all of PETA’s tactics–and they can choose not to show our videos if they wish–but surely we can all agree that it’s more effective to focus our time and energy on animal abusers rather than bickering with one another.

If you want to learn more about PETA’s other campaigns, or see our ads featuring men, please visit http://www.PETA.org. Thanks again for all you do to promote vegan living and make the world a kinder place for animals.

A white woman deep-throating a cucumber.

An image from the campaign

PETA claims that it did not tell the women to engage these behaviors, but this is a disingenuous justification. Obviously, PETA designed the campaign and hired the participants. This was not a spontaneous grassroots movement to promote vegetable sex for Nonhuman Animals.  For that matter, is having sex with cucumbers what women are supposed to do if they want to help animals?

In one way, PETA is correct to say that women are not “told” to engage these behaviors. This is because PETA is normalizing sexist advocacy as female-appropriate advocacy. Female-identified activists increasingly enter the Nonhuman Animal rights movement with an understanding of what is to be expected of them (Gail Dines refers to this socialization phenomenon as “porn ready”). Pornified campaigning is now normalized in the political imagination of the movement. It has become taken for granted as useful, despite social psychological research demonstrating that it is not only ineffective, but also counter-productive.

The tropes embedded in PETA’s response work to protect this normalcy and thus warrant discussion.

1. Choice

“Choice” is a loaded concept that generally works to detract from structural inequality and places responsibility on the individual.  It hides privilege and reinforces oppression.

Women “choose” to work in porn because a patriarchal society gives them extremely limited options.  Women make this “choice” because they are raised in this society to understand that their worth is tied up in their sexual attractiveness and their sexual availability (unlike men who are taught that they can succeed with strength, leadership, intelligence, wit, etc.).

The Girls Gone Wild tour bus. Depicts two blonde white women, reads "Do you have what it takes?"

Most porn actresses come from low income and/or abusive households and have extremely short careers (about 3 years, a time span that has been declining dramatically). The vast majority of porn actresses make very little money.  We’re talking about a few hundred bucks for each movie, with a movie deal every few weeks or so. Once they’ve “done it all,” they’re spent, and no longer of use to the industry.  Sound familiar?  That’s exactly how humans treat layer hens and dairy cows: as expendable sexual resources.  Women continue to consent to increasingly degrading, painful, or dangerous sex acts in order to keep in the game as long as possible. The industry exposes women to these precarious and unsafe work conditions with zero job security. If this is the “choice” available to women, something is seriously awry with our labor system.

I’m not blaming these actresses (advocates?) who work for PETA. They’re just doing their job, trying to make a living. Some probably even enjoyed themselves and had fun participating. Instead, I’m blaming the patriarchy that raises women as resources for men. I’m blaming a social movement that is supposed to be about peace but instead exploits women’s vulnerability for fundraising.   Under a patriarchy, the rules of the game are rigged to benefit men at the expense of women (and other vulnerable populations, including Nonhuman Animals).  All women are products of a patriarchy that grooms them to believe:  “Your social worth = Your sex appeal.”

“Choice” relies on a very narrowly defined set of options that patriarchy allows women.  If we want to have a serious discussion of “choice,” I suggest we get a straight answer from PETA as to why they intentionally choose women for fundraising and media attention, and why women are disproportionately placed in degrading scenarios, oftentimes (though not in this case) simulating the horrific suffering and death of a Nonhuman Animal by drawing on scripts of violence against women. Like any pornography, PETA campaigns sexualize the humiliation and hurt of women.

2. Appealing to a Wide Audience

The demographics likely attracted to pornography are not likely to be interested in seriously engaging social justice.  Pornography further entrenches oppression and reinforces the notion that some persons are objects of resource to other, more privileged persons.  Hardly the type of framework we would expect to challenge speciesism. Again, research demonstrates that PETA’s campaigns actually repel viewers who can easily recognize that women are being demeaned.

3. Cricism of Rape Culture as “Bickering”

One in 3 women will be raped, beaten, or otherwise abused at least once in their lifetime. This violence is strongly tied to misogynistic media, and PETA both creates and promotes misogynistic media.  To refer to feminist criticism of this systemic violence as bickering is insulting and trivializing.  Standing up against the violence that I endure, the violence that millions of women endure, is not bickering, it is social justice in action.

4. Men vs. Women

We do not live in a post-gender/post-feminist society.  The bodies of men and women are not viewed or treated similarly.  One cannot say, “We use men, too!” with accuracy. It will not negate the misogyny being engaged in the majority of PETA’s outreach.  Ninety-six percent of the sexual objectification that occurs in the media depicts women.  Women are also many, many times more likely to be victims of rape, sexual abuse, and domestic violence.  It is unfair to disregard sexist depictions of women simply because a man’s body is used from time to time.

This argument is particularly nonsensical in PETA’s case.  PETA’s advertisements featuring men by and large depict men who are in command over their social space, and their power and status is reinforced.  Some of their ads depict men as being silly, Again, there is no serious sexism going on.  We find these ads silly because men are so rarely sexually objectified and portrayed in a submissive position.  Men are not depicted in sexually submissive positions or as victims of violence, only women are.

Take, for instance, this image of a Bollywood actor advocating for PETA.  Notice his confident gaze into the camera, his power over the situation, and his ability to control the space around him and enact change.  Notice the posture that depicts confidence.

Indian Bollywood actor freeing birds. He is shown giving direct eye contact to the camera and displaying his power and strength.

In contrast, examine this typical PETA ad depicting a naked woman.  She is shown in a submissive position, vulnerable, not on her feet, at the mercy of the viewer.  Her eyes do not meet the camera directly, but look up from a down turned face.  She gently touches the rabbit; there is no command over her space.  Her buttocks are raised to denote sexual availability.

Reads "I'd rather show my buns than wear fur." Shows a naked white woman prostrate on the ground touching a rabbit.

The argument that sexism is nonexistent in PETA’s campaigning because nude men are occasionally used as well is a red herring.

We cannot end the objectification of Nonhuman Animals with the objectification of women.  We cannot end violence against Nonhuman Animals with violence against women. It’s time to decolonize the activist schema.

 

Information provided on the pornography industry in this essay was excerpted from the documentary, The Price of Pleasure

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

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. She is the author of A Rational Approach to Animal Rights: Extensions in Abolitionist Theory.