PETA: The awkward uncle at the vegan family dinner
Trigger warning: references to violence towards women, exploitation, and rape.
Everyone has that family member (or maybe more than one). You know, the one who every now and then says or does something that shocks or embarrasses everyone else? Then, after the awkward silence, the conversation moves on and everyone just chalks it up to “oh, that’s just your uncle. He’s set in his ways and doesn’t quite understand why such things might offend us, but he means well.”
Drawing the line with uncle PETA
I’ve muttered on this site before about other PETA campaigns, and I’ve downplayed most of them as just another drop in the bucket for an organization that is so focused on one goal they don’t see the damage their doing to other movements. Unfortunately, the latest PETA campaign entitled “Living With BWVAKTBOOM: Boyfriend Went Vegan and Knocked the Bottom out of Me” is more than just another ignorant misstep. This one crosses far too many lines to just be pushed aside by a comment on how great Aunt Jane’s garlic mashed potatoes turned out.
So, I want to make this clear, just in case I’ve been vague in the past:
Although T.O.F.U. and PETA are promoting veganism, in no way does T.O.F.U. promote PETA. Their most recent campaign, along with so many in the past, relies heavily on damaging and irresponsible methods filled with stereotypes and ideologies that T.O.F.U. strives to eliminate rather than propagate through our own actions.
Sure, we may be in the same family, but that doesn’t mean we have to support everything our weird uncle does. What is it that offends us so you may ask? Well, let’s see:
1) Exploitation of women
Granted, the women in the campaigns may do it of their own free will, and the fact that they are able to do such things is a sign that we have come far in some ways. However, the use of oversexualized campaigns (see previous banned Super Bowl ads, including the most recent one) to promote veganism is weak marketing at best. With so many other possible avenues, such as the plain and simple truth about the cruelty involved in the meat and dairy industry, why must an organization that aims to stop the exploitation of so many species support the exploitation of another?
2) Violence towards women
Again, assuming that the overall purpose of PETA is to promote a more humane lifestyle, why should we accept a campaign entitled “Boyfriend Went Vegan and Knocked the Bottom out of Me” as acceptable when it so clearly plays on the idea of the dominant male and the women who continues to cater to his needs while ignoring the damage it is doing to her? Compare some of the “People’s Stories” clips with this domestic violence PSA and tell me the marketing team didn’t use it for inspiration.
3) Rape culture
This newest campaign seems to be built on the idea that vegan men have an overactive sex drive, and the women in their lives (admittedly, there is one homosexual couple referenced in a video, but the overall content is incredibly heteronormative and lacks any major ethnic or racial diversity as well) must cater and adapt to it. Why? Because deep down they want it as much as the newly virile man, and despite temporary blindness, displaced hips, concussions, repetitive stress injuries, and other dangerous consequences, they just can’t resist the allure of their “man of steel” and his newfound superpowers. Of course, these men turned sex machines are powerless in controlling their new desires, and trying to discourage it is portrayed as foolish. So, PETA is nice enough to suggest several ways to handle the repercussions of having a vegan boyfriend. Hmm, suggesting that it is up to the women to control a man’s sexual advances since he is incapable of controlling them seems familiar. Where else have we seen this myth promoted?
4) Virility and being a man
Not only does the newest campaign, as well as so many previous to this, promote a stereotypical view of women, it also promotes the common misconception that the true value of a man is found in his ability to please his partner sexually. The fact that these newly vegan men may have chosen their lifestyle based on compassion and love for other living creatures, a desire for better health, or a variety of other reasons is not promoted at all. No, the true reason to go vegan, which popular media already promotes as the reason to do anything, is because by being able to “knock the bottom” out of your partner you will obtain the title of a true man. Just check out the video of the guy bragging about the great sex he just had with the attractive girl behind him all because he went vegan. Of course, there is no real portrayal of vegan women being great in bed and their partners having to deal with that at all. Apparently, these specific benefits are bestowed upon the men only.
And the list could go on…
Working toward a well-balanced meal with the family
When we released issue six we hoped to give people a platform to discuss and consider so many of the things that intersect with veganism, and this campaign is a perfect example of why such a view is necessary to make true and beneficial change happen.
So, if anyone needs me, I’ll be sitting at the kiddie’s table. Sure, there may be food fights, but at least the jokes will be innocent and a lot more mature than what our uncle typically brings to the table.
Photo credit: PETA