By Lisa Bennett, NOW Communications Director
It’s not surprising when the “mad men” of advertising (whether they’re working in the 60s or today) use sex to sell. But I’m sorry to say that it’s become equally unsurprising when animal rights group PETA employs the same tactics. PETA has a shamefully long history of using naked women and other exploitative ploys to gain attention and free press for its campaigns. They certainly aren’t above belittling women’s bodies in various ways in an attempt to seem edgy or funny. Like the time PETA presented a woman’s unshaven bikini line with the pitch: “Fur trim. Unattractive.”
Recently PETA put up a billboard in Jacksonville, Fla., that said “Save the Whales. Lose the Blubber: Go Vegetarian.” Next to the lettering was a drawing of a plus-size, bikini-clad woman — meant to represent, apparently, the epitome of the overweight, unsightly woman who should be hiding indoors. In a press statement, their executive vice president said, “Trying to hide your thunder thighs and balloon belly is no day at the beach.”
Lots of angry people alerted NOW to this outrage, and many more wrote to PETA. The billboard was quickly replaced with one that says: “GONE. Just Like All the Pounds Lost by People Who Go Vegetarian.” While PETA is sticking with the theme of weight loss, at least they are no longer visually shaming women who dare to go to the beach without reaching a size zero first. PETA’s retraction of the billboard is proof that our actions can make a difference. Don’t be afraid to write to PETA the next time you see an ad of theirs that capitalizes on degrading sex stereotypes. Maybe someday they’ll get it.
In the meantime, it’s not too late to post comments on PETA’s site. Help educate them about why this kind of advertising is harmful! And visit NOW Foundation’s Love Your Body site to find out ways to celebrate women’s bodies.