Sexism and Misogyny in the Movement

Dear Colleagues:

For two decades now, I have argued that using sexism and misogyny supposedly to promote animal rights is a very bad idea. Perpetuating the commodification of women is not only inherently immoral but will do nothing to change social thinking about the commodification of nonhumans. PETA has been doing various versions of the “I’d rather go naked than wear fur” campaign for years now. And what result has it had? The fur industry is stronger now than it has ever been. Even those who once went naked for PETA are wearing fur again.

I have just seen a video ad produced by Wakker Dier, which means “Animal Awake,” a Dutch organization described as “Europe’s PETA counterpart.” Wakker Dier hired Dutch Playmate and fetish model Ancilla Tilia to play the part of a stripper who gets clubbed and stripped like an animal.

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PETA pushed its sexist campaigns further with its frontal nudity video. And now we are seeing outright graphic violence.

If you believe that any of this is going to do anything to raise consciousness about animal exploitation, I respectfully but strongly disagree.

These antics are intended as nothing more than entertainment for the movement; they do nothing to convince the public of the importance of the issue of animal exploitation. In the many years that I have been doing animal work, I have never had anyone come to me to say that they had been moved to consider the animal issue because they saw a naked woman in a cage. Indeed, this is precisely the sort of thing that makes progressive people think that the animal rights movement is a pathetic joke to be dismissed and ignored.

The commodification of nonhumans is very similar to the commodification of women. But society has no problem with the commodification of women. Instead of opposing sexism and misogyny, a large segment of the movement actively promotes it. As long as we continue to think of women as meat, we will never see the problem with using animals as meat.

I urge you to think about this issue and to consider active opposition to sexism and misogyny in the movement. It is inherently wrong and it is doing nothing–absolutely nothing–to help animals.

Gary L. Francione
©2009 Gary L. Francione