Adventures in Confused Thinking About Sexism

Someone sent this PETA poster and PETA’s reply to the claim that this sort of thing commodifies women. According to PETA, it is “misogynist” to claim that this poster commodifies women because it fails to respect the decision that women make to participate in making a poster like this.

To call that confused reasoning on PETA’s part is the nicest thing I can say about it.

In a patriarchal society (which this undoubtedly is), woman are–by definition–viewed as second-class citizens whose primary function is to provide sexual services. Although that is changing to some degree, anyone who thinks that is not still the (very) dominant paradigm is dreaming. To say that this poster does not represent self-commodification is absurd. No one is questioning whether women are “free” to do this. Of course they are “free” to do so. Patriarchy *encourages* women to self-commodify. In a patriarchal society, the choices of women are shaped by sexist norms. That’s the problem.

This sort of poster blatantly and transparently encourages people to think of women as “meat.” That is wrong in itself–and it will *never* lead to our stopping people from thinking of nonhumans as “meat.” In a patriarchal society, commodification and self-commodification are inevitable. But using the wrong of sexism (supposedly) to educate about speciesism is something we should not do.

In order to see the absurdity of PETA’s position, consider this analogy. This is a racist society. There can be no doubt of that. Actors of color are very often playing stereotype parts that reinforce the racist narrative that people of color routinely engage in criminal and violent actions. I saw a black actor interviewed who was asked why he always played a drug pusher or a pimp. His response was to the effect that those are the roles he is offered. Do these actors play these parts “voluntarily”? Sure.They get paid a lot of money. But their choices are limited by racism. Do these depictions reinforce racist stereotypes? Of course. Is it “racist” to point this out? Of course not. We have an obligation to call out this sort of thing.

The same reasoning applies in the sexism context.


If you are not vegan, please go vegan. Veganism is about nonviolence. First and foremost, it’s about nonviolence to other sentient beings. But it’s also about nonviolence to the earth and nonviolence to yourself.

If animals matter morally, veganism is not an option — it is a necessity. Anything that claims to be an animal rights movement must make clear that veganism is a moral imperative.

Embracing veganism as a moral imperative and advocating for veganism as a moral imperative are, along with caring for nonhuman refugees, the most important acts of activism that you can undertake.

Never use racism, sexism, or any form of discrimination to promote animal rights. All forms of discrimination are morally wrong.

The World is Vegan! If you want it.

Learn more about veganism at

Gary L. Francione
Board of Governors Professor of Law, Rutgers University
Honorary Professor (Philosophy) University of East Anglia

©2018 Gary L. Francione