Feminists are incensed about the latest campaign poster, shown above, from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).
They say, predictably enough, that it demeans women. Jessica at Feministing described the billboard as "fat-shaming." Other feminists reacted similarly.
Tracy Reiman, a PETA spokesperson, said, "Trying to hide your thunder thighs and balloon belly is no day at the beach. PETA has a free 'Vegetarian Starter Kit' for people who want to lose pounds while eating as much as they like.
The billboard is certainly provocative, which is what an effective ad is supposed to be. But will it win over adherents? If I were a fat woman....I'm not sure how I'd react. By drawing attention to my obesity, it might give me slightly more motivation to slim down. But calling me a whale probably wouldn't endear PETA to me.
(Guys, on the other hand, seemed to find it funny. PETA's offices were evidently inundated with calls reporting beached whales after the billboard went up.)
PETA has always managed to draw attention to itself. The organization first gained fame when its members splashed paint on the fur coats of women in New York City.
It's hard to argue with their primary cause of preventing cruelty to animals. But it's easy to argue with their destruction of others' property. And with their tactics.
A few years ago PETA compared the farming of animals to the Holocaust. In their 2005 campaign, "Are animals the new slaves?" they juxtaposed pictures of chained animals with black slaves.
One PETA pamphlet titled "Your Daddy Kills Animals" showed a cartoon of a man cleaning a fish, and said, "Until your Daddy learns it's not fun to kill, keep your dogs and kitties away from him. He's so hooked on killing defenseless animals, they could be next."
Their most famous campaign involved naked women posing for pictures with titles like "I'd rather go naked than wear fur." The list of women includes Eva Mendes, Christy Turlington, Holly Madison, Khloe Kardashian, Naomi Campbell, Dita von Teese, Alicia Silverstone, Charlotte Ross, and many others. These models always struck me as having an exhibitionistic streak. They who wanted to pose naked and PETA allowed them to do so not only without any hint of moral opprobrium, but with an air of actual moral superiority. A real twofer. (Several of the women also posed for Playboy.)
I guess the idea was to make vegetarianism seem sexy.
To me, it made vegetarianism seem vain and self-indulgent.
As far as winning fat women to their cause with their latest billboard, they might as well try to convert all the members of the canine and feline families to vegetarianism as well. They'd have about as much success.