PETA’s 2010 ‘State of the Union Undress’ – A Strip Too Far?

I’ve always respected PETA for their work towards promoting animal welfare, and exposing the cruelty behind the meat and dairy industries. I am, however, currently reassessing my views, due to their most recent campaign to drum up support, based around a parody of America’s annual ‘State of the Union Address’.

Their ‘State of the Union Undress’ (WARNING: VERY NSFW) is a feature that’s existed for a few years, now. It is essentially a collection of videos which all involve a model standing in front of an American flag, in their underwear, talking about PETA’s work. PETA have always been provocative in their advertisements (something a quick Google Images search will reveal) but this really takes the cake. Interspersed with shots of a legitimate Congressional audience, to give the impression of a genuine Union address, each model takes it in turn to talk about PETA’s brilliant work, and how it’s essential to keep supporting them, whilst taking off their underwear.

You read that correctly. While these ‘spokespeople’ elucidate the need to keep supporting PETA through these ‘tough economic times’, they’re stripping down to their bare bottoms. The faux-Congressional audience claps and cheers, while the models make horrible puns about Americans needing to ‘stand to attention’, and what-not, and the resulting debacle is all kinds of horrible. I am, of course, speaking as a vegan with an active interest in feminism, but the ‘State of the Union Undress’ campaign makes me, dare I say, ashamed to be vegan.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that PETA are hoping, as I’m sure they have done with previous ‘State of the Union Undresses’, to create huge amounts of publicity and PR spin. I’m sure that this will happen, and they’ll be featured on all types of websites, and in all kinds of publications. It doesn’t matter that the majority of these will likely be men’s magazines and adult websites, as long as they’re getting the word out, right? Yes, people are going to take notice, but will the people PETA are trying to appeal to, who will appreciate such a calamitous publicity campaign, really be the people who will actually be likely to give a damn about animal rights, and issues of animal welfare? I worry for whoever is managing PETA’s marketing functions, who I’m sure is one of those docile souls who believes that anyone can be won over to any cause, as long as you grab their attention. The men (and possibly women) who lap this up won’t give a damn about changing their diet, just as any responsible types who PETA should actively be trying to appeal to will just shake their heads, along with the rest of us, and move on.

It really bothers me that PETA have frittered away what little credibility they had by making women expose themselves senselessly, in the name of ‘animal welfare’. No, scratch that. If they got these models to stand on a soapbox outside their local McDonalds and KFC stores, and asked them to shout, whilst fully clothed, about how animals are slaughtered for fast food consumption, that would be in the name of animal welfare. That would at least be an attempt at something that resembles trying to making a change. Instead, these women are on our computer screens, stripping for the benefit of what is probably a load of serial masturbators, trying to make them care about what they had for dinner, and what they’ll have for dinner tomorrow, and the next day, and the next, by appearing to appeal to the lowest common denominator.

Well done, PETA, for what I’d probably commend as being the most ironic advertising campaign of the year. In a poor attempt to gain some publicity, you’ve successfully shown that you treat women the way most other people treat meat. You’ve also completely lost my respect.

Feminists, do leave a comment. I know you’re out there.

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More busy things, and quite a lot of marketing.

Today I had my last lecture for my ‘Introduction to Marketing’ module. I went into it having serious doubts about my choice of course, and came out feeling happy and enlightened. It was a four hour lecture, which seems to be the norm in the School of Management, but I actually really, really enjoyed it. It was one of those moments when everything suddenly fit into place, and things started making sense.

We talked a lot about branding, which I am very passionate about. We talked about how important brands are, as well as the perception of brands, in the eyes of a consumer. It’s fascinating how we all have an innate knowledge of big-name brands, thanks to the advertising we’re all indoctrinated with from a young age. If I was to, say, show you a curved tick, everyone would instantly think ‘Nike’. It’s almost a subconscious thing, and it’s sort of amazing, sort of galling how big a part of our lives advertising has actually become. More than that, what brands people use, and purchase, says an awful lot about them. Because of this, companies have to do their very best to cater to as wide a customer base as possible, perhaps through different product ranges (think of how many types of Ford car you can think of) as we’re all different, with different values, and different ideas about what true value is. I think it’s fascinating how this value system works, and how we’re constantly changing and refining these values, as we learn more and more about ourselves. As well as this, we talked about logos, and their importance. Did you know the BMW logo represents the image of a moving plane propeller? We touched ever so slightly on where logos come from, which was great, as I’d really like to get into logo design, and that sort of thing.

Another interesting thing that happened me today, was that I attended my first meeting of the ‘New Wave Feminist Society’. It was just a coincidence that the RAG meeting I was attending beforehand finished just as the meeting was starting, so I decided to stick around, as I recognised some friendly faces. I was actually pleasantly surprised with the content of the session. If I’m brutally honest, I was expecting some stereotypical ‘feminist’ ranting session, but they’re actually pretty liberal about it all. Today we were discussing an article written by some academic about student/teacher ‘lust’ in universities. Apparently, the article was written as a joke, although it was rather shameful, not only condoning sexual relationships between female students and their male lecturers, but encouraging them. The article also condoned adultery, promoting a ‘bit on the side’, which I thought was horrible. We talked about many things, from how stereotypes are enforced through a mostly female teaching staff in primary education, to how paternity leave, as it stands, is a joke. No, there was no bra burning here. They really didn’t seem to have any ‘beef’ beyond wanting equivalent treatment in terms of pay, and such, to men. Can’t say fairer than that, really. I think I might go back next week. They’re discussing fashion, and I think (well, hope) that my newfound knowledge of branding will come in useful.