revised Apr 23, 2010
The ad depicting bikini-clad Pamela Anderson as a piece of meat, the names of the cuts such as 'rump' and 'breast' displayed on her body, has been denied a public display by a Montreal agency. An animal rights group, PETA, had wanted to use the poster to gain interest in its cause, animal rights. On the basis of it being sexist, PETA was denied a permit, thus forbidding the group to use the poster, officially, in the launch of its campaign in Montreal at Place Jacques-Cartier in front of the City Hall. Instead, the launch is scheduled for a local restaurant.
Check out the double entendre in this McDonald's ad which illustrates its meat in a manner opposite to the way the PETA ad does (Piece of meat, Slang City, 2005). Ingrid Newkirk and the PETA group don't seem to have any regard for human females, only female (and male) animals. If they did, would they use sex in this manner to draw attention to animal rights. Continuing to perpetuate the idea that women are pieces of meat in men's eyes is harmful to women - not to women who have the financial means and the support to remain safe but to the ones who have to rely on men for their survival and who have little power on their side.
Will people buy the PETA poster just because the proceeds go to PETA, or because it is a poster of a beautiful Pamela Anderson, or do they enjoy the joke behind it more, that women are often talked of as being pieces of meat for the sexual use of men and here it is, in a poster endorsed by PETA? This is not the first time controversial images have been used by PETA (see PETA women-as-meat, June 14, 2008). No doubt the poster will enhance Pamela Anderson's reputation, as the PETA site claims, giving her the opportunity to show off "her outer-and inner-beauty to promote a vegetarian diet and point out the similarities between humans and animals" (Pamela Anderson shows that all animals, July 17, 2010). But the effect on the women within society, and on men, is still debatable.
Scantily-clad women are all over the internet. Female Czech politicians have made the news recently, promoting their risqué 2011 calendar (Czechmates, July 9, 2010) to highlight the presence of women in politics. One of the women who appears in the calendar is Marketa Reedova, a 42-year-old Prague city councilwoman now running for mayor. She says "Women's political influence is growing. Why not show we are women who aren't afraid of being sexy? . . . Czechs are open-minded."
Why not show it? Maybe because being sexy isn't simply about showing it. Surely it's closer to being porn than being sexual, if we see porn as something men seek for their own needs while women perform, while being sexy is more to do with the person and her partner. Nevertheless, Czechs are following the lead of the west, the article claims, resisting "the unglamorous trappings and enforced unisex treatment imposed by socialism" (Czechmates, July 9, 2010). Taking steps to 'prove' they are sexual, in such a public manner, would surely be a sign of insecurity, not like the kind of behaviour shown by Pamela Anderson, who surely has nothing more to prove in that respect. For more on the calendar, see Backlash Begins, July 19, 2010.
A decade ago another group of women, members of the Rylstone and District Women's Institute, published a nude calendar (see Calendar girls galore, April 24, 2010). It was a tremendous success! The article tells how the calendar, still being published, has changed over time, and explores the effects of the calendar on various groups also using nude calendars to raise money for a cause. I found the calendar to be a sensitive yet bold way of capturing older women's qualities and strengths (see Beer and Tea, July, 2001).
Pamela Anderson has said, "In a city that is known for its exotic dancing and for being progressive and edgy, how sad that a woman would be banned from using her own body in a political protest over the suffering of cows and chickens" (Pamela Anderson's sexy, July 15, 2010). Women's embodied presence can be a source of power to them. But it can also be exploited, and the images as well as the thoughts behind them might do harm to others. As society continues to deteriorate, under the guise of progress and freedom, especially in the areas of economics and sex, it could be helpful to pause and reflect on some of these issues.
Added Apr 23, 2012
The PETA ad with Pamela Anderson is sexist, but if it isn’t being displayed in a way to intentionally cause offense, and isn’t overly large or imposing, or in the wrong neighbourhood, is there a problem. As others have stated, this display was set up in Montreal, not in a place where sexual images are not seen on a daily basis. The one part of it that is problematic, as I see it, is what is implied by showing a woman’s body as pieces of meat.
As images of sex become more overt, sometimes in unexpected places (see Public displays of private matters, July, 2007), and more women appear to accept that using their sexual attractiveness to achieve their goals is the norm in society today, while men respond to that the way men will, do we need strategies that prevent this from becoming the new form of ‘merit.’
Backlash Begins for Czech Calendar MPs
By Leos Rousek
New Europe (US edition)
July 19, 2010
Beer and Tea: Harmony and Contradiction Among Two Unlikely Counterparts
By Sue McPherson
Calendar girls galore
April 24, 2010
Czechmates: These Political Figures Star in Their Own Racy Calendar
By Gordon Fairclough and Sean Carney
Wall Street Journal
July 9, 2010
Pamela Anderson Shows That All Animals Have the Same Parts
July 17, 2010
Pamela Anderson's new PETA ad branded 'sexist' and banned in Canada
By Mail Online Reporter
16 July 2010
Pamela Anderson's sexy body-baring PETA ad gets banned in Canada
By Kristie Cavanagh
NY Daily News
July 15, 2010
PETA women-as-meat demonstration
By Gwen Sharp
Sociological Images by Lisa Wade and Gwen Sharp
June 14, 2008
Piece of Meat
Public displays of private matters - Irene Mathyssen and James Moore
By Sue McPherson
Sue’s Views on the News
Dec 7, 2007
Links updated Apr 23, 2012