PETA co-founder Ingrid Newkirk
book-signing at Powell's last night was no amen chorus. About 15 angry women showed up to protest a PETA ad campaign they say oppresses women by depicting them in demeaning roles that exploit their bodies.
A recent PETA ad depicting a heavy-set woman at the beach with the caption: “Save The Whales, Lose the Blubber: Go Vegetarian” sparked the protest, which went on to the street after Powell's associates asked protesters to leave.
Other ads that have angered some women include a nude Maggie Q lying on a bed of chilies and proclaiming “Spice Up Your Life- Go Vegetarian,” and a lingerie-clad Alicia Meyer telling men that going vegetarian will help them “Get it Up.”
Newkirk — in town to talk about her newest book The PETA Practical Guide to Animal Rights —
wasn't surprised to see the protesters. “There are definitely lots of different types of people in Portland, with lots of different opinions,” she says.
Erin Fairchild, a social worker and one of the protest group's organizers, says her group consists mostly of vegetarians and vegans. She says they don't oppose PETA's animal rights mission. “We want what they want, which is the ethical treatment of animals,” Fairchild says. “We just want the ethical treatment of women, too.”
“We were offended by PETA's ads, but when we saw this billboard we knew we had to do something,” Fairchild says. “We didn't even know she was going to be in town until about 5 p.m., and sent out a massive invite on Facebook. We got a lot of responses and put this whole thing together in about an hour.”
Newkirk recognizes that the billboard ads upset some people, but says they aren't going to change. “Its fine they have their own opinion, but I'm hearing good responses over the ads, too,” she says. “One woman came to me before the book signing and said she didn't know being a vegetarian would help her lose weight until she saw our ad."
And according to Newkirk, critics of PETA's ads have a narrow view of a woman's portrayal in the media. “Women can do whatever they want with their bodies, and these protests are going back to the times when husbands and boyfriends told us to cover up,” she says. “Now these other women are telling us to cover up, too.”
Fairchild disagrees: “We just want to create a rich and open dialogue about what these PETAs ads are doing,” says Fairchild. “They're sexist and size-ist, and they need to understand that you don't have to oppress women in order to liberate animals.”