Advertising or animal references (Malik, 2014). This makes

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is a central part of our every day lives whether we are
aware of it or not. Although we may not realize
it, we are affected by the ads we see. When first coming across an advertisement, our brains subconsciously retain specific key points of that ad which can potentially impact our daily lives. For several decades, society has consisted of a world
of marketing that tells individuals who they are and who they should be. An
integral part of advertising includes the exploitation of women
and their body. In the media, women are often portrayed
in a way that is seen as more negative and
judgmental than men; as mentioned in Killing Us Softly 4: Advertising’s Image of
Women (2010), women are taught from an early
age to spend a lot of time, energy, and money to look a
certain way in order to be “ideally beautiful” and are
conditioned to feel guilty if they do not resemble the women that are seen in
advertisements. PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) is a company that has been known for objectifying and
sexualizing women. PETA’s advertisements objectify women by using
degrading images of barely clothed women with animals or animal references
(Malik, 2014). This makes the viewer see women
as animalistic, out of control, and in need of saving, all
while keeping in mind the end goal of drawing in
customers (specifically men) to support its cause and buy their products.

            PETA’s main purpose is to defend the
rights of animals. A message that is seen across
several of their advertisements involves promoting a vegetarian or vegan
lifestyle. One vegetarian ad that really stood out consists of a thin, white woman with
blonde hair lying on a ground full of red peppers; she is completely naked and
is lying down in an unusual way, covering just
her upper and lower private parts. The use of a white woman in this
advertisement is not shocking because white women have been used as the face
for advertising for several decades (Hollows, 2000). The
ad reads, “Spice Up Your Life, Go Vegetarian!” In this ad, PETA sexualizes women by showing a woman
with no clothing on, thus presenting her as a
sexual object. Although their intentions are good
(asking people to not harm animals), their methods are
unethical. They are targeting and objectifying women by telling them
that if they continue to eat meat, they will not look as “beautiful” or as “thin”
as the women in their advertisements. PETA indirectly uses fat-shaming to impose a vegetarian
lifestyle as the preferable alternative; this can also be seen as logically
inconsistent because although some vegetarians may weigh
less, some can still weigh the same as
the average person who eats meat (Malik, 2014). This ties into the idea of “sexualization
of culture” by permitting and encouraging public nakedness (Gill, 2009). In
Gill (2009), she states a point made by Levy that says, “proving that you are
hot, worthy of lust, and – necessarily – that you seek to provoke lust is still
exclusively women’s work.” The creators of this advertisement uses the female
body and uses it in a seductive and exposing way in order to send out the
message they are trying to get across. Women who do not look like the women in these ads may not feel sexy or beautiful enough in
their own body, even though they are in fact in healthy and good shape. This creates a stigma
against girls who do not have this type of body, or in fact, who are not
vegetarian. These advertisements may attract audiences
with low self-esteem, further encouraging bad eating habits in order to
fit this lifestyle. It is also important to note
that eating meat is crucial to the health of certain
individuals (ie. providing iron for anemic
people) and from looking at this ad, one may fall into the habit of unhealthy
eating habits in order to look like the woman in this picture; this can lead to the potential of severe eating

            Another part of PETA’s advertising that often strikes
controversy involves the emphasis of similarities between animals and
humans by dehumanizing humans, women especially (Malik, 2014). The
advertisement that I chose to use for this point involves a beautiful, white
woman who is barely clothed,
tied up in chains, and is covered in
dirt; behind her are two tanned males who are watching her
be tortured. The caption for this ad reads, “Shackled, Beaten, Abused. Stop Cruelty
to Elephants.” As mentioned previously, while PETA
intends to send out a good message (do not harm
elephants), they are evidently going about it
wrong. By using this ad, PETA is normalizing violence against women and using
it to make a point; this ties into Jean Kilbourne’s quote when she says,
“turning a human being into a thing is almost always the first step toward
justifying violence against that person.” Here, I think Jean is saying that
once a woman is objectified, they essentially get their identity taken away
from them.  I agree with this quote
because in this ad, the woman is being objectified and portrayed as an animal that
needs to be controlled – this clearly dehumanizes her and may cause her to feel
like an emotionless “figure.” The woman is seen as “out of control” and needs
to be tamed by the chains. This advertisement goes one step further by using
the male as the “dominant gender,” which has been seen in far too many ads
(Hollows, 2000). The men in this image are not chained down and are in fact the ones
who are causing harm to the woman. Furthermore, fairly similar to the previous ad,
this woman is barely clothed, essentially not only sexualizing
violence against women, but the murder of women as
well. In this ad, the company tries to make their audience feel empathy towards the animals by enabling them to
believe that humans and animals are more alike than they think (Malik, 2014). While they are trying to get rid of the human and
animal divide to gain attention from their audience, they
fail to realize that there are some lines that should not be crossed.

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            The advertisements previously
mentioned are just a few of the many controversial and degrading advertisements that PETA has
released over the years; some ads were even taken down due to the backlash it
received from others (Malik, 2014). When looking at how advertising has affected me personally and my self-worth, although
I try not to let it impact me, it is something
that is quite inevitable. As mentioned at the beginning of this paper,
sometimes I do not realize the affect an advertisement has on me until I
remember certain key points about it later on. Although some advertisements may
have good intentions when promoting their product, for the most part,
advertising can negatively have a bad effect on society.

When seeing ads, especially ones involving girls that do not look like me, it can sometimes take a toll on me and make me feel like I need to look a certain way in
order to feel good about myself. This relates to
how advertising affects other women and men. For example, as mentioned in Killing
Us Softly 4: Advertising’s Image of Women, heterosexuality and being white became the norm in advertising and up
until recently, women of colour are only considered beautiful if they resemble
the “ideal white girl” (light skin, soft hair, etc.). Women are often
dehumanized and objectified, resulting in women measuring themselves to these every day ads. Not
resembling the women shown in ads can cause women to feel extremely
bad about themselves, which can potentially lead to
mental health issues such as depression and eating disorders. It is important
to note that many of the women in the advertisements do not even resemble how
they look in real life; editors do several alterations to the models’ body and
face in order to look a certain way. Furthermore, while women are projected as
being fragile and vulnerable, when men are objectified, they are generally
bigger, stronger, and more powerful. This also ties into the “sexualization of
culture” because before, the bodies of women were seen in a majority of society’s
daily advertisements, whereas now, men are often seen in more advertisements
than before, taking a women’s place (Gill, 2009). However, women are still
being objectified more often than men. I think this is simply because of the
way society has portrayed and looked at women over the years; society has grown
up to believe that the looks of a woman are often more important than the looks
of a man and men have grown up to view women as an object of “decoration” or “art”
who use their sexuality to get what they want. To add on,
although men are not as dismembered as women in the world of advertising, they
are often portrayed as being more physical rather than verbal, and so when a
man uses his words more than fists, he may be called “feminine,” which may also
make him feel as if he is not good or manly enough, essentially taking a toll
on his mental health.

            In conclusion, PETA is one of the
many examples of advertising that objectifies and sexualizes
women in our every day lives. PETA shows degrading images of women, which involve comparing women to animals in order to
sell their lifestyle of being vegetarian and defending the rights of animals.

The advertisements associated with this company are similar to many others, as
women are often objectified and portrayed a certain way in order to sell
products. The sexualization of women in our culture has become so normal that
some do not even realize it until we find ourselves comparing how we look to
the faces on these ads. With that being said, objectifying and sexualizing
women in the media can potentially
cause mental health problems
in women through constantly comparing themselves
to the women they see in the media every day. The negative effects of advertising are something that everyone
should be aware of, and although we may not be able to stop it, we can
certainly inform others about it. Both women and men should be taught to feel beautiful the way they are, and not let the media dictate who or
what they should be and feel.



Categories: Marketing


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