Monday, February 06, 2006

It Does the Female Body Bad ?

PETA's "Milk Gone Wild" Superbowl Ad -- banned from airing during the game by ABC -- is not for the faint of heart. It's a grossly disturbing and eerie spoof on "Girls Gone Wild," the enterprise that perhaps best reflects the rise of so-called "raunch culture." Anyway, PETA's spoof is so convincing, that the throngs of women wearing expressions of coy hesitation and belly-button rings might lead one to believe that she actually IS watching GGW. That is until the women flash their udders.

The commercial itself is rather cryptic in its critique of the dairy industry. The udders (which eventually explode and leak milk all over men's faces) and the tall glasses of white stuff are the only overt references to milk. In fact, the real critique of milk drinking is entirely dependent on the establishment of an analogy between the exploitation of women in GGW and the exploitation of cows by the dairy industry. How well the PETA ad establishes this connection is open to debate.

Not surprisingly, some speculation as to the cause of the "banning" has bubbled up in the blogosphere. Is it because milk lovers will be offended by the rather obscure message that the consumption of said beverage is being criticized, or is it rather that mainsteam america will be made uncomfortable by the very clear message that the whole enterprise of operations like GGW are dependent on coercing women (usually under the influence of the other beverages pedaled during the superbowl) into doing something salacious? (Check out the comment thread on this point to see what I mean).

Of course feminism and vegetarianism have been paired before. Carol J. Adams, author of The Sexual Politics of Meat: Feminist Vegetarian Critical Theory asserts that there is a link between the eating of meat and the exploitation / objectification of women. And artists like Meret Oppenheim play with this idea in pieces like the compelling My Nurse. I personally find Adams's analysis of the cultural attitudes toward the two convincing, but I know lots of feminists who eat meat and drink milk and I do not think that doing so contradicts their feminism. That said, their pairing is both worrying and effective, as is evidenced by the PETA ad.

There are other things that make the ad troubling, notably the distress caused by seeing an udder where breasts should be. Also, even though the ad is essentially a diss of GGW, one can't help wondering why we're being subjected to this imagery again. Coupled with the "I Would Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur" campaign, one has to wonder if PETA has considered getting their message across without the use of naked and semi-naked women.

Of course one also has to consider the context for the ad. The commercials that did air during the superbowl include Jessica Simpson’s weird and unnerving “These Bites Were Made for Poppin’” Pizza Hut commercial. In this ad, an adolescent boy has a vision of Jessica Simpson – clad in a skimpy red dress and red cowboy boots – float-strutting toward him with a big pie. When she arrives at the table, the boy – awestruck by her “beauty” – dumbly opens his mouth. JS then pops a cheese-stuffed ball of crust into the boy’s mouth, which causes him to fall out of his chair with – I dunno – a cheese-gasm??? The commercial is so ugly and the music is so bad and the sexual fantasy meets pizza eating so stupid, that one can barely watch it without wanting to throw her sneaker at the screen.

I don't know what to make of the fact that both the PETA and the Pizza Hut ad involve men/boys getting some whitish dairy substance squirted/ poped into them by women. Though one can easily say PETA goes too far -- that its images are too disturbing and shocking, the J.S. Pizza commercial suggests that most tv viewers can stomach a fat slice of disturbing images. At the end of the day, there are basically two ways to look at ads like the one PETA made. On one hand, sometimes the shock and jolt, renegade ad-meets-activism aesthetic and methods are really effective. On the other, one worries that these tactics sometimes alienate people who might otherwise be sympathetic to the cause.

image source


Jenny said...

Jessica Simpson has been riding that Dukes of Hazzard wave for far too long. That commericial was pathetic.

smelly mcsmellsmell said...

also eff'd up: ashley merriots bio on the website.

"want to look like ashley (minus the udder of course)? JUST GO VEGAN."

yes folks, that's right! you'll uphold white capitalist patriarical beauty standards if you JUST GO VEGAN!

i didn't look like that when i was veg*n. in fact, surprise!, i have hovered around the same weight for the past five years even with the change in diet (three years veg*n, the past two not).

what can i say? among other things, february is apparently "becky calls people out on thier sizist bullshit" month.

femme feral said...

and sizist bullshit should be called out!

and there's that new book out about veganism called "skinny bitch." the girl-on-girl cattiness in that title pisses me off too.

sad that marketers always end up at "it will make you thin." I'm surprised that they don't sell tires this way. it's so fucking boring and fascist. enough already!