PeTA has never been known to respect marginalized bodies. Much like any other oppressive group, they feel that the best way to attain power is to demean those that are considered to be at the bottom of the social hierarchy. Below you will find the images and commentary that PeTA used in their campaign to decide who is the worst dressed of 2010.
Once again PeTA never fails to show its high sense of class to the world. Comparing a Black woman to bigfoot is highly racist. Bigfoot is understood to be a creature and by making such a comparison they are removing Aretha’s humanity. Throughout history, Black women have been reduced to animals to justify our exploitation and marginalization. PeTA’s advertisement is not even a new twist on an old game; it is simply the repetition of an old trope meant to classify Black women as “other”. When we consider that they have never been an organization to show any kind of respect to women of colour, this is hardly surprising but it does not lessen the insult. Attacking someone’s humanity is not going to cause them to change their position to match yours, instead what it will do is encourage the perpetuation of the behaviour that you despise.
“You'd think that being a victim of violence would have opened Rihanna's heart to the suffering of others—like the animals who were beaten, drowned, and electrocuted for her fur coats. Girl, you've got beautiful eyes: Use them to see the pain and suffering your wardrobe causes”.
What they had to say about Rihanna is particularly cruel. PeTA has never really given a damn about women unless there is an opportunity to slut shame, fat shame, be lesbophobic, transphobic, or racist. Taking this terribly tragic event and using it to forward their goals is co-opting her experience and that of every survivor of domestic violence. Everyday women die at the hands of their intimate partners and as cruel as animal abuse is, there is a difference between a human being and an animal. There are those that will say that my aforementioned statement is speciest; however, even if PeTA refuses to acknowledge it in their arguments, women matter.
For PeTA, any kind of publicity counts as good publicity, even if in the process they marginalize entire groups of people. Class and race play a large role in why Black women continue to wear fur. For generations a fur coat was understood to be a visible marker of class privilege and success. Due to racism and sexism, many Black women were denied opportunities of positive class progress, as well as positive reinforcement. To many Black women, a fur coat means realizing a dream they did not dare to dream. Until the symbolism behind the fur coat is understood and dismantled, Black stars will continue to wear furs unabashedly. It has also not escaped the notice of Black stars that for generations, White women wore their fur coats without complaint and now that some Black women can afford them there is an issue. While race may not be readily be evident in the desire to wear fur, it is most assuredly an issue.
Seeing their attacks on Aretha Franklin and Rihanna we will once again shake our heads and sigh, after all it’s PeTA right? What we should take away from this is a renewed effort to fight for equality because in a society that truly valued ALL women, such actions would be considered unthinkable.