Letter to Peta
February 14th, 2002
Ingrid Newkirk, President
501 Front Street
Norfolk, VA 23510
Dear Ms. Newkirk,
In a recent drive down Venice Boulevard in Los Angeles, I spotted a billboard with the headline: “I hate men’s guts,” followed by: “Thick around the middle? Go veg!” As a supporter of PETA, I was disappointed to see that the organization has chosen to do an ad campaign that is offensive on so many different levels.
As a comedian, I can clearly see that the ad was intended to be humorous and over the top. But as a plus-size woman and Chair of the Plus-Size Task Force of the Screen Actors Guild, I represent millions of Americans as an outspoken critic of the media’s perpetuation of negative stereotypes of plus-size people. To my dismay, I found the PETA billboard to be another example of deeply entrenched negative stereotyping.
And having the famous drag queen Lypsinka imitate a shrewish woman screaming “I hate men’s guts” offends my sensibilities as a feminist because it plays right into another stereotype of women hating men.
With so many talented and creative minds at work, I’m confident the ad agency and PETA can develop more positive campaigns to capture people’s attention and encourage them towards your goals without offending millions of women and plus-size people.
On a positive note, I’d like to compliment the staff of PETA in the San Francisco and Norfolk offices for responding to my concerns courteously and in a timely fashion.
Founder & Chair, Plus-Size Task Force
Screen Actors Guild
Further note after Peta’s response:
I was particularly appalled by the negative and demeaning words and images of women used in PETA’s recent ad campaign. While I respect PETA’s objectives, they can’t be allowed to hide behind their non-profit, humanitarian status to absolve themselves of responsibility for these negative portrayals of women. After I sent the attached letter, I received a very dismissive phone call and a short note that conveyed the organization’s view that it’s a joke and you’re overreacting — get over it. As a professional stand-up comic, I know the difference between playful, harmless humor and sexist, sizist messages that demean people. The PETA campaign is mean-spirited, offensive and is the worst sort of “joke” that perpetuates negative, stereotypes about women and people of size. How can an organization campaign for the ethical treatment of animals while demeaning and insulting humans? Does this mean that the ends justify the means? Or that people are somehow less important than the animals PETA intends to help? PETA must be held accountable for this insulting ad campaign while we encourage them to broaden their mission to include the ethical treatment of all living beings, including women.