PETA: Fat Shaming and the Exploitation of Women


I realize this post is probably beating a dead horse, seeing as most feminists probably already suffer from unendurable squeamishness at the thought of a PETA advertisement. Regardless, I felt compelled to talk about their recent fat-shaming campaign. In an attempt to protect the lives and rights of animals, PETA has consciously chosen to sacrifice the respect and dignity of women’s bodies, ignoring the relational ties that these two sets of oppressed groups have with one another. Using women as a sacrificial tool in an attempt to rally support for the animal-friendly movement is yet another example of the way that women are commodified in advertising as a mechanism for achieving increased consumption. Way to shore up support for capitalist-patriarchy, PETA. I’m sure that will do wonders for animal rights. NOT

According to a PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman, “Anyone wishing to achieve a hot “beach bod” is reminded that studies show that vegetarians are, on average, about 10 to 20 pounds lighter than meat-eaters…Trying to hide your thunder thighs and balloon belly is no day at the beach.”

Can someone please remind Tracy Reiman that 8 million people in the United States suffer from a myriad of eating disorders. PETA’s recent advertisement is contributing to a culture that values women for nothing more than their beauty. Fat-shaming is a mechanism for demonizing women who do not meet strict and unrealistic beauty standards, and absolutely contributes to a culture of violence against women. Commodifying women into products to be bought and sold conditions men, particularly young and impressionable, to believe that they are mere property. This is how violence against women is often justified; the fundamental belief that men have a right to consume them.

Not surprisingly, PETA’s press release never once mentions the health of men and women. They exploit women’s insecurities about their own bodies in an attempt to shore up support for a movement that will fail without a deeper understanding of the interconnectedness of oppression.

A movement for animal rights is impossible in a world where women are valued as commodities. Patriarchy is a self-maxamizing logical system which hyperbolizes the agency and autonomy of its subjects. This hegemonic construal of agency and autonomy is the enabling principle of the exploitation of the other. The ability to dominate and control animals as well as the eco-system is driven by an economic rationality that assumes hegemonic structures of power, awarded full agency, have the right to exploit excluded peripheral groups who are denied agency and whose contribution is discounted or rendered invisible. PETA is simply perpetuating a system of thought that is at the root of animal exploitation.

About aj:
Andrew (AJ) is a vehement progressive, youth activist, and reproductive justice organizer. When he's not busy with the movement, you can usually find him dancing in the club or watching trashy reality tv.


  1. I’m vegetarian and fat. I know many vegetarians and vegans who gained weight after giving up meat. It’s pretty damn insulting for them to be using my weight as a way to get new contributions, but what they’re saying simply isn’t true. I’m vegetarian for the same reason I’m green, pacifist, and feminist. You don’t have to sacrifice one for the others!

  2. It amazes me how most people won’t do something just because it is the right thing to do. People could argue that being a vegetarian is more humane, better for the environment and many other real reasons, but it won’t convince them to consider being vegetarian. However, if you tell them they will look hot if they are a vegetarian they are more likely to try it. That by itself is a huge problem!

    I am disappointed that PETA is using this uneducated tactic.

  3. freewomyn says:

    Yeah, PETA can eat my ass.

  4. ditto.

    it astounds me that the none of the fine folks on the PETA staff have realized that they could grow their organization +thousands of feminists if they cut that shit out of there marketing strategy

    instead they’re just plain combative about to this particular line of perfectly reasonable criticism.

  5. Agreed all around, it seems utterly ridiculous to alienate a powerful potential ally movement like this. If PETA wants to champion animal rights as a new wave of the ongoing civil rights campaign it needs to draw similarities between allied movements, not create rifts.

  6. I agree. I tried to contact them on Twitter about this, and they got accusatory, trying to say I was saying what I wasn’t…and changing their stance on what was originally said. (Don’t think the Twitter person had read Ingrid’s offensive blog in which she stated that fat people can’t be role models, among other cruel, malicious and misinformed things.) I wrote a blog after this campaign and their response hurt my feelings so much.

    A friend called them out on how they manipulated the studies to say what they wanted on the topic, and PETA deleted the comment. I’m an animal rights activist, but I think they should be honest in presenting the studies.

    Because I’m so emotionally invested in PETA since I was a kid in Alabama as the only vegetarian I even knew, I was heartbroken at PETA’s cruelty in this INSANE anti-fat campaign. I had a few cries over it. I’m still hurt by it.

    I am a vegetarian and animal rights activist. I’ve also struggled with my weight since later elementary school. As a supporter of PETA since my teens, this fat hate has made be part from the group. I hope PETA wises up. I truly believe in the ethical treatment of animals, but, as a long-time supporter, where is their ethical treatment of me?

  7. Robin, your experience seems to be par for the course when it comes to PETA. I can relate to relying on them as a teen when choosing to be a vegetarian was a solitary path. It’s really unfortunate that they don’t see the connections between fat shaming and abusing animals. But I don’t think they’re ever going to change.

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