PCRM defends their ridiculous cheese thighs campaign »
We posted last week about PCRM’s* idiotic cheese campaign and just hoped it would go away, but they’re back this week with even more ridiculousness. Neal Barnard, founder and president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, wasn’t content with spreading crap on his own site; he wants to infest the rest of the internet with his rationalizations. Barnard’s piece on Crazy Sexy Life is super-disappointing and filled with hateful rhetoric disguised as caring. Moreover, so much of this shit is ludicrous coming from someone who is a PSYCHIATRIST—aren’t you supposed to care about the emotional wellbeing of others? I feel bad for anyone who was under his psychiatric care. BUT MOVING ON.
Here’s the deal with this campaign: If PCRM wanted to tackle the issue of clogged arteries from animal cholesterol, why not show that? Because people of ALL sizes deal with it, and it’s HONEST. Oh, yes, but it’s not as provocative as the big belly.
What REALLY sucks about this campaign is that it sounds reasonable and supportive, but it’s actually the same old crap (“I’m not racist, but…”). The hypocrisy of Barnard’s “of course fat people shouldn’t be shamed because they’re HELPLESS VICTIMS OF THE FOOD INDUSTRY but we should totally SHAME FAT PEOPLE SO THEY STOP BEING HELPLESS VICTIMS OF THE FOOD INDUSTRY” approach — it’s so twisted! I’ll leave you with this bit of business that reader/occasional contributor/great person Rick Kelley left in the comments on our last post. It’s outstanding, and helps to explain exactly what’s so fucked about this tactic:
The “angle” these ads use — namely, “fat bodies are disgusting, so go vegan” — is shared with countless advertising campaigns selling every sort of bullshit imaginable, to all of our detriment. They posit a particular kind of “desirable body” and shame those who fail to attain it. Branding veganism as a weight loss strategy doesn’t do anyone any favors, and it doesn’t make new vegans (unless week-long fad dieters count). These ads have nothing to do with health, not anymore than some soap or deodorant company is committed to health (and a garden-fresh scent). No one is disputing the health benefits of a plant-based diet — Forks Over Knives is routinely embraced, recommended, and celebrated throughout vegan circles, most definitely on this site — but rather rejecting the notion that a “vegan brand” to sell “ethical eating” by way of a “stop being so fucking fat, fatties” campaign is anything but mean-spirited and counter-productive.
Here are a few reasons why, from the practical to the ethical:
(1) More than anything else, this resembles diet ads, and constructs veganism as a diet. Diets are by their nature temporary and end-goal oriented. If someone goes vegan to lose weight and they don’t, it seems unlikely they’d continue. If they do, it seems likely they’ll stop after they’ve attained their goal.
(2) Whether or not someone loses weight, the use and property-status of nonhumans isn’t remotely addressed, because there is no framework or analysis to understand it. You can go through a two-week vegan diet weight loss plan cloaked in fur and leather, occasionally shooting a dog, as easily as not.
(3) It’s alienating and reinforces notions of vegan exclusivity, superiority, and contempt for human animals.
(4) By playing into normative ideals of the human body, it reinforces patriarchal notions of beauty. Despite the inclusion of a male-presenting body in the ad, no one being at all serious would argue that advertising (including this one) primarily targets men. The idea here, as FUCKING EVERYWHERE, is that female-presenting bodies are by definition thin; if not, they are gross and in need of recuperation (i.e. shaming).
(5) By focusing on isolated, individual bodies (and certainly not whole bodies) outside of any world they might inhabit, it erases people’s lived experiences. It erases the fact that different cultures view bodies in different ways; it erases the realities of people’s access to healthy foods, which are enormously pre-determined by class structures; and it erases the most basic fact of all, which is that we live in these bodies we find ourselves in, the social value of which is determined by things often outside of our control (like fucking PCRM ads, apparently).
To end this manifesto/comment, I’d just point out that one thing a “vegan movement” (should it ever arrive) needs to do is to link nonhuman animal oppression with all the other oppressive structures that dominate our lives (like patriarchy, class oppression, racism, rigid systems of normative ideals, capitalist marketing as a means of social change, etc.). Damaging nonsense like this hurts that future effort.
I encourage PCRM (and really everyone ever) to read Health at Every Size, learn about our so-called “Obesity Epidemic,” and read up on the big business of fat hate. I wrote this same shit to PETA last year but you know, since PETA and PCRM are literally in bed together (UGH MY EYES! Seriously, picturing that just sent shivers down my spine), it can’t hurt to remind them. Show compassion for everyone and work on effective campaigns that breed love and respect for all. THE END.
*PCRM has such great campaigns, why are they focusing energy and money on this one? My experience is that Animal Rights groups that focus on too many campaigns just do them all poorly. Why not work on one thing and do it really, really well?
To be a healthy vegan, focus on…wait for it…health! »
Laura has already registered her disappointment (OK, rage) at the new ad campaign from PCRM, which employs fat-shaming as a means to scare people off cheese. This campaign ignores all the good reasons why we should skip cheese—its production involves animal cruelty, eating it is not particularly good for us—and instead goes for a cheap shot at chubby thighs.
The awesome Ginny Messina already addressed why going vegan only to get skinny is likely to lead to disappointment, but she’s followed up with an article that I think is also worth mentioning here. Messina’s post for One Green Planet, The 7 Habits of Healthy Vegans, does a great job of focusing on vegan health regardless of size. Her suggestions apply to everyone—we could all be a bit healthier by eating legumes more often, choosing whole grains, and loading up on veggies.
I actually did lose weight when I became vegetarian, and I also lost weight when I had to give up gluten. I didn’t lose any extra when I went vegan, but I had already changed my diet pretty drastically by then. Everyone is different. And I have no problem acknowledging that fitting into smaller pants felt great, but I could have gotten there a variety of ways; knowing that I was living my life according to my values and ethics has always felt better than skinny jeans. If you initially go vegan to lose weight and end up loving the lifestyle and learning more about how awesome it is, fabulous. But if your end goal is just a number on a scale, and you’re ignoring everything else that helps to keep us healthy and happy—mental health is part of that, too—then you’re not going to do well, no matter what your diet looks like.
Terri Coles lives in Toronto, where she enjoys barbecuing, feeding feral cats, going to local music shows and getting really mad about hockey games. She blogs about her adventures in plant-based eating at The Vegina Monologues. We edit out all her extra vowels.
[photo by slightlypale via Flickr]
This is Julia Child’s Where’s the Beef?! Bourguignon from Vegan Valentine! It looks so damn good and the recipe isn’t too intimidating so I think I’ll try it. I’ve come to realize as death draws closer (old!) that I’m much more a chef than a baker. I think this is because I’m way more into savory foods than sweets. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t kick a vegan cupcake out of bed, but I’d much rather eat a bowl of kale, quinoa, and black beans covered in Yumm Sauce. Or not covered in Yumm Sauce, I love that shit straight up. In fact, Mark likes to makes fun of my bland palate because he’s a little asshole.
Now, a mini-rant: People like to blame the fact that there are fat vegans on vegan junk food. Well, vegan junk food might be the reason someone is carting around an extra 10 to 20 pounds of compassionate chub, there are lots of fat vegans who eat a mainly whole-foods diet and who are STILL FAT. Losing weight is all about calories, and lots of whole foods have lots of calories. You can restrict your consumption, or you can have a naturally smaller appetite (GENETICS) or a faster metabolism (GENETICS), or not be on birth control that fucks with your body (BEING A WOMAN) and that’s all good but me, I like to eat bean soup and kale salad until I’m full, and I’m not into restricting myself because we live in a totally fat-phobic society.
I mean, I eat about the same, if not a little less, than my boyfriend and exercise more often and I’m fat and he’s not! How do you explain that?? Oh yes, SCIENCE. Everyone’s body is different and fat and healthy is not an oxymoron. Also, it’s pretty fucking easy to be both when you eat a mainly whole foods vegan diet and also a few cupcakes when you want ‘em. That’s what works for me, I don’t know what works for you, but I’m cool with it, cause you gotta do you and I gotta do me, and honestly, I don’t give a shit what you look like because we’re not boffing! If we were, then I’d probably have a lot to say about your haircut and your shoes. SO FUN!
Anyway, make the recipe! That’s what you came here for! You always get a little extra awesomeness/crazy when you come to Vegansaurus; we make you work for your dinner.
PETA, not again. I thought we went over how truly awful and fucked up it is to target kids based on their weight? I guess not! So, here we go again because shouting into the void obviously gets me off! This is definitely something to address in therapy!
1) Not all fat kids are unhealthy.
2) Not all skinny kids are healthy.
3) When you target people based on weight, it’s fucked up and cruel. Fat kids already get made fun of enough, so much so that a lot of them just kill themselves. Wait—maybe that’s your plan? One fewer meat-eater!
4) Campaigns like this actively encourage victim-blaming. I know this is aimed toward parents, but so many kids will see it, and they don’t have the resources to respond in a way other than self-blame, self-hate, or shame. Like, imagine if this were a rape awareness campaign, and the picture was of a girl in a short skirt with the tag line: “DON’T ASK FOR IT. WEAR PANTS.” You know? Who exactly are you helping? I’m confused.
Yes, PETA, cutting down on your meat intake is really great for your health. I’m a fat vegan and my cholesterol is the best my doctor has seen all year! But this campaign has NOTHING to do with health, and everything to do with shame. It’s repugnant and depressing. I think PETA does lots of great work, I do, but it’s stuff like this that makes me want to holler, throw up both my hands! I encourage PETA (and really everyone ever) to read Health at Every Size, learn about our so-called “Obesity Epidemic,” and read up on the big business of fat hate. Or maybe PETA already knows that and they’re just capitalizing? Either way, it fucking sucks.