By James McWilliams
Wise’s reasoning reminds us that, when it comes to the project of reducing animal suffering, we’re all wracked by humility, unsure what works, doing whatever we can to make life better for animals.
A couple of days ago I wrote a post about PETA’s sexiest vegan contest. In it, I noted that the runner-up was an attractive young woman named Shayna Wise. In the piece I was critical of PETA for exploiting sex to promote animal liberation. Drawing on my reading of Gary Francione and Carol Adams in particular, I wondered—and still wonder—about the potential downside of using the sexual objectification of humans as a way to encourage us not to objectify animals.
Well, Shayna responded. And, I must say, rather eloquently (making me feel bad about referring to her media remarks as “blather.” Shame on me—a reminder to only write what you would say in person.)
Hi, this is actually Shayna Wise – feature of article. I appreciate what you’ve written here, I’m no idiot. When I first saw this competition I too rolled my eyes and thought this was another bit of pointless sexism by PETA. But when I thought about it further I realised this. Sex sells. It sells better than any other method. And the cause we are trying to sell here is SO important (at least to me it is) that I believe that the ends justify the means. If PETA have found that using sexiness is the best way to attract people’s attention to animal rights issues, then I support them in doing so. There is already enough sexism in the media that adding one more article – one that’s ultimate goal is to draw on the huge issue of animal rights – is not going to cause any harm. Ideally it wouldn’t have to be like this, but being that people are so heartless, yet may turn their heads at the sight of a sexy woman, this has proven the most effective method. And so I stand by what I’ve done. As a vegan I will do whatever it takes to get the word out there to as many people as I possibly can. This time I used my looks. And I HAVE received the media coverage that I hoped I would, hopefully bringing to the minds of some people the fact that there is a large issue at hand, and that you can be a normal, healthy and happy person while living a vegan lifestyle.
There’s a pragmatism and level of self-awareness here that I really appreciate. Sex does sell, there is no doubt, and perhaps it’s overly ambitious to take on the evils of speciesism and sexism at once, especially if a little sexism can help alleviate a lot of speciesism. I don’t know. Honestly, I don’t. Either way, Wise’s reasoning reminds us that, when it comes to the project of reducing animal suffering, we’re all wracked by humility, unsure what works, doing whatever we can to make life better for animals.