Leave Us Out Of It!

Leave Us Out Of It!

Apparently a senior VP (a gay man named Dan Mathews) at PETA sent a letter to Lady Gaga’s representative subtly threatening the pop star for donning a dead wolf on a movie poster.

What is this I don’t even….

I’m not a Lady Gaga fan. I find her music to be boring and I think she’s overrated. But more than that, I feel that she exploits the LGBT community to make money, and that pisses me off. I have attended one of her concerts (my boyfriend is a big fan), and it was seriously one of the worst concert experiences of my life. I spent a couple of hours being yelled at by her as she literally screamed to the audience about how they could be just like her one day! MOTHERFUCKER! (She yelled that at the audience numerous times.) And hey everyone, differences don’t matter and it doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor or brown or white or gay or straight!

Yeah, tell that to all the homeless people with backstage passes or the impoverished people with their $250 nosebleed seats.

I’m also not a fan of PETA. Among other tactics, PETA uses sexism, racism, domestic violence, sexual violence, fat shaming, homophobia, and transphobia to spread its message that people should treat animals ethically. Hey, I’m all for the ethical treatment of animals.

I’m also for the ethical treatment of people, and PETA has a horrendous track record of treating people with respect and dignity. Hey, someone should make PETP! There is already a PETZ—I will be donating promptly!

Back to this letter. First, just a helpful hint to this Dan Mathews guy on making first contact with someone you have beef with (get it? Beef!): Don’t be a fucking assclown. Instead of hurling accusations at someone, why not ask them for clarification? Instead of threatening to attack them like you have other celebrities, why not ask for a statement? Or, better yet, why not start a non-horrible campaign to raise awareness about the horrific fur industry?

But what I’m more bothered by is the attempt to use gay people to make a point. I’m annoyed that Gaga exploits gays to sell records. I’m annoyed that Dan Mathews tries to appeal to Gaga’s love of the gay community to shame her:

Many gays are animal advocates because we recognize that the same arrogance and indifference that some have toward animal suffering has at times been directed toward us personally because of our orientation.

Citation needed. I don’t doubt that there are a few people that might feel this way, but seriously? I have known plenty of marginalized people who are vegetarians and vegans and are so because of ethical reasons (and many others for environmental reasons). But I’ve never once encountered someone who claimed they were a vegan because of queer oppression. That seems like quite a leap to me. If that’s the case, I’d love to hear the reasoning.

In the end, I think there’s a way for Gaga to be supportive of social justice and not exploit the queer community (like stop appealing to post-identity as if people’s real life situations are unimportant). I’m not sure there’s a way for PETA to do anything decent, but at least stop dragging us queer people along for the ride.

EDIT (8/14/2012): Lady Gaga responded on Twitter (which links to her fan site):

For those press and such who are writing about whether or not my fur is actually real, please don’t forget to credit the designer HERMES. Thank You! LOVE, gaga

Next up? PETA activists throwing flour or fake blood at Gaga on a red carpet. Mark my words, it will happen.

By Will
Will is the admin of Queereka, part of the Skepchick network. They are a cultural/medical anthropologist who works at the intersections of sex/gender, sexuality, health, and education. Their other interests include politics, science studies, popular culture, and public perceptions and understandings of anthropology. Follow them on Twitter at @anthrowill and Facebook at facebook.com/anthrowill.

7 Comments

  1. I agree with everything you’ve said here, and I’ve never been a fan of PETA either. But when you say this:
    “Hey, I’m all for the ethical treatment of animals”, it would help to actually back that up somehow. Are you really for the ethical treatment of animals? Are you vegan or vegetarian, or do you avoid all factory farmed meat? Do you donate to some other animal rights organization instead of PETA? Any qualification of what you mean by “all for the ethical treatment of animals” would be great.

    Otherwise it’s is a bit like saying “I believe women are equal but why are feminists so horrible?” You’re claiming to be an ally of a movement but apparently doing nothing but criticize that movement. Although your criticism is perfectly valid, it’s not a good look.

    • Hi Paul, thanks for your comment.

      First, there are ethical arguments in favor eating meat. Being a vegan/vegetarian does not automatically make a person a more ethical eater. Would you agree that eating local is better than eating plant-based foods that travel great distances?

      Second, I am a poor graduate student, so I do not currently donate any money to anyone. I have donated money in the past to various organizations, including the SPCA and the Humane Society. 4/5 of my dogs are rescue dogs (the other one was given to me by my mother). I have also volunteered at various organizations, though no animal organizations.

      Third, by “ethical treatment of animals” I basically mean treating them with respect and dignity. I am wholly against factory farming and the vast majority of agricultural practices that are not only unethical but also environmentally hazardous.

      Finally, I am not currently a vegetarian or a vegan, though I spent many years on a (unhealthy) vegan diet. I am actually right now in the process of transitioning to a meatless diet.

      • Cool, thanks for the clarification.

        I agree that ethically produced meat is possible, and I do count this as ethical eating, but I’m wary of people using its existence as an excuse to dismiss vegetarianism and continue just eating whatever. I’m not accusing you of that, but I have seen it with a lot of people.

        As for eating local, that’s a more complicated issue than it seems. It’s not necessarily the most efficient ethical way of eating.
        http://www.skepticblog.org/2009/05/28/the-fallacy-of-locally-grown-produce/

        It’s good to see criticism of PETA coming from someone who actually gives a shit about the animals. I think you should emphasize that part more when you’re writing about PETA. Most of the criticism seems to come from people who are not ethical eaters at all. There was a horrible Penn and Teller episode that demonstrated this perfectly. They had one line saying “we support animal welfare but…” and the rest of the episodes were just shots of Penn eating steaks and PETA employees saying dumb things out of context.

        • Thanks for the link! I will check it out.

          I’m wary of people using its existence as an excuse to dismiss vegetarianism and continue just eating whatever.

          Yep, I agree.

          I also find that something that gets left out of most conversations about ethical eating is the human factor, i.e., worker’s rights and socioeconomic conditions.

          I do find Peter Singer’s arguments quite compelling, though I’m not necessarily a consequentialist when it comes to ethics. This is a topic I’ve been reading about and thinking about a lot lately, and I think ethical eating is an important topic to talk about. This is the first time, however, that I’ve written about PETA, and I was more focused on the way the VP was trying to use the LGBT community (specifically gay men) as ammo to shoot at Lady Gaga, who also uses the LGBT community (tons of gay men especially) for her own purposes. But I do appreciate the comments and I think you raise great points.

        • Why does it matter if you care about animals? Even if you kick puppies, you can still have an ethical objection to an organization that would adopt a healthy pet right out of the arms of it’s former owner and then put it down.

          • Anyone can have an ethical objection to anything. All I objected to was saying “Hey, I’m all for the ethical treatment of animals, but [problem with PETA]” without backing up the first part. Will has now backed it up, so it’s all good now.

            PETA runs a free animal euthanasia service. If you want your pet put down humanely and for free, you can take it to PETA. It’s not like they’re stealing pets or lying to anyone about what they do, as you seem to be implying.

            However the point Will raised is a valid ethical objection to their tactics.

  2. I think you both raise some great points. I’m neither a huge fan of Lady Gaga nor PETA but it’s annoying when people dismiss their messages because of the unfortunate and annoying ways they both choose to spread those messages, often appropriating or marginalising other people in the process. As for me, while I won’t say that I became vegan because I’m queer, female-bodied or a person of colour, I do recognise similarities between the ways in which racism, sexism and homophobia manifest and how we treat animals. For me, it boils down to the othering (either of a human being or an animal) brought about due to a misunderstanding or misrepresentation (either wilfully or not) which perpetuates inequality. I guess I would say it was a natural progression for me, after having seen the ways in which a lack of empathy for beings just because they’re not exactly like you can cause so much suffering. That said, I do believe there are a lot of ways people can be ethical eaters. And it would be impossible to expect everyone in the world to be vegan etc. etc.

    And I’ll stop sounding proselytising now :)

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