Only six of those who wrote agreed with Newkirk
that the ad was not sexist and that it drew attention
to the issue of animal cruelty without harming women:
Has Ms. Sherwin seen a Cosmo lately? Or stopped at
any motorcycle retailer? "Packaged" boobs hurt women
more than this ad.
The type of woman who wears fur would typically be
someone who finds unshaved legs unattractive, so the
ad makes sense. Hopefully it will make women ditch their
furs as well.
The vast majority of those who wrote
letters disagreed with PETA's tactics, writing that
they were "appalled," "disappointed," "offended," and
"shocked." Some were dismayed at the tone of Newkirk's
letter, which personally attacked Sherwin; some critiqued
other PETA ploys as well, such as a picture of a woman
on a morgue table with the words "I wouldn't be caught
dead wearing fur" and the "Got Beer?" campaign that
gave college students seven reasons why it's better
to drink beer instead of milk. One reader used the debate
as an assignment topic for her women's studies class
The feminist movement fights against the
objectification of women. If Newkirk considers herself
a feminist, why join hands with the sexist superstructure
of our society? PETA's objective is to counter what
the mainstream media tells women about what they need
to do to be considered beautiful (wear fur). I agree
with striking messages to get the public's attention-but
not at the expense of women. Why not get your message
across without weakening the feminist cause? It's always
better to have more allies rather than less, isn't it?
How can someone who opposes the majority's
position on animal rights turn around and justify a
blatantly sexist and degrading image by referring to
what she believes is the opinion of "the overwhelming
majority of women?" I for one do not shave any part
of my body and am extremely offended to be told it is
San Diego, Calif.
Maybe Newkirk should spend less time tarnishing
ethical animal treatment ads with hair-fearing, oppressive
stereotypes and spend a little more time educating herself
about the ethical treatment of women.
Marie B. Skoczylas
Harrison City, Pa.
If Newkirk were a man, we wouldn't even
be having this type of debate.
San Francisco, Calif.
Of the preference in our society for women's
shaving, Newkirk writes, "It's not sexist, it's just
a fact." None of our preferences for appearance are
"just fact"-they are actually bolstered by values and
norms, which are usually unstated. They are socially
constructed. If Newkirk thinks that she can feed off
this social construction without feeding into it she
is sadly mistaken. An analogy is how when we tell a
racist joke, we rely on stereotyped images of the group
we present; in telling the joke, we also reinforce those
images. The PETA ad does the same thing with women's
This ad fits in with "Madison Avenue"
tactics, which for me discredits what I believed to
be a humanitarian outfit. If my 8-year-old niece saw
this ad, I would be horrified that she would associate
animals' rights with her not being O.K.
New York, N.Y.
Selling out to the patriarchal bullshit
may get people's attention, but it can never replace
teaching compassion. Isn't that what animal rights is
Please allow me, like my nonhuman relatives,
to wear my own fur!
Eighteen letters came from PETA members
who were outraged, like Leah Stuchal of Gainesville,
Florida, and decided to withdraw their support from
I am pulling my membership and financial
support. I believe it will better serve animal rights
groups who have a less patriarchal view of the women
who support their endeavors.
Hoping perhaps that the ad was a mere
lapse in taste, not an endorsement of patriarchy, a
few readers responded with suggestions for future ads:
Do an ad showing a really hairy prehistoric
man, and next to him, a man in a fur coat. The caption
would say, "Fur. Some people haven't evolved yet."
Promote the concept of a woman's natural
state as being more desirable. Fake boobs, fake tans,
and furs have a lot in common.
How about featuring naked crotch shots
of a man and woman next to a beaver with the headline,
"Fur only looks good where it grows naturally"?
Lethea Erz Takaka
Change the ad to: "Trimming Fur. Unattractive.
Wear your own with pride."
Proving that she who laughs last laughs
loudest, this call to action came from Montreal:
Don't you see what's really going on here?!
The sexism debate raised by the PETA ad in question
is intended to distract us from PETA's true agenda.
And this is: to wipe out wild pussies around the globe!
Long on the list of endangered species, the wild pussy
is racing toward extinction at an alarming rate. Yet
what does PETA do? It hunts down one of the few wild
pussies left! Then after binding it in cotton, PETA
exposes this blameless creature to endless humiliation
and ridicule! Such open contempt is clearly intended
to harden our hearts to the wild pussy's plight, thereby
hastening its demise. Wild pussies have rights, too,
even if PETA would have us think they don't count. We
need to share the planet with all of God's creatures.
And I, for one, will not rest until the world is safe
for the wild pussy!
Montreal, Que., Canada
Well, PETA, the readers have spoken.
Are you listening?